Zoe Lind van’t Hof, co-founder of Wunder Workshop | photo: Jutta Klee
Food as medicine. Nature as the source of our wellbeing. Mindfulness as the pathway to happiness. These practices have become an important part of the conversation at the moment. And with good reason. Because I believe it is always the simplest things and our view on things in the simplest ways that hold the answer to a life well lived: healthy, balanced, purposeful, fulfilled. By returning to nature and its natural ingredients and to seeing good in our surroundings, we take care of our individual selves and of those around us. And we must respect nature in order to respect ourselves and become the best versions of ourselves.
Wunder Workshop, a functional food brand making organic and ethically sourced turmeric based products, was created in this same philosophy. Ayurvedic inspired, Sri Lankan sourced and London made, it focuses on consumption with purpose, by harvesting the power of plants for the ultimate wellness ritual. Wunder translates to miracle, and they focus on plants that have a quality that can be classed as such. It is as much about food for the body as it is about food for the mind. But what ultimately sets Wunder Workshop apart is that it combines good ingredients with good intentions, and therein lies their products’ nurturing power and beneficial effects. And that simply makes the world a better place.
I have talked to the Wunder Workshop co-founder, Zoe Lind van’t Hof, about Ayurvedic medicine, about her very special and boundless daily source of inspiration, about personal style and finding balance, and about her go-to pick-me-up in the afternoon.
Wunder Workshop – The Turmeric Brand
photo: Wunder Workshop
”We believe that prevention is better than cure
and we believe in the uniqueness of every individual.”
Tell me a little bit about the story behind Wunder Workshop. How did it come to be? What sparked your interest in wellness?
My biggest inspiration to start Wunder Workshop was my late mother who had been very passionate about health and wellbeing since her early twenties, so by the time I was born she had nearly 20 years of experience. This meant I was surrounded by interesting books about traditional medicine, the power of plants and how to create all kinds of natural remedies from an early age. I grew up eating organic and locally sourced vegetarian food, we grew many of our own vegetables and herbs and we used to go to very down-to-earth Ayurvedic health retreats in Sri Lanka.
After dabbling in different career paths (from politics to interior design), I realised that my true purpose lay in what was around me all my life: health and plants. This is when I decided to go back to Sri Lanka and find an organic farm that uses sustainable and ethical farming techniques with whom I could work together to bring some of their incredible plant knowledge in the form of herbs and spices back to London and started Wunder Workshop – focusing on turmeric and consumption with purpose.
Could you explain to the readers more exactly what does Ayurveda mean?
Ayurveda means translated “the science of life”… It is believed that Ayurvedic medicine was the first health system, from which Chinese medicine was developed and consequently the medical system as we know it in the Western world. So, it can be argued to be the root of all modern medicine. Our brand’s ethos (Consumption with purpose) is founded on Ayurveda’s principles as we believe that prevention is better than cure and we believe in the uniqueness of every individual. Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health rather than seeking one drug to cure illnesses, it assesses the balance between all aspects of one’s life. In Ayurveda, disease is a sign of unbalance in your personal constitution, so one has to go to the very root of this issue. By adding a bit of Wunder daily we hope you can create a routine that forms one piece of the bigger picture.
Your products are focused on turmeric. What is the one thing everyone should know about turmeric? And how do you personally include it in your diet?
The list is endless, but I would say its anti-inflammatory benefits are the most impressive. Inflammation is very common in our modern-day society, and very much interlinked with stress. Also, it’s essential to have turmeric with black pepper, a fat such as coconut milk and ginger – they all increase the bioavailability (which is why you find these in our products too). I include it daily in a morning and afternoon potion, or as my bed time Golden Turmeric tea.
”I include turmeric daily in a morning and afternoon potion, or as my bed time Golden Turmeric tea.” Zoe LVH
Golden Turmeric tea | photo: Wunder Workshop
Where do you source the ingredients for your products?
The majority of the ingredients that we source are from small community and family run farms from Sri Lanka. We go out there once a year to either be there for the harvest or sewing season. We only work with organic farms and prefer to work with non-monocultural forest gardening farms. This means that the natural biodiversity of Sri Lanka’s fauna and flora is kept in order, by planting crops like turmeric and ginger in the shade of cacao or jackfruit trees, which keeps the soil full of its nutrients. We have also started to work with small farms in other countries, and are currently speaking to farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Slovenia, China and even Afghanistan which we are very excited about.
We live in a hectic world and more and more people are trying to go back to basics, to find a balance, to live mindfully. How do you find balance every day?
This is essential to me and I am all too familiar with this feeling of being consumed by busyness and our hectic surroundings in places like London. I used to just brush it off and ignore it, but I have become more and more sensitive to the sensory overstimulation. I am an introvert and an empath, so I find it incredibly difficult at times to be surrounded by lots of people. It is as if I can feel everyone’s emotions and sometimes I need to learn to turn this off as it can be very overwhelming. For me, the best thing is to bring my energetic vibrations back into equilibrium and I do this through sound healing and visiting a flotation tank a couple of times a month. Twice a week I go for an infrared sauna, which feels so healing just being in stillness and warmth. I also do breathwork every morning to really check in with myself and go to yoga once a week. This routine enables me to be calm and have inner balance in a busy place like London.
”I think the most important thing is
to be kind to yourself and have patience.
A healthy mind is equally important as a healthy diet.”
What is your advice to someone starting out on the path of healthy eating?
I think the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and have patience. A healthy mind is equally important as a healthy diet. One cannot work without the other. Denying yourself things can lead to negative emotions associated with your diet, so I always believe we should integrate nutritious ingredients and slowly wind down from the “bad” ingredients. I decided to stop eating sweet things 12 years ago at university, and the first 3 months I would still crave sweet things occasionally, but after that I never looked back and whenever I try something sweet, now I literally don’t like it and am glad that my body has understood that. We can’t force ourselves to do these things quickly and we need to wind our body and our minds away from them slowly and listen to our intuition as to what works well for us.
Why did you stop eating sweet things altogether? Does this mean your diet does not include any natural sweeteners either, like honey, dates or agave syrup? I am asking because I have been using only these natural sweeteners for years in very small proportions and whenever I try to stick to one recipe (I always make them much less sweet), I can not eat them. And I think I would have no problem if I gave them up entirely. And I think you are so right that if you educate your body in a certain way, it will naturally follow that path.
Yes, that’s correct, there simply isn’t a healthy sugar. Especially agave, which is so widely used within the “health food world”, is very high in fructose and creates havoc for our metabolic system. I had been reading a lot about the effects of sugar on our body and decided that I didn’t want to consume it any longer. Also, when we say we have a “sweet tooth” and are craving sugar, it’s usually our body signalling that we are missing essential nutrients/minerals such as magnesium for example. When I travel to tropical countries, or when it is summer in England, I will however eat seasonal fruits as it’s a wonderful way to tune in with nature and the season. In Ayuverda, honey is considered a medicine and I treat it this way too. We have a Golden Turmeric Honey, and I only use it when I have a cold and blend it with hot water and lemon which is very soothing for the throat.
Golden Balance, Adaptogen and Turmeric blend | photo: Wunder Workshop
What are the perks and challenges of running an ethical food brand?
The perks are the feeling of purpose. I wake up every single day excited about what lies ahead of me and that I am doing something that hopefully has a positive impact. I believe in small steps, and, as a small brand, we are hoping to raise awareness for a transparent spice and food supply chain. Moving away from the old patterns of the tea and spice trade, from colonial times, and we want to bring the attention to the farmers and the growers. The challenges are the red tape surrounding importing and sourcing ingredients abroad, and the fact that customers are often not aware of the importance of eating organic over conventional spices, or the fact that conventional spices contain numerous additives and heavy metals. Or that it is better for our soil to avoid mono-culture farmed ingredients. We are trying to educate along the way, whilst being transparent. But it is hard sometimes to get to the source of things. Also, as a female brand owner, there are plenty of challenges in the food world which is heavily male dominated. But all these things just spur me on!
You have also written a book with Tom Smale, the co-founder of Wunder Workshop, called Super Root Spices. Could you tell me a little bit about it?
This was really inspired through my upbringing and all the interesting ingredients we have come across during our travels. All the recipes include at least one interesting medicinal root and we have made these recipes as accesible as possible.
How important is food in changing people’s attitude from curing disease to preventing disease?
I think this is very important, if not fundamental to our lives. Let food be thy medicine, as Hippocrates famously stated. The main issue is that the current education system doesn’t teach medical students more than a term on nutrition, whereas that is a leading cause for many diseases. Once we come to understand that what we put into (and onto!) our bodies effects our wellbeing, we can see a shift in our approach to health which is a long-term investment, worth making.
Do you, as a brand, have any specific projects aiming to educate the larger public about the benefits of healthy and sustainable eating?
We have various events, workshops and talks mainly in London where we talk about the benefits of our ingredients, especially CBD and the various other ingredients that we use. Also, through speaking to the press, we aim to reach a wider public with our message about integrating turmeric and other spices into a daily routine and therefore taking on a preventative approach to health.
Living well is not just about the nourishment of food. What else do you do on a daily basis to feel and look your best? What is your philosophy on self-nourishment, self-care and living well?
As mentioned above, I nourish myself by going to yoga, sound healing, laughing with friends and finding a daily inner balance. My philosophy on living well is balance. I love meditating, gong baths, organic potions but also a glass of beautiful wine and pizza.
Zoe Lind van’t Hof | photo: Zoe Morton
”Stay focused on the present and living in the now.”
Someone once told me that you have to care enough about style to have any. What does style mean to you?
Style for me is very much a tool to express myself, I have always found it hard to have just one style, I like anything from chic to hippie and it really shows what mood I am in. I think it is one of the most fun means to communicate with the world around you. On days when I wear very colourful things, such as my friend’s Zazi Vintage coat, I notice how many people interact with me and smile or just shout ‘awesome coat’, which can be so heartwarming to interact with strangers, through a means of our style.
What is your idea of beauty? Inside and out. Any tips you’d care to pass along?
Beauty really for me means radiance, as cliché as it sounds, but I think you can see the soul through someone’s eyes, and I think beauty means a beautiful soul and a kind heart. A healthy lifestyle including nutritious foods and a peaceful mind have a big impact how much you radiate through your eyes and your skin. From the outside I believe a healthy skincare routine is important too, especially in polluted places like London. Also, I start the day with splashing ice-cold water on my face, followed by a cold shower. It is invigorating and gives you a radiant glow.
Words you live by:
Stay focused on the present situation and living in the now.
You are an inspiration for living well and with purpose. But who and what inspires you on a daily basis?
My late mother, her vulnerability yet beautiful strength and her resilience. She was a single parent and raised me by herself from the age of 1, she often worked 7 days a week to make everything possible for my education and our dreams. I live in immense gratitude to her every single day.
One thing you can not start the day without:
My Ayurvedic copper tongue scraper. I know it sounds weird, but once you start integrating that into your morning routine there is no way back.
Wunder Workshop Golden Shrooms, Adaptogen and Medicinal Mushrooms blend
photo: Lynda Laird
Food-wise, how do you approach each meal? Which are the ingredients, foods and drinks that are part of your daily menu?
I receive a weekly organic vegetable box with seasonal food, so I never know exactly what I will get, but the vegetables always form the center of my meals and I will add things such as pasta, bread, millet, potatoes, rice, etc. I make sure to also have a big green salad every day. My key ingredients that I use daily are organic olive oil, coconut oil, turmeric, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and some nuts.
What would you recommend as a pick-me-up drink in the afternoon?
During the afternoon I avoid caffeine as, for me personally, I feel it rushing through my body until very late at night, so usually I make a golden potion with Golden Shrooms (cordyceps and reishi mushrooms, turmeric, ginger and cacao), I often add some more herbs depending what I feel my body needs, but that might be pine pollen, Chaga or Ashwagandha.
Do you drink or have you ever drunken coffee?
I drink coffee about once every 2 weeks maybe, I don’t have anything against it and research shows it is actually considered benefical to our health, but I am so sensitive that it makes me incredibly high or nervous, but I usually utilise this when I have to write an article or want to do some design work as it puts me in a very focused place for a couple of hours and then I crash. So it’s not something I can do every day. Also, I would hate to be dependent on it.
How to make Golden Turmeric Latte: a step by step guide by Wunder Workshop
What is one favourite thing to do in London and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
My favourite quality of London is its exciting energy, which, as mentioned before, can also be too overwhelming, but when one is in the right state of mind it can be exhilarating. Going out to small independent multi-cultural eateries with friends, sitting outside on warm summer nights, cycling to Hampstead Heath for a dip in the pond followed by sunset picnics. Those are my favourite moments.
Where would we find you when not working?
Hiking and swimming in Deia – Mallorca.
In this time and age, what do you wish people appreciated more?
The time with our loved ones, friends and family.
What makes you happy at the end of the day?
A productive day, followed by beautiful food and wine either shared with loved ones or also happily alone.
Turmeric CBD oil / Golden Turmeric Honey / Super Root Spices book
photos: Wunder Workshop
Website and online shop: wunderworkshop.com
Instagram: @wunderworkshop | Twitter: @wunderworkshop
Book: Super Root Spices, available here