Pukka Herbs, A Love Story

Like most people, my introduction to Pukka Herbs, a Bristol based company specialising in Ayurvedic products, founded in 2002 by Ayurvedic practitioner Sebastian Pole and business partner, Tim Westwell, was via their stunning teas.

Sebastian Pole, left; Tim Westwell, right

Before them, of course, other companies had released teas inspired by the ancient Indian science of health, Ayurveda. I tried most of them after being introduced to Ayurveda while staying in the holy town Rishikesh, in India in 2003. But none of those teas (to me anyway) tasted any good. For instance I never liked any of the Yogi teas.

Rishikesh, India

Then along came Pukka Herbs with their first range of teas, each gently aimed at balancing the Ayurvedic doshas: Pitta, Vata, Kapha. I found myself really loving their Refresh Tea because it settled the digestion (goodbye heartburn, acidity), cooled me down internally (a Chinese doctor had told me once that I generate too much internal heat) and calmed me mentally (good for someone like me whose brain has only one natural gear since birth: 110%). 
It also tasted great: instantly lifting Pukka far and away from the cliche of herbal teas tasting muddy or grassy. The flavours of peppermint, coriander, fennel and rose work well together: on Summer afternoons, it reminds me of rose petal scented teas I've had at the many Lebanese restaurants/ take out places on Edgware Road and also at Comptoir Libanais on Wigmore street.

Great on a Summer afternoon

Of the other two launch teas, Revitalise and Relax, my favourite was Relax. Yes Revitalise was comforting on a cold January morning, but Relax seemed to be an 'anytime tea', which worked any season, any time of day. 

Great when it's cold

As I remember it, I next got into their Detox tea. The combination of cardamom, liquorice, fennel and aniseed is really invigorating. I started introducing anybody who came over to this tea and everyone ended up a convert. There's something about this tea which just lifts your spirits up and leaves you feeling physically good in yourself. 

All my friends love this too

Then Pukka began to release Ayurvedic herbs and I experimented with herbs to help with stress, herbs for digestion, herbs for insomnia. The herbs are made as ethically as possible as Pukka explain on their website, "We respect our relationship with the land by using herbs from organic and sustainable sources, enjoying long-term and fair-trade bonds with our suppliers. We are proud to say that all our herbs and products are certified organic by the Soil Association and the USDA and can all be traced back to the field in which they were grown.  We make regular visits to the farmers we work with to learn from as well as educate them. Like all relationships, it’s a two-way thing." 
The herbs are not only immaculately sourced and prepared - crucially, they also work.
Since then, varying Pukka herbs are a staple of my everyday vitamin and supplement intake. My version of trying to be as healthy as possible is unthinkable without Pukka herbs and teas. 
As the range of Pukka teas has dramatically expanded, I've tried all of them (I think) and introduced so many people to Pukka teas, that I'm now in the fortunate position that if I go to a friend's home, they open their cupboards and say, So do you want Three Ginger, Three Mint or Detox? 
My seven year old daughter loves Pukka teas too: she likes it when I collect her from school and take her to a health foods shop to browse the range. She has chosen the following teas herself

Bit too sweet

She ended up not liking either - which suited me, as I've become a big fan of Vanilla Chai: it's perfect late afternoon, when it's too late for an actual Pukka Chai (which I love: it beats every other Chai on the market, hands down)

The best chai tea you can buy

I find Chamomile and Vanilla, a little too sweet. My daughter's favourite Pukka tea these days is Three Mint, which she enjoys most evenings after dinner

My seven year daughter's favourite Pukka tea

I love this tea too: it takes me back to the many freshly made mint teas I've enjoyed in Israel and Morocco.
My daughter and I also share a love for Pukka's Chywanaprash. It's a tonic, renowned for supporting your health, in a general way. My daughter has half a tea spoon with breakfast every morning and calls it "lovely Indian jam". In my opinion, it works rather like Echinacea: and the truth is my daughter and I have had far fewer colds this past winter than usual.

A great health tonic to keep your defences up

This is good news especially for me, as I have a lifetime's struggle with sinus inflamation, something I now tackle over the cold season, with Pukka's Nasya oil: nose drops which appear to a great job at stopping even a hint of a cold from turning into full blown sinus inflamation.

A gem for sinus sufferers

Other Pukka teas I've been checking out include Cleanse (I find when I drink this tea, it makes me feel cold and damp on the inside), Three Tulsi (this Holy Basil tea is really good for grounding: I drink it after a hectic day, it really steadies the mind) and Three Fennel (which is perhaps the only Pukka tea that doesn't taste great: though a friend of mine disagrees strongly: it's one of her favourite Pukka teas: so there's a hung jury for you). 
Lately, I've also been following a Pukka combination, after a really helpful and frankly amazing encounter with an Ayurvedic practitioner who works for Pukka Herbs. 
This came about quite randomly after I saw a poster at the Nutricentre shop on Park Crescent, London, advertising what was then a forthcoming Pukka Herbs event at which an Ayurvedic practitioner called Yaeli Stern would be in-store giving Pukka driven Ayurvedic advice.
The poster said you could book ahead for free consultations. I asked Nutricentre staff how to book and whether the consultation would include dosha analysis and they said they didn't know the answer to either question. Someone was going to ring me back but didn't, so I did what any journalist would do and googled first the event (nothing about it on the Nutricentre Facebook page or website) and then Yaeli Stern, who I quickly learned, practises at the Chelsea Therapy Room in London, as well as working for Pukka Herbs. 

Ayurvedic Practitioner Yaeli Stern of Pukka Herbs

I sent her an email asking about the Nutricentre event and she wrote back saying that there would be no consultations and no dosha analysis, just very general advice. This didn't sound like the forum to get into a personal-ish conversation about which Pukka herbs I should be taking and in which combination, so I left it and carried on with my usual Pukka herbs regimen.
But then soon after, I dropped into Revital on Wigmore street to stock up on a Minami fish oil supplement and quite by chance, Yaeli Stern, was there doing a laidback, informal Pukka event. For the good of my health and wellbeing, you can only really view this as a lovely intervention by destiny. I introduced myself and explained that I'd emailed her about the Nutricentre event and was still unsure if the combination of Pukka herbs I was taking, was appropriate/ working. (It wasn't). 
In the space of ten minutes, she grasped not only a pretty full picture of my present state of health, but also how to best go about balancing aspects of my health (mood, insomnia, stress, digestion, weight, energy). Yaeli seems to be one of those intuitive healers: those kinds of people who are born with an extra layer of insight. She is also a picture of radiant health: a walking advertisement for Pukka's wellness through Ayurveda manifesto. Extremely knowledgeable, she advised a combination of herbs, which I ended up going away and starting straightaway 

This balances you out like a good yoga class does
Adios Insomnia

Yaeli said that I should be eating lots of warming foods like lentil dal and soups and cooking with Sesame oil and spices like turmeric, cardamom, ginger. This was so useful as I had been wrongly under the impression from some Ayurveda books I'd taken out of Marylebone library (the amateur way is always just that: amateurish) that I needed to cool myself down as much as possible and had been eating a lot of cooling foods. Yaeli also recommended that I try meditation more seriously and suggested that at bedtime every night I massage my feet with a Pukka Relax Oil

Works well used as a nightly foot massage oil

I've since switched to drinking mostly Three Ginger Tea and every time I drink it, I feel really good inside. She was absolutely right too, about the herb combination, the warming foods and the bedtime foot massage - all of it has made a big difference to my all round sense of wellbeing.

Warming and balancing. Makes me feel great.

Okay, it's time to put the kettle on for a lovely mug of Pukka Three Ginger tea. Oh and before I sign off, let me say thank you to Yaeli Stern and congratulations to Pukka Herbs on ten years in business. 


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