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A colourful interview with Sebastian Pole

Sebastian Pole, Pukka’s co-founder and Master Herbsmith, gives an exclusive interview to Pukka Planet about the colourful world of herbs and how they can help our wellbeing particularly in chillier winter months.

Tell us about the power of herbs
Because plants need to protect themselves from invading microbes, nibbling predators and the potential damage of UV radiation from the sun they evolved colourful pigments, aromatic essential oils and protective polyphenols that fight bacteria and ward off oxidative damage. For example, the purple berries in elderberry have long been used for respiratory problems and it has since been shown to be effective against more than eight infectious ‘flu viruses (more than any flu jab).

Plants can survive in challenging environments through their ability to adapt to different stressors. We can benefit from this intelligence if we use them too. Some of my favourite herbs for helping us manage stress and keep us full of energy are chamomile, ashwagandha, ginseng and shatavari. Chamomile gently soothes and calms bringing you energy by helping you relax. Ashwagandha is from India and is said to bring you the strength of a stallion. Ginseng is called panax ginseng, referring to its ability to be a panacea for so may ills. Shatavari is a very interesting member of the asparagus family used to help balance women’s health and boost fertility.

We only use organic herbs in our teas and herbal remedies. Organic herbs contain higher levels of powerful protective and rejuvenating compounds.

How can herbs affect/improve your everyday?
Herbal medicine is the medicine of all human history. It's the medicine of the people and there is a lot of scientific evidence showing it works. Not that you really need to spend millions of pounds proving that eating well, taking herbs and doing regular exercise is good for you, but the research, both traditional and modern, is there. So herbs can improve your everyday in so many ways; they can improve your digestion, they can help you detox, they can help you relax, they can give you energy and lift your spirits.

What’s the relevance of colour for Pukka?
Life is full of colour on so many levels and so we wanted to bring the spectrum of nature’s vitality to life in our designs. For us, colour is a metaphor of life’s incredible diversity, opportunity and challenge that in our pursuit of living a full life we seek at every turn. That’s why Pukka teas are brimming with a kaleidoscope of symmetrical colours as well as some vibrant tastes.

How do you find the perfect blend – can you describe the process?
The perfect blend. It's the herbsmith’s holy grail. It means ensuring that the herbs contain a vibrant presence of the life-force as reflected in the smell, taste, colourful look and feel of the herb coupled with appropriate levels of essential oils and other relevant compounds. We ensure that our herbs meet the high standards of the pharmacopoeia (that’s a flash word for ‘medicinal grade’) that sets the bar for herb quality. For real quality it must also bring benefit to everything and everyone it connects with during its journey to you as well. That’s why we only use sustainably sourced, organically grown and fairly traded herbs in our teas.

Essentially making a delicious tea that is good for you too is a bit like cooking a delicious meal; you need to combine a range of textures, tastes and delight to create an experience that is nourishing and delicious. It helps to have a clear intention of what benefit you are trying to create and who you want to benefit from drinking the tea. So I always take some time to reflect on this before I start blending. Often for rather a long time but when you know you have found it you know it.

If you’re feeling under-the-weather, what tea would be best?
I usually have a cup of Elderberry and Echinacea if I am feeling the chill. If I am feeling a little blue on a grey afternoon and cup of Three Tulsi lifts my spirits.

If you need calming down after a stressful day, what tea would be best?
Most of my days are pretty colourful and so I usually have a cup of Love to soothe my soul. It’s a loving blend of flowers to bring you some of life’s finest love. What better for a furrowed brow?

It’s blended with these amazing herbs:

  • Chamomile flower: This world famous yellow flower soothes the nervous system. It contains lots of calcium which feeds the nervous system. When we are stressed the nervous system is taxed; Chamomile can play a part in balancing some of this pressure on the nervous system. It is also a renowned digestive calming herb that alleviates cramps and spasms.

  • Lime flower: The delicious flowers of this enormous tree are renowned for their calming and soothing effect.

  • Elderflower: Very good at clearing mucus from the chest this can help reduce any obstruction to clear thinking and feeling.

  • Marigold petal: The mother of all healing plants! Known as Calendula as the flower for a full calendar year, they bring joy and colour everywhere they are.

  • Licorice root: Sweet and calming, it is used in to enhance feelings of love and compassion.

  • Rose flower: The ultimate love flower. It has a special affinity for the heart and circulation easing any tension and helping you to feel nurtured.

  • Lavender flower: Just smelling lavender cheers your heart, eases any pain and makes you feel relaxed. Lavender is very effective for clearing stagnation in the chest and releasing any emotional tension that builds up here.

Describe your day and how tea is a part of it? 
Well I usually start my day with a cup of Revitalise tea, which is a blend with cinnamon, ginger and green tea to get you going. Definitely good for the sluggish dawn to get me ready for my morning yoga and meditation. I’ll then take some herbs like some Pukka Clean Greens or Vitalise for a super-herbal boost. If I am working and playing more enthusiastically than usual I will take some Pukka Ashwagandha to help keep me calm and strong. Next I will drink some Pukka Three Ginger as this is good for digestion and my favourite breakfast brew. I’ll probably have a cup of Supreme Matcha Green mid morning to bring me a little lift. Then as the day progresses through various herb tastings and general herbal juggling I will move onto our Feel New after lunch and then use Relax, which is a blend of chamomile and cardamom to keep me grounded as the afternoon speeds on by. If I can nip into my garden after work I usually score the day as a 10/10 and I’ll take some of our full power Wholistic Turmeric to keep my muscles pain-free. Then I’ll top it all off with a relaxed night in, some delicious food and a cup of Love or Night Time for a good night’s sleep.

What is your tea ritual? How long do you brew Pukka tea; do you take a moment of mindfulness?
I love to steep my Pukka tea for a long-time to get all the goodness out. Often for 10 or 15 minutes before I drink it. I like to use filtered water that is freshly boiled and drink it from a colourful cup. I don't usually take a moment of mindfulness as a cup of herbal tea is a moment of mindfulness! Seeing, smelling and tasting herbal tea awakens your senses and brings you into the present so that you see life afresh.

Pukka tea is…
A moment of bliss.

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Tom de Pass, Head of Communications

I’m Pukka’s Head of Communications. Pukka has many amazing stories to tell. From the provenance and quality of the organic herbs which go into our teas through to the mission which is at our very heart: to connect people, plants and the planet together for a better world. It’s my job to share these inspiring stories, helping as many people as possible on their journey to discover a healthy, happy way of living.

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