It was an eventful day at Orange Bakery when British Baker visited. A queue of eager customers waited outside, the family terriers had escaped on their morning walk and, to top it all off, Environmental Health turned up for a spot inspection.
But amid the chaos stood a smiling 15-year-old Kitty Tait in flour-dusted overalls, dishing out freshly made loaves and cinnamon buns to her regulars. For Kitty, the community is at the heart of the operation – both the local community in Watlington and the wider baking one.
“We are really supported by the community and that has made a huge difference to us,” explains Alex Tait, Kitty’s dad, and owner of Orange Bakery.
It’s evident in the interactions between customers and the Tait family. Despite only opening two months ago, they have a slew of regulars, who seem continually delighted by the treats available.
A bricks-and-mortar bakery wasn’t always the end goal for the duo, who began baking bread for therapeutic reasons after Kitty had to drop out of school due to illness.
“I was in a really bad place mentally,” explains Kitty. “My dad used to bake a loaf about once a month, although it was a bit like a breeze block, and asked if I wanted to help him make it. Baking gave my mind a break. It was an extremely therapeutic escape from all the pain.”
After a bit of practice, word spread of the amazing loaves being produced by Alex and Kitty, and a subscription service was set up to cater for families in the town. Not long after, the opportunity to take over a shop on the high street presented itself and a crowdfunding campaign was launched to help kit it out. Established members of the baking community were among those to step up.
A mixer was donated by London-based Pophams Bakery, proving baskets came from Hart’s Bakery in Bristol and Kitty gained work experience in a number of places, including The Dusty Knuckle Bakery in Dalston, London and Hamblin Bread in east Oxford.
All of the equipment is located up the road from the shop in the Taits’ house, located in an extension that was briefly destined to be a dining area. Another kitchen space is on the horizon.
“We have planning permission and a foundation for an extension outside in the garden, but as we don’t have a lot of money we want to build it out of scrap doors and old materials,” says Kitty.
“One of our principles is we have to be able to do it on a low budget and in a compromised set-up – the kitchen is in our house,” Alex adds. “But if we can show to people that it can be done, and you can launch a subscription service, pop-up or bakery without having to look for a £50,000 investment, then there’s a future in that.”
The benefit of this forward-planning, notes Alex, is it allows Kitty a number of avenues to explore, once her GCSEs are out of the way next year. Things are already taking off, with Kitty holding bakery classes for local children, appearing at Theatre of Food at 2019’s Latitude Festival and becoming an ambassador for the Real Bread Campaign.
“I could focus on perfection in bread, but there is no perfection because it’s a wild beast,” she says.
Orange Bakery, Watlington
Who: Orange Bakery is run by father and daughter team Alex and 15-year-old Kitty Tait.
What: A bakery renowned among the locals for its sourdough loaves and cinnamon buns, as well as its selection of sweet and savoury baked treats, such as cheese straws, croissants and cookies.
When: Orange Bakery began life as a subscription service offering bread to families in the local area. Pop-ups followed and the duo opened a physical store in May 2019 after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Where: 10 High Street, Watlington, Oxfordshire, OX49 5PS
Why: “I want to make really good bread accessible to and good for everyone,” Kitty says. “A big part of that – and the bakery – was that we didn’t want to make it intimidating.”
Photo credit: daisy-vcm
Community support: Each of the oranges on the wall, painted by Kitty’s godmother, represent a crowdfunding donor who helped get the bakery up and running.
Bread with personality: Loaves include a wholemeal sourdough, white sourdough and the famous Marmite ‘comfort loaf’. All are made from starters with names including Chad, Barry and Leslie.
All in a name: “When I was in a bad place, I would only wear orange dungarees as they were the only things I felt comfortable in. That’s where the name comes from,” explains Kitty.
Take it slow: These ‘slow jars’ are filled with homemade preserves, confit, sauerkraut and pickles, providing colourful decoration, as well as delicious bakery ingredients.
Homemade: The bakery, in an extension to the Taits’ house, has three Rofco B40 ovens and other equipment, including a mixer and proving baskets donated by the baking community.
A sweet life: Kitty’s cinnamon buns are in high demand, selling out on the day British Baker visits. “I make 50 a day,” she says. The rest of the menu is flexible. “We bake what we feel like.”