Today’s Q&A is with the incredible Sarah from Matcha Maiden. Ever since meeting Sarah a few months ago, she has fast become one of my favourite foodies, and brunch buddy! When I think of inspiring young entrepreneurs, I think of Sarah and her partner, Nic, and their incredible brand Matcha Maiden. he is so down to earth, lovely and a beautiful friend to have!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (who are you, where you came from, what you’re about etc)
I started off as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in a big commercial law firm. I couldn’t have had a better start to my working life, as it taught me so much about business and how the commercial world works. But in addition to the nerdy side of my brain (I am a MASSIVE nerd), I’ve also always had very strong artistic and creative interests. That lead to me to do an Arts degree alongside my Law degree which I jam-packed full of language studies as well as a pretty crazy extracurricular schedule.
I love to keep busy and love doing lots of new and different things. I adore learning languages and travelling, so most of my adventures have involved some sort of trip. Nic and I have been to over 40 countries together and traveled extensively before we met. We’ve done a high-altitude ultra-marathon in the Himalayas, volunteered at a school in Rwanda, crossed the Simpson Desert, volunteered on the Obama re-election campaign, driven from Rome to Sicily, traveled through the Middle East, lived in Europe and more recently spend half a year in Hong Kong.
I also ADORE food – I’m a foodie before I’m anything else (as you’ll discover below). Nic is less obsessed with food, but I still drag him around the world on food adventures. We’re also both very much into health and fitness – I used to be a ballerina and he was an international athlete. Nic loves a good gym sesh, but I prefer yoga, pilates and the like. We also have a Golden Retriever called Paul who we ADORE and, yes, we’re those people who dress our dog up in costumes (he loves it). And most recently, we started a business together – enter Matcha Maiden!
Where did your business originate from?
Once I started working as a commercial lawyer, it became harder to squeeze all my random interests in. But as the work became increasingly intense, so did the need for a creative outlet. So at the end of last year, having discovered matcha during many of our travels particularly in the US (which is always a few years ahead of everyone else), Nic and I decided to start Matcha Maiden as a side project. Little did we know it would grow into the flourishing family it is today – it’s been the most pleasant surprise and we are still pinching ourselves at how quickly it has grown! We just hit 35,000 followers worldwide and are in over 400 stores in Australia but also in the US, the UK and across Asia. We just hit the shelves of Urban Outfitters beauty section across the US with many more exciting things to come. I have no background in business whatsoever but am LOVING it so far – it’s become so busy that I left the firm a few weeks ago and could not be happier on the matcha mission!
Where did your passion for health and well-being begin, and how did it begin?
I certainly haven’t always been like this. Once upon a time, I was terribly ignorant when it came to health and wellbeing. I used to be a ballerina and was exercising at such an intense level all the time that I never had to think about fitness, health or wellbeing. Whatever I ate just fell off me and when you’re younger you can run for days without breaking a sweat. It was only a few years after I stopped dancing that my metabolism started to slow down and I realised that people exercise on purpose for a reason! Your body only stays supple, healthy and fit if you help it stay that way. I was getting sick quite often and didn’t connect that with my lifestyle and how much I was demanding of my body without caring for it properly. It was only when I became seriously unwell in high school that I started to take things seriously. I was forced to really learn about nutrition and wellness and being an A-type borderline OCD hyperactive personality, once I got into the field I became obsessed with. I loved starting to learn about different foods, the metabolism, different forms of exercise, and the connection between physical and mental wellbeing. I became passionate about it pretty quickly, especially once I started to feel the results of a healthier lifestyle, and I haven’t looked back!
What is your philosophy around food and eating healthy?
You’ll quickly notice that I LOVE food. My day/week/life revolves around meal times, as I enjoy the whole eating experience so much. Cooking, eating, dining out, I love all of it. Food probably takes up a bigger place in my life than it should, but I figure that food is literally the way you fuel your body so why not make it a priority? My philosophy is based around the idea that you get out what you put in. If you nourish your body, you can expect it to perform for you but if you don’t treat it well it’s unlikely to hold up to your demands. I always try to eat healthily because I ask a lot of my body, but that’s also because that’s the kind of food I enjoy the most and crave. It’s important to listen to your body, it’s pretty smart and it knows what you need (which may vary at different times in your life depending on what you’re doing). I’m not a big fan of restrictive or limited diets unless they’re for particular health reasons. I think you should just make generally healthy choices, but also make room to enjoy the more indulgent things every now and then too. Everything in moderation, as they always say! You shouldn’t be hungry all the time, but you also shouldn’t be full all the time. Our lifestyle these days has encouraged some pretty bad eating habits that aren’t particularly related to hunger or what our bodies are actually feeling – we don’t eat seasonally, we eat processed food too much, we eat when we don’t need to, and on top of all that there’s so much information out there that isn’t always consistent. It can be so tough to make good food choices! I think the key is to listen to your body, as everyone’s body is different!!! People forget that too often!
What is your philosophy around self-love, and how do you practice it?
My philosophy around self-love is similar to my philosophy on food – you get out what you put in. If you don’t look after yourself, how can you expect anything of yourself? If you don’t value your skills, how can you expect anyone else to? And if you don’t appreciate what makes you unique, how can you make the best use of it? It’s so easy for us to be objective and tell our loved ones how they should value themselves more and prioritise “you time” – but it’s so much harder to do the same for ourselves because life gets in the way. The to-do list gets full. Important stuff comes up. But the body really does need down time to refuel and recharge every now and then. We need to reward ourselves for hard work and allow ourselves to recover before going at it again. The glorification of busy these days has meant that quiet time and mindfulness have all but been forgotten, and the impact on our psyche is detrimental! There’s so much anxiety and stress without the rest and peace to counteract it! Everyone needs to set aside some time for themselves!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have no idea whatsoever and I kind of love that! My legal career got off to a very exciting start but the pathway was still relatively conventional and predictable. Study law to get into a law firm to become a lawyer. But now, Matcha Maiden is the start of a new trajectory with infinite possibilities and I couldn’t be more excited about what might happen! Business is so much less predictable, so I don’t even know where I’ll be in 5 months, let alone 5 years. We all get so bogged down about future planning, and while it IS important, I’m kind of enjoying being a bit more spontaneous and enjoying each day as it comes. It’s very refreshing!
If you could offer your younger self one tip, what would it be?
I agonise a lot over my decisions – I don’t decide anything without a pros and cons list. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, so I don’t really have many regrets since every part of my life has played an important part in getting me to where I am today. There are definitely MANY cringe worthy moments, but they’re all part of the ride. I think the main thing I would tell myself is to really enjoy being young and carefree because you don’t quite realise JUST how carefree you truly are when you’re at school until you’re suddenly not carefree anymore. And then it’s hard to go back! The adolescent mind is alarmingly irresponsible, and once you become sensible and risk averse it’s hard to go back! So I guess I’d say enjoy it while it lasts, but I know I wouldn’t have listened anyway!! If there’s anything you can say about my younger self, it’s that you couldn’t offer me any tips because I probably would have ignored you! Such a brat!
If you could chose to eat anything for one meal, with an intolerance free pass, what would it be and why?
Well, since I can’t eat gluten or dairy these days I truly miss the days when I lived in Paris and could enjoy all three without a single stomach ache. Funny how allergies can either fade or worsen as you get older! I can safely say I would love nothing more than a MASSIVE loaf of French artisan bread with French salted butter – ohhhh the bliss! Simple but beautiful!
What motivates you to be the best version of yourself on a day to day basis?
I really love quotes and they regularly help me focus my energies in the right direction. One of the OLDEST and most obvious quotes ever is “life is short”, but it keeps me going every single day. You will never have today again. This is the last time you’ll have the moment you’re in. You can’t go back and re-do anything. So why not do it the best you can the first time? Being the best version of me leads to life being the best it can be. Life is so wonderful when it’s wonderful! I also realised that happiness is a lifestyle choice – you can choose to be grumpy and pessimistic or you can choose to be happy. Obviously sometimes things get in the way, and sometimes circumstances make it much more challenging than it is for others. But to the extent you can choose to have a positive outlook, why not do it? Everything is so much nicer that way
What are your tips for eating out and still being able to choose a healthy option?
I LOVE eating out. I’m obsessed with food, but I love the whole experience surrounding food, so dining adventures are my favourite! I eat out far too often and cook less and less, as Melbourne has so much to offer in the food department. Making healthy choices can seem quite challenging especially because you don’t have a lot of control over what goes into your food and how it’s prepared. There are so many ways that restaurants sneak ingredients into your food without you knowing to enhance the flavour or look. Once you’ve done your research though and get into a routine, it’s pretty easy to make the right choices. At breakfast time, eggs and sides are a good option, steering clear of the oily fried items or the sweeter dishes. Even bowl breakfasts often have added cream or sugar. It always helps to ask for things on the side i.e. butter on the side of toast, dressing on the side of salad, milk on the side of muesli etc. As for lunch and dinner, it’s important to know the healthier options within each cuisine so it doesn’t matter where you go, you won’t get stuck. I.e. when eating Asian, steamed over fried rice, grilled over fried protein, steamed over fried dumplings etc. When eating curries, tomato based over cream based. When eating Mediterranean, opt for the protein and veg options rather than the carbs and creamy sauce options. But ALWAYS allow yourself to indulge every now and then – we can’t ALWAYS make healthy choices.
If we opened your pantry and fridge on any given day, what would be likely to find?
As you can tell from the above answer, I don’t eat at home as much as I should these days. I love cooking and being time poor is a terrible excuse, but it doesn’t help that I LOVE eating out. I do have a few staples though, which are always in the house no matter what. Almond butter is one (this always comes up in food related interviews – it’s my favourite snack in the world). It’s good to have on hand as a snack between meals to stop my blood sugar levels dropping and keep the energy up. I always have fruit too (which often gets almond butter lathered all over it). Bananas, apples and berries are favourites of mine. For the occasions when I do have breakfast at home, I have quinoa porridge flakes in the pantry along with a host of goodies to add in (including matcha, unsurprisingly, along with maca, cacao, acai, chia seeds, desiccated coconut, etc). On the savoury front, I love a good salad so usually have spinach and a range of salad additions (which is usually roast vegetables and a protein – I adore roast vegetables particularly sweet potato so there’s always plenty of those around).
What does a typical day of food look like for you?
Anyone who knows me knows that I ADORE going out for breakfast. It’s indulgent, I know, but it really gets my day off to a great start. I’m that weird person who will peruse the entire menu but always end up making a pretty predictable choice. I either go for eggs with lots of different sides (avocado and mushrooms are favourites) or the breakfast salad (which is basically just eggs with lots of different sides anyway). Then lunch is generally on the go and dinner is at home. Lunch depends on where I am during the day but is generally a big salad or a baked sweet potato (as mentioned above). For dinner, I love stir fries or salad again (but when I say salad, I mean the substantial kind packed with lots of ingredients – none of that leafy rabbit food! I have a VERY big appetite!) Then I’ll always have some kind of treat at the end of the day – almond butter straight from the jar is my favourite (again, I can be fairly predictable at times!) Dark chocolate is also a favourite! I eat at fairly predictable times too, I get low blood sugar if I leave it too long between eating and become completely useless. So I always eat an early breakfast, a snack mid morning, lunch, a snack mid afternoon, early dinner, and then a snack and dessert later on. I’m basically eating all the time!
What is your favourite way to move?
I love yoga and pilates, but am pretty open to anything. I like to mix it up as I get bored pretty easily and also find it hard to stay motivated now that the business is going really well and I always feel like I could be doing something more useful with myself – I have to remind myself that exercise should be a priority too! I used to be a dancer, so I enjoy casual classes every now and then. I’ve done a few fun runs but I really don’t like running (or cardio generally), so I tend to focus more on creative ways to exercise that don’t really feel like you’re exercising… I know, I’m terrible!
What or who are you thankful for today, and why?
I am thankful every day for the day I am in. I’ve become a lot more mindful lately, as I’m prone to being that person who spends so much time worrying about the next minute that I forget to enjoy the one I’m in. The news always has depressing things to report about people who don’t have the luxury of enjoying today and this always reminds me to appreciate the mere fact that I am alive. And not only am I alive, I’m happy, healthy and able to do the things I love. It seems like a simple thing and it’s so easy to take for granted, but when suddenly one of those things gets taken away you realise how precious it really is. I became quite seriously ill after a trip to Africa a few years ago and that truly changed the way I think – I could barely function and I realised that some people face that every day. I celebrated when I could get up and walk around, let alone run. And I realised that when I AM able to, I need to appreciate that as something special. Not just the default. So I am always thankful for being alive. And then for being surrounded by so many loving and wonderful people – not only am I alive but I get to share life with people who make me so happy.
Would you like to share your favourite recipe or ritual with us?
My all time favourite recipe is not really a recipe. It’s the thing I love eating more than anything. Almond butter on banana. It. Is. Ridiculous. Any time of day, anywhere in the world. Can never have enough of it! I also LOVE matcha errthang – not surprising. My favourite matcha recipe is a green goodness smoothie. I love matcha with almond milk, a banana, a handful of spinach, some coconut nectar and chia seeds. So good!
Where can we find you? (your website/your product)
Our website is www.matchamaiden.com and Instagram is @matcha_maiden. Say hello!