Talking Trash with Trash Tiki

Garbage can with "Tiki Inside" spray-painted on the outside
Trash Tiki is part pop-up bar and part traveling educational platform.

When Tales last spoke to Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage, the duo had just launched their Trash Tiki side project. They developed the traveling, sustainability-oriented pop-up concept late last year with the aim of showing bartenders how to creatively repurpose ingredients that would otherwise just be trashed — from turning lime peels into a flavoring called “pink citrus” to creating an infusion from discarded avocado pits.

At Tales on Tour Edinburgh, we meet them unpacking their suitcases, filled with swollen bags of fruit pulp, and setting up the Last Word Saloon for their evening event. The duo had just finished a five-week-long pop-up at wastED in London, and so had brought their leftovers up north for two reasons. Firstly, on such a tight schedule, there wasn’t a lot of time to root around for ingredients in Edinburgh’s trash. Secondly, “there were a lot of things they [wastED] wouldn’t be using because it had ended.” And that is the ethos behind Trash Tiki: squeezing that little bit of extra use out of every item.

After Edinburgh, Ramage and Griffiths will be getting ready to roll out a global tour: between now and April 2018 they will travel to 28 cities; five in Europe, four in Asia, 11 in North America, five in South America, then back over to Australia. But how does this fit into their day jobs at White Lyan and Dandelyan?

“We’ve quit!” says Griffiths. While he explains he will retain some involvement with Lyan, he says they've both "quit everything, sold all our stuff and are going on the road and leaving London forever.”

Given that the Trash Tiki goal is to put an end to a specific problem (bar waste), are there no concerns that they might be so successful that they make themselves redundant?

“Yeah,” says Griffiths, “in April 2018, fingers crossed, there is no reason to keep doing Trash Tiki because everyone is being sustainable and everybody is being anti-waste in their approach to cocktails but … I’m not sure that’s really going to happen.”

“We’re still getting the message out,” says Ramage. “People are still surprised at what we’re doing.” That very morning someone had tagged Trash Tiki in a photo from a San Francisco restaurant. Recently a bartender in Curacao used a Trash Tiki recipe in a cocktail and posted it on social media. “Never met them before, don’t even know their restaurant,” says Griffiths. “They’ve gone on our website and seen what we do, and by virtue of that turned around and started implementing that in their own venue, and that’s insane. “

“As much as the pop ups are going to help us reach the local communities where we go” agrees Ramage, “we feel like that’s important. We still have reach in places we don’t even know and that’s cool. I think a lot of the recipes are a first step,” she continues, “and we are going to be able to look at what’s the next step. How do we get better, how do we push it a little further?”

With both coming “from fairly forward thinking countries in that respect,” (Canada and Australia), Ramage and Griffiths say that they were horrified at the standard of recycling when they worked in London. “Vancouver separates everything,” says Ramage, “and you know that when it goes to a recycling plant, it’s going to be processed properly. With London it’s, like, ‘dry mixed recycling.’ Are they really paying somebody to sift through all that?”

“I think that pushed the conversation to look into bars,” continues Griffiths. “It wasn’t about identifying an opportunity, it was more about ‘we can stop this.’ Some people are like ‘you’ve really jumped on a trend’ but we couldn’t give a fuck about it being a trend. It’s about the purpose and meaning behind it.”

“Oftentimes when we’ve done a pop-up, says Kelsey, “it’s not just trying to get the bar to save its waste but to work with a couple of restaurants or bars in the community. In Hong Kong we’re getting 11 different bars to give us our stuff, as well as a Caribbean restaurant around the corner [from the bar hosting Trash Tiki], so we’re going to do a big collaboration in the community there.”

In the past few months Trash Tiki has hosted events in Los Angeles as well as London, so what have they learned along the way? “We’ve learned the value of keeping it simple,” says Griffiths. “When we started we were like, everything we are going to do is only going to require heat. So no rotovaps … A couple of times we’ve looked to deviate but it’s been like, no let’s keep it simple.”

“That keeps it accessible for anyone who wants to try the recipes,” says Ramage. “They don’t have to have a ridiculous piece of equipment or invest a ton of money.”

The Last Straw is Brought to You By:

From our partners