Our founder brothers, Andrew and Simon Salter, have built a mushroom movement that is only at the beginning of its journey. Functional mushrooms have transcended their traditional culinary use to become a cornerstone of wellness and nutrition. In this interview, we explore the roots of Andrews's passion for these remarkable fungi and discover how their commitment to quality, sustainability, and scientific rigour has transformed DIRTEA into a respected name in the industry.
Without further ado, let's dive into this fascinating conversation with Andrew to learn about his journey, insights, and the future of functional mushrooms through the lens of DIRTEA!
What inspires you about the fungi kingdom?
Fungi are the most ancient kingdom, existing for over a billion years. They have a billion years of intelligence and understanding of civilization. I see them as both the opportunity and solution to the health of the planet and humanity.
What’s your why?
My interest has always been in preventing and staying in control of your health rather than waiting for a problem or an ailment to occur. After disregarding my health through my early 20s and seeing friends and family fall into bad habits, I discovered functional mushrooms as a powerful way to bring balance into my life. Now, our mission is to provide the education, inspiration, platform and high-quality products to build a movement of people consuming functional mushrooms as part of their lifestyle. Dirtea is truly becoming a way of life.
How do you overcome obstacles? Have you had to face many with DIRTEA so far?
The most common hurdle we come across is mycophobia: the irrational fear of fungi and mould. It is the fear that mushrooms and their environment are toxic. It likely stems from the fact that some mushroom species are poisonous.
This has been an initial challenge for us because a lot of people are sceptical and disregard mushrooms without knowing anything about them. Our mission is to educate and build a culturally credible brand that surpasses these fears.
What is in your toolkit for success?
Great ideas that offer the world value and positive experiences, understanding culture, timing, and relevance is fundamental to creating something people love and relate to, persistence - don’t take no for an answer, putting health first, because no matter how much passion you have - you can burn out. It's not worth the compromise of your health.
What is your favourite part about working at DIRTEA?
Building the new authority in the health and wellness area, where people are educated and learn to look after their mind and body, and understand that mind and body are one.
What’s one thing you wish people actually knew about fungi?
There are so many things that people need to know about fungi! But at the top is their functional value - they contain active compounds that have the ability to adapt to what the body needs - whether that’s more focus, energy, sleep or balance.
What’s your go-to mushroom if you could only choose one?
Lion’s mane. When I am focused and in flow, I am happiest: I’m productive and connected to the things that matter. That’s one mushroom I would never go a day without.
Do you have a mushroom regime, and what is the recommended mushroom routine? What’s your favourite time of the day to have DIRTEA?
My mornings always start with Dirtea Coffee - no matter where I go, it’s on me. And, it so happens that some great cafes and members clubs sell it all over London so if I’ve got meetings around town I can normally find somewhere nearby to get one! I love it because it's delicious-tasting coffee (which I love to start my day) blended with incredible pure, high-quality mushrooms and adaptogens, which keep my immune system strong and my brain engaged and energised throughout the day. Not stimulated, not anxious, feeling good, present and happy!
You seem to be working all the time! How do you keep balance? Do the mushrooms help?
When you set up a brand as large as we have, you make many compromises regarding work-life balance. Honestly, I never switch off – whether in the office, meeting, socialising or travelling, DIRTEA is always on my mind! Whilst I make compromises now regarding my personal life, the one thing I don’t compromise is my health and managing stress. The key to that is getting good quality sleep every night, consuming all the right vitamins and nutrition, keeping hydrated, exercising almost every day, and setting aside time to myself with short breaks here and there. Mushrooms are a real anchor in the day for me, keeping me balanced and my mind and body healthy.
You and Simon work so closely together. How do you both manage that? Do you have different skill sets? Do you ever clash?
Most people may run a mile from the idea of working with family. I trust my brother, and we support each other. Finding that in business is a rarity, and I feel it’s a crucial part of any successful partnership. Simon and I also have a great synergy working together. We can feed off each other’s ideas, pick each other up, and our end goal is the same: success and contributing to society.
What makes DIRTEA a high-quality product?
All our mushrooms are organically grown. The exact location will vary depending on the strain's best-suited climate. As functional mushrooms are expensive to grow and cultivate, many brands use parts of the mycelium and only some of the fruiting body. We use 100% fruiting bodies of a mushroom; the fruiting body of a functional mushroom contains the highest level of beneficial compounds. They are also third-party tested for heavy metals and contaminants and have been extracted using a double extraction process to obtain the active components you need.
Does DIRTEA have an ethical farming process?
Fungi are crucial decomposers in most ecosystems, so it is always important not to interfere using any form of farming that will irritate or negatively affect their environment. DIRTEA mushrooms are organically grown in rural areas in small family farms away from urban centres. This helps us remain gentle on the environment and benefits the farmers and local communities. Small-scale mushroom farming by nature is regenerative and has low waste, and we use waste as a substrate, which is the mushrooms' nutrition for fruiting.
The exact farming locations depend on the type of mushroom because the farms are located in regions where the climate is best suited for the strain. For example, Reishi and Lion's Mane are grown in shade houses in humid areas, while Cordyceps are raised indoors with precise climate controls to ensure high potency. Some of our other mushrooms, like Chaga, are wild-harvested. The conk (fungus) is removed only when ready so that it does not harm the tree.
What’s the best way to drink DIRTEA?
There is no best way! Every way is a great way as long as you are consistent. You can drink them as teas, one teaspoon mixed with hot water, either add your favourite milk or drink alone. You can also add the powders to your coffee or shake and mix and match the extract powders. They do not cancel each other out. On the contrary, they add more goodness to your drink.
What’s one thing you hope to see in the future?
I hope to see more research conducted; with such limited research out there, we haven't even come close to unlocking the many benefits of these mushrooms.
What is next for DIRTEA?
We are always looking for new ways to enjoy these mushrooms, so be on the lookout as exciting things are coming your way!