The eccentric brother-duo that is responsible for setting up DIRTEA, one of the fastest-growing wellness brands, share their insights into the boom of the shroom, how incorporating them into their daily lifestyle has changed their lives and what their health rituals entail as founders of an exciting, developing company.
How were functional mushrooms brought to your attention and when did you discover their power?
Andrew: Such hectic working lives led to almost a total burnout 6 years ago for both of us. We were so focused on being the CEO of businesses that we were disregarding being the CEO of our own bodies and as a result our physical and mental health started to suffer and new chronic symptoms like lack of sleep, anxiety, brain fog and panic attacks were presenting themselves more and more regularly. After seeing a doctor and being presented with no real cure, we decided to go in search of something which tackled the root of the issues we were facing. By chance, we were introduced to a tea master in London, and she presented us with the concept of mushroom teas made using some of the world’s most researched functional mushrooms, Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lion’s Mane. Both of us were intrigued by the history and the instant wellbeing and calming effects of drinking these teas and committed to using them over the next couple of weeks to really see the effects. It wasn’t long before we both started to feel better, our sleep was improved, stress and anxiety was under control, and we had more clarity than ever, it really was quite amazing. This led to a lightbulb moment, and after sharing the many, many benefits with friends and them experiencing the same advantages as us, we knew we had to spread the message about mushrooms, and DIRTEA was born.
What are some of your favourite ways to get your mushrooms in?
Simon: Mushrooms have become integral to our lives and some of my favourite ways to get them in are first thing in the morning with a cup of Lions Mane to lift brain fog. Lion’s Mane is a perfect tonic to boost clarity almost like a morning shower for the brain. Lion’s Mane over time can activate Nerve Growth Factor stimulating the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, improve memory recall and focus. It’s perfect to kickstart the day. I also love winding down with mushrooms at night and use Reishi which contains a compound called triterpene that activates your GABBA Pathway, slowing the near activity down and improving deep sleep. It has a bitter taste, but when it comes to Reishi, bitter is better as the bitterness is the compound Triterpene.
How have you found starting a business as a sibling duo?
Simon: Being brothers in business is a surprising gift. For us, it means we understand and respect each other’s strengths and challenges. We also support each other, share the same vision and crucially if there are any differences, it only lasts minutes, we hug and then move on.
What does your morning routine look like?
Simon: My morning routine looks something like this:
5am: Use the sound of nature to calmly wake up. I always keep my iPhone on Airplane mode and away from my bed. I use this Calm Singing Birds Zone on Spotify and within no more than 2 minutes of waking up, I rise, get out of bed, and make my bed military style with the mantra in my head ‘Task Completion’. Waking with these positive affirmations shifts the brain chemistry into a positive focus state of achievement.
5:15am: Take a cold shower for anything between 2-5 mins. Psychologically it feels good to interrogate fear and the science is as compelling as the action: from allowing you to adapt to general stress, improve immune health, and burn unwanted fat, the activation of electrical impulses to your brain jolts your system to increase alertness, clarity, and energy levels.
5:30am: Stand next to my bed facing where the sun rises, stretching my arms out above my head, eyes closed. I then draw an imaginary circle with my arms, finishing with the palms of my hands opened to commence my blessings and gratitudes. I keep this very simple but acknowledge everything from the blessings of waking up, feeling healthy and hearing my heartbeat, to the gratitude for the loved ones in my life. I am grateful that today I will start anew and aim to achieve more than yesterday. Waking with an appreciation of the simple things in life and the ability to be better than yesterday will put your mind in a content state.
5:45am: Oil pulling, then down a pint of water with organic squeezed lemon and ginger, I then pour a hot cup of DIRTEA Lion’s Mane in preparation for meditation. (Over 2,000 years ago, Shalin Monks would use Lion’s Mane tea to deepen their meditation and activate their Chi). As there’s no sound this early in the morning, I sit comfortably on my yoga mat and meditate for 15 minutes. I use the app Brain.FM, which cleverly uses different sound frequencies to push your brain into deep meditative states with the option of guided or non-guided meditation
6am: Make a cup of DIRTEA Super Blend Coffee, which is infused with three of our mushrooms all of them offering sublime benefits for a morning tonic from; Lions Mane to raise any brain fog, increase focus, Chaga which upregulates your immune system and Cordyceps which activates your ATP levels (Aka your energy currency cells).
6:30am: Walk or cycle to the Serpentine Lake where I meet with the DIRTEA tribe to take a morning dip in the cold. Together we jump into the lake, form a circle and spend 10 mins in temperatures as cold as 2 degrees. We invite fear and push each other to breathe beyond what we would normally believe we could achieve. The aim is to get comfortable with not being comfortable. Not one of us breaks the circle and we push each other to stay tight using chants, laughter and synchronised breathing led by our breath master Jamie Clements. It’s the wildest experience, because once we leave the lake together, we may be cold, but the flood of endorphins firing through the brain puts us all in a state of euphoria.
8am: Head into office to start work.
If you’re in a rush, what’s the best way to incorporate functional mushrooms into your routine?
Simon: If I’m in a rush, I swear by mushroom stacking and combine all of the mushrooms in one drink. You then get all the benefits in one hot brew, and the powders work well together, especially with a little plant milk.
How do you de-stigmatise functional mushrooms to those with preconceived notions?
Simon: There are so many misconceptions about medicinal mushrooms, it’s actually hard to know where to start! We’ve really made it our mission to reinvent the narrative around mushrooms and make people understand that 1. They’re not psycho-active and 2. Even though we say medicinal mushrooms, they’re functional mushrooms or adaptogens which consistently adapt to the body’s stresses. With DIRTEA, we’re really aiming to challenge these misconceptions and educate about the many, many natural benefits that mushrooms can offer.
One of the biggest challenges for us is the perception of mushrooms in general – but the reality is mushrooms are their own kingdom and there are over 5.1 million species of mushrooms and as much as there can be some poisonous or psychedelic varieties, there are also many functional, medicinal mushrooms which can offer tangible health benefits to absolutely anybody.
What were the first benefits you personally encountered that made you want to share your experience with others?
Andrew: Functional mushrooms have healed us both mentally and physically. They gave us a greater sense of purpose, which has seamlessly allowed us to realise that it is our remit to share these hidden warriors of the forest with the masses in clever engaging ways to improve the betterment of others’ wellbeing.
Collectively they have improved the full spectrum of our wellbeing. No more brain fog, consistent energy with no spikes or drops, and from Insomnia to sleeping like a champion.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
Simon: At the end of a long day, I unwind with a cup of Reishi, downlighting (red candescent lights or candles), reading, or spending time with friends. I also try to limit blue light exposure and will try to do some simple evening stretches before I get into bed.
What are your predictions for the future of functional mushrooms?
Simon: We are only on the cusp of understanding the healing power of mushrooms, the research that is supporting the benefits is a gentle nod to the future of Functional mushrooms. Over 35% of medicine derives from Fungi, and thanks to the current shroom boom, people are now looking at ways to incorporate mushrooms into their lifestyle and use these adaptations to allow their body to adapt to stress. Functional mushrooms are becoming part of people’s daily routines to keep their bodies in Homeostasis. The market is growing rapidly too. The Global Functional Mushroom Market Size was valued at USD 26.7 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a CAGR Of 10.8% from 2023 to 2030, so it’s such an exciting thing to be a part of.