At work with be-oom
by Stephanie Hannington-Suen·
be-oom is a tea brand that offers naturally sourced tea from small farms in Korea with an objective to build moments of mindfulness into busy lives. We visited Sooji, the founder of be-oom, at her flagship tea shop in the heart of Clerkenwell for a chat about her inspiring business and how she creates balance between home and work life.
Tell us a bit about yourselves, your background and what led you to start your business?
be-oom is a tea brand that offers naturally sourced tea from small farms in Korea. be-oom /bi:-u:m/ means ‘to empty’ in Korean – finding a place within the mind to empty and fill, all while emptying a cup of tea.
My background is not in tea, actually – I studied Philosophy and Economics and later Real Estate and Infrastructure Finance. While working as a management consultant, I felt the urge to explore a more creative side of myself. At the time I had just begun doing yoga and meditation and saw that tea was often an element. I then became fascinated by tea and started visiting tea farms in Korea. I came to discover that Korean tea was difficult to source in Europe, which motivated me to start be-oom.
Describe your business in 5 words.
Korean, Tranquil, Delicate, Modern and Refined
Do you have any advice for anyone trying to start something of their own?
We often spend a lot of time and energy on planning, but unexpected changes come anyway (like the pandemic, for instance). If things don’t quite pan out according to the plan, we just have to accept that it is beyond our control and learn to flow with the changes. Instead of sitting around and worrying about what may or may not happen, it’s best to face the music and deal with life as it comes.
Timelessness and refined design are at the forefront of your brand, what is it about it that inspires you?
Timelessness is an important concept in tea. As a commodity, it has transcended time and space, with its discovery dating back to nearly 5,000 years ago. It has travelled far and beyond its origins and is accessible everywhere. I also see tea as a medium of meditation, which brings us to a moment where time gets lost and all senses come alive. We want to make sure to stretch that concept to the design, so you can feel the essence of this timelessness as well as all the senses required to appreciate the products themselves.
Have you got any exciting plans lined up for Be-oom?
We have a few events coming up – we’re hosting a tea pairing event for a perfume brand, where each of the teas and dishes is inspired by the scents of the perfumes and home scents of the brand. We’re also working on another tea and dessert pairing event this autumn with a Korean patisserie chef, who will be flying over all the way from Korea just for the event.
What has been your proudest moment for your business and the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
There is really not a single moment that stands out, but despite the pandemic, which was the biggest challenge I’ve faced, we have managed to do meaningful collaborations – some with Korean craft artists, some with the U.K.’s most loved chefs and restaurants and also with skincare and perfume brands.
We have grown our outreach through wholesale as well – we work with many lifestyle stores, cafes and restaurants across the U.K, and some in Europe and we are about to launch our own line of products at the V&A Museum this autumn.
Every time we work with a new client or opportunity, or even when we hear good reviews from our retail customers, that moment itself feels like the proudest moment and these moments have given us momentum to continue - through the pandemic, and through every other challenge that came along with it.
What’s your favourite piece from your store?
I love them all!
My favourite tea is Hadong Black, which was actually an inspiration for me to start be-oom. When I tasted the tea for the first time, I was blown away and immediately wanted to share with everyone else. It’s quintessentially Korean – delicate, refined with a side of old-fashionedness.
Talk us through a typical day for you?
I don’t necessarily have a typical day these days – on the days that I have to run events or tastings, I hop around to get the necessary pieces ready. For days we don’t have events going on, I run through my emails and get other admin done in the morning and check in at the tea room around noon. There I check operations, serve guests, update products and take pictures and videos when needed. I often don’t stay till closing – I often go to a meeting from there or head back home to answer more emails and write to clients or suppliers. Although I often take time off in the evenings to check out new venues for research, I end up picking up work late in the day again and finish late, just so I have a bit of head start the next day and to make sure I can speak to the farmers I work with in Korea.
How do you find balance in your daily routine?
I meet a lot of new people all the time – I often find myself having to talk for hours in front of complete strangers, and I actually quite enjoy it most of the time. It can however be exhausting sometimes – on days like that I go home and give myself complete silence and alone time. Some days it takes form of having a nice bath (using Homework’s Grove Bath Soak, of course) and watching a movie and most days it’s drinking tea and doing yoga (or just lying down..).
What are your aspirations for the future?
The mission for the brand as always been to make Korean teas better known. There has never been a market for Korean tea outside of Korea and I see my role as creating a demand for it. My aspiration is just to continue to help grow that demand and make more people become aware of it.
What is your favourite homework scent and why?
Mas Santo – it really refreshes the air of the room and makes me feel like I’m taking a holiday somewhere tropical!
Follow Be-oom on instagram @Be_oom_.
Visit her website at be-oom.com.