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Mushrooms for the masses

Meet the brothers on a mission to bring functional mushrooms to everyday rituals
Mushrooms for the masses

This article first appeared in our ‘Why organic is the answer’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Simon and Andrew Salter were ‘part of the generation who feared or just dismissed mushrooms.’

That all changed when, after a period of stress, constant fatigue and poor sleep – with no antidote in sight – they were advised to attend a tea ceremony.

The tea master laid a panoply of ancient teas on the table, selected from some of the world’s oldest trees. ‘We drank black tea, white tea, oolong and green tea, slowly and mostly in silence’, Simon tells us.

‘At the end we were handed mushroom tea. Our first reaction was, are we going to get high?’

Simon and Andrew learnt that the tea was not psychoactive, and also that these mushrooms were packed full of health properties that can help the body to feel de-stressed, calm and focused, with a more resilient immune system.

‘Through curiosity and feelings of calm, better sleep and greater focus, we commenced the journey to see how we could introduce these mushrooms into our daily rituals’, Andrew explains.

Making mushrooms mainstream

Simon and Andrew, serial entrepreneurs and brothers, were named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2020.

They have been instrumental in the conception and growth of social movement Feeling Nuts, the management and promotion of heavyweight champion David Haye; lifestyle concierge app Velocity Black; venture firm The Venture Collective; clean meat startup Mosa Meat and live events Indaba X and Letters Live.

The brothers’ hectic lifestyles eventually led to chronic burnout; they founded Dirtea in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as a way to help others combat stress, anxiety and fatigue while boosting creativity, wellbeing and connection to nature.

Simon and Andrew travelled the world immersing themselves in the ritual of tea ceremonies, meeting mushroom farmers in search of the best mushrooms to share with the world.

They discovered how transformative drinking functional mushrooms can be, and became fascinated with their long-term benefits.

Now Simon and Andrew are on a mission to bring the powerful healing benefits of these potent functional mushrooms to the masses.

Supplement your daily rituals

Each type of functional mushroom contains a very different blend of properties and characteristics, but they all share an ability to help the body deal with any given stressors throughout the day, from sunrise to sunset.

The Dirtea range of mushroom extract powders is not intended to replace your daily routine, but rather to add to your daily rituals. ‘Most will add Dirtea mushrooms to their favourite coffee, tea or protein shake’, explains Simon.

Some compare lion’s mane with a morning shower for the brain; these mushrooms have been shown to activate the production of more brain cells in the hippocampus, while also repairing nerve damage to reduce the chances
of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other studies detail benefits ranging from increased focus and memory to improvements in overall brain health and mood levels.

Dirtea’s Chaga mushroom is usually taken later in the morning; it is nature’s greatest source of antioxidants, enhancing immune and skin health.

Cordyceps from Dirtea boosts oxygen supply to your muscles and improves lung capacity, making it a great pre workout mushroom. Dirtea’s Reishi nourishes the liver and calms the nervous system, helping you to unwind before bed. It also increases deep, non-REM sleep.

‘We have very different tasting notes from our Dirtea community’, Andrew tells us. ‘For instance, our Lion’s Mane is mostly compared with chocolate, miso or caramel; Chaga is described as light and earthy; Cordyceps nutty and Reishi slightly bitter, but amazing with a bit of oat milk.’

A history of fungi use

There is some evidence that Buddhist Shaolin monks would use lion’s mane mushrooms in meditation practices, to enhance concentration and better cultivate qi, the mystical life force.

Reishi mushrooms were treasured by emperors, who called them the ‘supreme protector’. When consumed as a tea, the mushroom allowed clarity of thought and was also believed to prolong life.

The oldest human mummy, dating back 4,000 years, was found with a birch polypore in his medicine kit; this mushroom, which is still in use today, was prized for its antibiotic and parasite-killing properties.

‘Fungi are our closest ancestors, and as much as they heal our bodies they are healing our planet’, says Simon. ‘It’s a symbiotic relationship that will allow us to live a healthier and happier life.’

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