When I started SuperFeast in 2011 I was a massive health nerd.
I was obsessed with optimising my health and spent my days practicing yoga, sun-gazing each morning at North Bondi, collecting all my water from a spring in the Blue Mountain (in a little Holden Barina), cleansing my organs and answering the ever-increasing number of health-related questions from my family, friends and colleagues.
In my infinite quest for ultimate health, I came across medicinal mushrooms and the practice of Taoist tonic herbalism thanks to the likes of Christopher Hobbs, Ron Teeguarden, and others. I was swept away by notion and art of layering in these super-ancient herbs into a lifestyle driven by an intent for longevity and a life full of health-infused happiness and freedom.
During this time SuperFeast was born, and after a couple years of offering mainly superfoods and supplements through the business, I realised I needed to shift the focus to bringing the wonder of these tonic herbs (what's a tonic herb again?!) to Australia. I was spending every Sunday at the Frenches Forest markets in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and I was honouring an ever-increasing drive to help to deeply fortify the health of those who felt the pull to my stall and the conversations I was offering there.
Folks would bring their heart-felt intent for health along with serious health issues that required dynamic action and herbalism, and I wanted to match the need they had and offer one of the things that truly helped to transform my health: tonic herbs.
So as a herbal health nerd, swept up in the romance of tonic herbalism, with minimal experience in small business, I set about with my intent to offer medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs in Australia despite the fact that there was no one really doing it, I had no one to learn from, and it was a time when people would either laugh, guffaw or throw-up a little in their mouths when you told them to put a mushroom in their coffee. By the way, we have countless delicious recipes :) (Oh how times have changed!)
At this point, the decision was laid out before me: wild-crafted or lab-grown mushrooms?
AND...from China or the USA?
My intent was to provide access to the most amazing, high-quality, magical, potent upgrades in health for the mums, students, entrepreneurs, starving (and affluent) artists, families, friends and all types of customers that would come to my stall and land on my website.
These values and my intent made that decision a no-brainer: get the herbs from where they’re grown in the elements and imbued with the adaptogenic qualities that nature demands of them. This is known as Di Tao and is a super important core value for the SuperFeast philosophy.
I should mention that another reason I started SuperFeast was that I wanted access to a never-ending supply of superfoods, and eventually, tonic herbs ;) Kind of like Willy Wonka's factory, but for healthy stuff!!
The apothecary I wanted to develop would represent an abundance of health in my life, and I was going to offer the herbs that I wanted to be taking and giving my family to the SuperFeast customers.
So I set about testing as many herb sources I could find (powdered extracts mainly, as that is by far the most functional way to integrate herbs into a lifestyle, in my opinion, and there was no way raw mushrooms and herbs would be allowed into Australia without being irradiated, period). (And FYI, we DO NOT allow our herbs to be irradiated, ever.)
It was wonderful, this period of testing and self-experimentation.
I was taking so many herbs from so many different places. I tried US organic lab grown, Chinese organic lab grown, dubious “wildcrafted” herbs from China, wildcrafted herbs from progressive folks in China and more.
I’d been taking herbs for a while and knew what I wanted to feel from their chemical and nutrient matrix, and most were good, but I also knew the energetic signature I wanted to be feeling, and the more subtle experience of feeling the herbs enter passages of Qi when consumed.
I learnt a lot about my body at that time, as my intent for finding the best source gave me some unique (for me) fire. I verified what I suspected right away; lab grown herbs are dramatically inferior.
I’ve studied all the reasoning and explanations for why they’re ecological more sustainable and “cleaner,” but you know what? From the level of effectiveness alone they were to me, crap. No way was I going to build a business around that kind of herb. It lacked romance, exposure to the elements and access to the lore of the land they come from (when grown in China), the Taoists.
At this point, I also got to experience functional mushrooms that were grown on grain.
I was amused that people who were advocating grass-fed meat and dairy (because we know grain is a shitty food for livestock, and probably isn't an ideal human food either), were growing their mushrooms on grain.
When you’re tuned into the mushies and want the best possible experience and value for money (considering we’re not harvesting our own wild herbs but accessing a powdered form that can taken while rocking life in everyday #convenient), why would you accept this?
NOTE: I still see the nutritive value of lab-grown, grain- and/or wood-grown mushies and tonic herbs to provide for aspects of the market, especially when obtaining mycelium is the intent. I am simply talking about the process I went through in choosing the herbs I would offer to the folks who choose SuperFeast and trust myself with offering health advice.
Wild-crafting, to me, is the best of both worlds. We're not depleting the natural population of herbs but we ARE allowing the herbs to grow in wild conditions and without human assistance.
There are arguments for wildcrafting being not sustainable, yet I find this attitude defeatist and pedestrian when used in a definitive way. Wild-crafting has been around for thousands of years (most indigenous populations wild-crafted and manipulated plant and animal populations for their benefit).
It is how the herbs have been made available for centuries in China (for example, shiitake only really took off as a herb once it was able to be cultivated).
The issue with wild-crafting is always scale and harvesting methods, and for now, we're a tiny company with a sustainable wild-crafting practice. (You can see our FAQ page on wild-crafting for more info.)
I mean, at the moment, with this global virus situation unfolding, this point is even more relevant. Please be rest assured that from farmer, to processing facility, to our Australian warehouse - we maintain meticulous standards, always.
I have been in business since 2011 and have never once had a contamination issue. Our suppliers in China carry out daily environmental disinfection and personnel health monitoring.
With regards to exact sourcing locations, all our farms are small-batch, rural, away from high-density population. Our facilities were closed prior to the outbreak (due to Chinese New Year), and then they had a two week extension to their holiday as a precaution. So prior to the real outbreak, all facilities were closed.
The other most important thing to note is that we work within a fully accredited GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility - the highest accreditation for factories of its kind. In order to maintain this accreditation, you have to be fully capable of keeping viruses and sickness out of the facility, at all times, not just during an outbreak, but it also means that there are means and processes ready to be launched when it happens.
Our tonic herbs undergo rigorous processing and extraction techniques to produce the potent 10:1 extract powder. This is a 3-stage high pressure heat extract. This is such a thorough measure to ensure purity that Australia will allow us to import mushrooms because of this process. The herbs don’t get handled by anyone until our team in Australia, after being processed. As always the herbs are also tested before shipping from China at our manufacturing facility for metals, pesticides, moulds, microbials and more.
Please know we simply do not take risks with the quality and purity of our herbs and we will always err on the side of caution. We also test regularly in Australia to ensure our Chinese results match the Australian lab results.
But rewind, to when I was starting out on my tonic herb journey - not being a business-minded person, I ignored the fact that people have a stigma about anything sourced from China (in a way, understandably) and went full-throttle with finding the best possible wild-crafted (fully wild, where possible) source for the herbs and mushies.
I wanted to connect with those who were working proactively and progressively to bring the magic of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms to the world (not easy to find, but I was stubborn once again).
This meant that the herbs had to be sourced from high-mountain regions, extracted in spring water (not municipal water), tested for metals, aflatoxins, microbes and pesticides (I now have independent testing for the herbs in both the US and Australia and the results are f#*king awesome) and Di Tao, meaning the herbs were grown where their spiritual home is, where the stories and lore of the herbs are strong.
That, my friends, is something that a lab-grown herb that grows without feeling the rain or the wind, will never experience.
At the time we were also tracking the path of radioactive fallout coming out of Japan and confirmed that the radioactive “cloud” was heading east towards Hawaii and the west coast of the US and Canada, not China.
Another factor to consider is just how stupidly huge China is compared to the zones dedicated to industrialisation.
The mountainous regions where the herbs are wildcrafted by the culture that has integrated with them for thousands of years are so rural that no protection is needed to keep them safe from industry…though the Chinese government does offer some protection to herb growing regions, in light of the interest that is growing in this ancient herbal tradition. (Imagine that, by taking tonic herbs we can PRESERVE these regions!)
But what if industrialisation expands to those areas unsuspectedly?
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been raised to the status of a national development strategy by the Chinese authorities. Because the Chinese are the culture that is connected to these herbs, they are the ones I’m going to trust to have the know-how, the intent and the land to grow the most potent Chinese tonic herbs.
I wish to support that effort, not switch to a lab grown mushrooms from America because it works better for short-term branding. The thinking that all Chinese business is awful is based on individuals caught up in egoic business and industrialisation practices; you’ll have to accept that that’s the same as saying all Americans are assholes because they elected Trump.
After I’d initially sourced and began to offer the herbs with great success (for the customers), I started to realise more and more the prejudice there was towards anything from China.
My bubble kind of burst a little as I realised how reasonable it was for folks to have that distaste/distrust towards Chinese products based on the types of agricultural, baby formula, livestock, “organic” produce etc scandals and swindles we’ve been exposed to in the past couple of decades.
At this time I was becoming more and more aware that I was running a business and staring down the gauntlet of years and years of being asked why we source from China, being turned down by stores who only chose organic (even though our products test completely free of pesticides and herbicides), being easy pickings for scrutiny from other herb sellers etc...and I didn’t flinch for a second. China was the place I was going to get my Chinese tonic herbs that helped craft my health (just as the Amazon is where we source our Amazonian herbs #ditao), and Australia is where I want my macadamias grown!
No way would I compromise quality and potency for a pretty “organic” stamp and lab-grown mushies. Having strong values was going to set us apart from the nay-sayers in other herbal companies that like looking over the fence at competitors and telling fibs.
We continue to lead the way in bringing medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs to Oz and the world, and will continue to do so. I hope this has helped to reassure you that not only are our herbs of the highest quality but that we are committed to ensuring that every part of our business maintains the highest level of integrity and safety for our team, our customers, our families and friends - because at the end of the day - we all take these herbs too.
A couple of years ago I had the chance to learn from and meet Ron Teeguarden, founder of legendary herb company Dragon Herbs and one of the men who inspired my interest in herbalism. Ron lead the way in bringing tonic herbs from China to the West; he is a true pioneer.
I spoke to him about SuperFeast and the direction I’d chosen to take.
His response set my vision in concrete.
He said that the he spent many many years in China at the herb farms, and that nobody in the world loved and respected these Taoist tonic herbs like those that had had it ensconced in their culture for thousands of years. The level of intention and dedication that went into cultivating the best possible herbs (when you found the right growers) and innovating the next levels of sustainable growing (to preserve the land that offers these gifts) was next-level and simply couldn’t be matched.
And so, I met a mentor, and he instilled in me a resolve to further dedicate myself and the biz to supporting those who were preserving this aspect of Taoism that I felt the world needed more than ever, and to educate the market about why Di Tao herbs (grown where they naturally emerge) that are exposed to the elements, nurtured by an ancient tradition and grown in pristine environments.
Also, you’ll be happy to know China has many initiatives, laws and policies in place to bring back traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism after it was attempted to be wiped out last century, such as:
We also test all of our herbs in China, the US and labs here in Australia for heavy metals, pesticides, aflatoxins, microbials and more.
You can email or call us any time if you want any more info on this matter and speak to us directly firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 769 500.
We’re super proud about where were source our herbs from and the fact that we are supporting the restoration of a tradition, that frankly the West needs right now. I mean, herbs that nourish the immune system and help the body adapt to stress? Sounds pretty good for a population that’s always sick and strung out. Stress is a biatch!
Ultimately guys, we’re just a grassroots company on an epic adventure to tune in further and further to the nature of this tradition and this tonic herb biz, and we’re super excited that you’re on this epic adventure of health with us. Make sure you tune in to our tonic herbalism podcast, you'll love it. Long live the Taoist tonic herbs! Love for you to follow our journey on Instagram and come say hi on my personal account too :)