Sarah from Matcha Maiden might just be the happiest person in the world. And it’s not something we say lightly – Sarah quite literally beams with positive, vibrant energy. If your lucky enough to have tickets to the Colour and Coconuts Festival in Sydney this October then your in for a treat, Sarah will be a guest speaker and you won't want a miss a word from this funtrepeneur. We sat down with the brains behind Matcha Maiden and new plant based cafe Matcha Mylkbar, over a couple of immunity-boosting lattes to talk about health, happiness and listening to your gut.
So tell me Sarah – why a vegan café if you’re not vegan yourself?
We wanted to use our position as non-vegans to challenge the stigma around vegan eating. We’d looked into the Blue Zones of the world where people live the longest, and one of the biggest things they have in common is their majority plant-based diet. It was the first time any of us at Matcha realised that eating a plant-based diet helps your longevity, with ethics and morals aside. And that’s what everyone is after – everyone wants to live a longer, happier life. We wanted to take away the heated politics of it and just present the facts. And similar to COY), we wanted to help people open up to the benefits of not eating dairy, without being preachy. As soon as you do that, people stop listening.
You’re a meat-eater yourself, but you’ve switched to eating more of a plant-based diet. How has that impacted your own health?
I used to be very superficially healthy: I thought that if I was eating meat and vegetables and avoiding processed foods, that that was enough. It was only when I started researching for the café that I realised that if I am going to keep eating meat, I need to eat it from better sources. I’ve become a lot more conscious of the whole food chain, and a lot more open-minded to getting nutrition from plant-based sources. I also have a sensitive digestive system: I don’t deal well with gluten and dairy, and I’ve just found my whole system, particularly my tummy, has been a lot happier without them.
What items on the Matcha Mylkbar menu have helped you feel better, in terms of having a happier stomach?
Because I’m gluten and lactose intolerant, I’ve become a lot more aware of gut health in recent years. I never used to pay attention to my intolerance and I would always be bloated, because I didn’t understand anything about the gut. Then I started to see a naturopath, and through Matcha Maiden we started to learn a lot more about health and fermented foods. And I’m Korean by heritage, so once I started to do research into digestion I discovered that fermented foods are such a large part of the Korean diet. So I started to incorporate things like Kimchi into my diet, and steer away from things like gluten and wheat, drinking more kombucha, and cutting back on inflammatory foods like coffee and milk. A big thing for Matcha Mylk Bar is not having any dairy. Coconut milk is a default in a number of our lattes. We have nine of them, and they’re all paired with a particular milk. Our turmeric latte is paired with coconut milk to be anti-inflammatory and gut-focused. It tastes better and it’s creamier!
The vegan eggs are out of this world. How did you get the idea?
I could have easily gone vegetarian, but I love eggs too much! And I’m a huge brunch person, and Melbourne cafes need to have eggs on their menu if they want to succeed. A good friend of ours suggested we try to develop a vegan replica of an egg, because no one had done it before. We already knew who our head chef would be, so he rolled with it and took three months to develop it. The food science that goes into our products is amazing, because things like the eggs and our burgers need to have that protein from a plant-based source.
How do you find a balance between eating healthily and mindfully and enjoying yourself?
Your body just gets to that point where it’s so conditioned to eat healthy food. When you get to that point, you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself. It’s all about balance and it is harder when you’re early on in your health journey. But once you even out your sugar levels, it’s easier to eat healthily and don’t beat yourself up about indulging. Listening to your body is really healthy. Don’t base it on what others are doing – just do what’s right for you.