One thing that instantly makes me feel at home in a new place is lighting one of my favourite candles and having a warm, familiar scent fill the air, transfusing the space with a sense of comfort and wellbeing.
Over the past few years I’ve become particularly obsessive in my pursuit of the best candle brands, and scents within their collections. It will probably come as no surprise, but not all candles are created equal. I’m always amazed by how many candle brands still use refined paraffin (sometimes described as ‘mineral waxes’ or ‘blended’ waxes) in their products, which can potentially release carcinogenic soot, as well as synthetic fragrances which can release potentially dangerous VOCs, and irritate your lungs and respiratory system. Whenever I discover a new candle brand the first thing i investigate is the ingredients, and if they’re not all entirely natural, I’m not interested.
Candles made from natural waxes, such as plant-based soy wax or beeswax are thankfully on the rise though, and more often than not, are scented with natural essential oils. In the past it was likely that these natural candle collections would be far pricier than their chemical-laden counterparts, but I’m excited to share an all-natural brand I’ve recently discovered that is not only gorgeous to look at and beautifully scented, but affordable too – with the smallest candles available for under a tenner!
NOA is a Manchester-based 100% vegan brand founded by Salford university student Natasha Boorer. All of her candles are handmade using natural soy wax and lead-free braided wicks, and scented using a blend of the purest essential oils and cruelty free, phthalate-free fragrance oils. Natasha hand pours every candle herself in her central Manchester studio, and sources all of her recyclable and biodegradable materials (from product to packaging) from UK suppliers too.
The aesthetic is stark and minimal using a palette of black, white, and pops of greenery, which is of course what first drew me in when I discovered the brand on Instagram a few months ago. I spotted recently that she had just expanded her range to incorporate wax melts, a product I’ve seen popping up all over the place recently but hadn’t properly investigated until now. Not only do they tend to be cheaper and last longer than traditional scented candles, they are also typically chemical-free and have a noticeably stronger scent throw. If you’re not familiar with wax melts, they are little cubes of solid wax that you need a warmer to melt, using the heat from a tea light placed underneath. I’ve just purchased a jar of Noa’s new sandalwood scented wax melts– along with a white terrazzo burner – and would definitely consider myself a convert; the whole of my new double-height living area (more on that later!) was filled with a delicious warm woody scent in a matter of minutes, which lingered for a long while after the tea light below was extinguished.
I wanted to find out more about Natasha’s beautiful brand so got in touch to see if she would answer a few questions, not just about Noa but also about our shared home city of Manchester too..
Let’s meet… Natasha, founder of NOA
How long have you been living in Manchester, and whereabouts are you based?
I moved up here from the South coast in summer 2017 (I think!) for university with 2 good friends and we had a house in Ashton. I then moved to Heywood in 2018 and have been based here ever since! I also have a studio space in the city centre for Noa next to Manchester University.
What drew you to the city initially?
The thing that drew me to the city was the music scene originally. I was studying music at university and it was either to move here or London (which I really didn’t want to do!). I quite enjoy how Manchester isn’t 24/7 madness like London is, and there are so many cool things to do and people to meet. Northerners are also much nicer than London folk!
How did NOA come about? What is it about candles that appealed to you?
I’ve always loved candles and home fragrance products, but being a student meant I often couldn’t afford to buy the more ‘luxury’ handmade products. I used to work for TKMaxx, so every time I was at work I would always find myself down the candle aisle sniffing all the goods!
Noa was born in February 2019, mainly due to the fact that I was struggling with my mental health and my partner had just started his own business. I needed a hobby, something to keep me occupied, and I’ve always been a crafty person. I remember speaking with my partner’s family over dinner one evening about starting a candle brand, as by this point I had already done a lot of research into it and quite honestly was shocked by the amount of terrible toxins and chemicals that go into shop-bought candles. But if I wanted to buy the more eco-friendly, handmade and vegan options, I would have to take out a small loan to afford them! I wanted to change that and make vegan homewares and self care accessible to all types of people, no matter how much or little you have to spend.
How have your products and your brand been inspired by the city?
The amber apothecary jars are massively inspired by the urban and industrial side of Manchester, along with the ethos behind the brand. The vegan community in Manchester is constantly growing, and people are always looking for a sustainable product. When you live in a city you are constantly on the go and self care tends to take a back seat – all the products I make are designed to make self care just that little bit easier!
Why was it so important to you that your brand be 100% vegan?
The vegan lifestyle is something I massively value as an individual. I don’t see why nice smelling products and homewares should be tested on animals. Why should animals have to suffer for that?
You’ve just launched wax melts, why do you think these have become so popular lately?
I honestly have no idea! The wax melts have been extremely popular and I’ve been asked about them for over a year now. I personally had never really used wax melts before I started making them and now I completely get why! The scent throw with wax melts is so good and one little cube of melt can easily fill a room with fragrance almost instantly.
Can you tell me more about the candle accessories collection you’ve also just launched.
I’ve always loved crystals and when it came to adapting the Noa range to offer more accessories I wanted them to be different from others already on the market. I figured, why not combine the two? All of the accessories serve a practical purpose, whilst also being pretty to look at and complementing the decor of your home.
Which is your favourite NOA scent, and why?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite as they are all lovely in their own way! But one that I hold really close to me is Anxious Mind. It’s my own personal anxiety-relieving blend and knowing that it helps so many people with their anxiety means so much to me. It’s also our bestseller!
Manchester now; where is the best place for a morning cuppa?
Definitely Ezra & Gil!! I’ve loved this place ever since I moved up here and it was where me and my partner had our first date. They were also my first ever stockist!!
Favourite place for a design-fix in the city?
What’s your favourite way to spend a weekend in and around Manchester?
My perfect day in Manchester would be starting with a coffee in Ezra, heading down to Afflecks and then wandering around the vintage shops. Finishing off with a snack at V-Rev‘s and maybe even visiting the Cat Cafe!
All imagery © Noa, used with permission.