Burnout and stress led young entrepreneurs Andrew and Simon Salter to discover functional mushrooms. Having found their path to health, they launched premium mushroom powder brand DIRTEA so they could help others find balance. Frank Editor-in-Chief Melanie Sykes talked to Andrew Salter (above right with his brother Simon) about the incredible, edible benefits of fungi.

Congratulations on the complete package that is DIRTEA. Tell us about the series of events that brought this movement to fruition.

Thank you! DIRTEA began as a way to help ourselves and the people around us to function better. A few years ago, my brother and I were young entrepreneurs. We were over-exerting ourselves and starting to feel fatigued and, as a result, we were both quite stressed.

We recognised that many of our friends complained about suffering from more chronic and severe symptoms of burnout, anxiety and insomnia. 

My brother and I have always been interested in natural ways to enhance our wellbeing to manage the strain of our fast-paced lives.

We believe a natural path to health and wellness has fewer side effects than conventional medicine. This led us to delve deep into the science and ancestral studies of plants, mindful meditation, ice and sauna therapy, and other natural healing and well-being methods. 

After months of researching and trialling, we were introduced to fungi, a kingdom of life with over 2 million species, including functional mushrooms. We were intrigued to learn that mushrooms have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for generations. 

Functional mushrooms contain active compounds studied by scientists for their natural healing and functional properties for the human body and mind. They are some of the most researched and nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

Fascinated by the history, scientific research, well-being and calming effects of functional mushrooms, we committed to using them over the next few weeks.

We added dual-extract mushroom powders to our morning smoothies and coffees or drank them as teas to see the results. It wasn’t long before I started to feel considerably less stressed, well-rested, focused, and alert. 

Once we experienced the benefits of these mushrooms that surpassed anything else we had tried before, and when we received the same feedback from friends, we wanted to share this with the world, hoping it would also help others. A few years later, here we are, leading the functional mushroom movement.


Why do you think that mushrooms are now becoming mainstream as a healing natural resource?

The use of mushrooms for their healing properties dates back thousands of years, from ancient Egypt to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), to the Greek physician and the father of medicine, Hippocrates, who in 5BC revered the healing power of mushrooms.

Modern science is slowly catching up on the potential benefits of functional mushrooms. However, what has already been presented shows a promising future for these fungi.

Even some of the most common conventional medicines, like penicillin, are a strain of fungi accidentality discovered by Alexander Fleming that revolutionised the future of health, saving the lives of millions. 

For too long, mycology has been underfunded. However, the research that has been conducted on their potential is amazing.  With the plethora of information online and alternative healing institutions, we are now re-discovering the incredible preventative health benefits functional mushrooms can provide. 

Fantastic Fungi on Netflix created a documentary on the ‘secret’ life of mushrooms and what they do for us. What impact did it have on you?

I was a huge fan of Fantastic Fungi, not merely because it delivered both an informative dialogue of the fungi kingdom and for its beautiful videography, but because it gave a mainstream platform to fungi through its partnership with Netflix.

The documentary has now been seen hundreds of millions of times and has given rise to a fundamental mushroom movement, driving awareness of how fungi could potentially be the answer to many of the issues we face as a planet and as a human race.

What happens to the brain when we take these powders? Talk us through the impact of the different mushrooms from your range and their powers.

Functional mushrooms are superfoods that are said to support brain health by the activation of nerve growth factor (NGF). 

DIRTEA tins lined up

Lion’s Mane is a great mushroom that may improve our brain by enhancing focus and reducing brain fog by stimulating the production of the Nerve Growth Factor.

This protein helps the growth of new brain cells in your hippocampus (a part of the brain associated with learning and memory), which could lead to increased concentration.  

The benefits are not limited to the brain. They may contribute to overall well-being, which includes focus, sleep, gut health and immunity. This mushroom is also thought to reduce oxidative stress to improve focus.

It tastes mildly sweet, and the mushroom extract can be added to various dishes and beverages.

Chaga has been known for its health-aiding properties due to the number of antioxidants found within it. For context, Chaga has more antioxidants in one cup than in 600 blueberries!

It can provide a slow release of energy, so there is no morning lethargy for those who find it difficult to function when the sun rises.  Chaga has an earthy taste and has even been used as a coffee alternative.

Tremella is a remarkable all-time favourite beauty routine. The Tremella extract powder has an active substance called Tremella polysaccharide which has been shown to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water.

The hydrating substances in Tremella are smaller than those of hyaluronic acid, allowing them to penetrate the skin faster and more effectively.

It has a subtly sweet flavour that’s delicious on its own or mixed into your favourite drinks. 

Cordyceps has a compound called cordycepin, which has been shown to up-regulate our energy levels. Taking Cordyceps pre- and post-workout could provide more vigour, enhancing your physical ability to nail your PB.

It is even said to boost libido. Cordyceps taste earthy and nutty and are best as teas or added to your favourite drink.

Turkey Tail is an astonishing mushroom packed with beta-d-glucans that may contribute to immunity health! Turkey Tail also has an impressive array of antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids.

It has a strong earthy flavour. The powdered extract is used best with hot water or added to beverages.

Reishi has been documented for thousands of years for its calming effects. Drinking Reishi tea each night may help calm the mind.

Triterpenes are one of Reishi’s primary beneficial compounds, accounting for its bitter taste. This compound has many health benefits, which may help the liver metabolises toxins.

Reishi has been shown to calm the nervous system down due to its bioactive compound called Triterpene. This mushroom is best taken in powdered form as tea or added to beverages.

How is the farming of these mushrooms ethical and how do we protect their ecosystem?

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 grown indoors with precise climate controls to ensure high potency.

Some of our other mushrooms, like Chaga and Turkey Tail, are wild harvested. The conk (fungus) is removed only when ready so that it does not harm the tree. When harvesting Turkey Tail, the spores are spread to ensure natural propagation.

As humans, we have moved so far away from what is good for us, that which is found in nature. Are we seeing a back-to-basics attitude? Why do you think this is finally happening and is getting the airtime it deserves?

In recent years health and wellness have become mainstream, perhaps due to the rise of chronic diseases and mental health conditions.

Alternative medicine and healing are prevalent because some of us may view conventional medicine as only masking the issue, which could also cause side effects. 

Like the times of pre-conventional medicine, they prefer to tackle the concern or prevent many health issues through natural remedies and proper nutrition whilst incorporating a mindful approach. 

We are re-learning what ancient cultures revered many years ago and realising that perhaps they were onto something. You just have to reflect on our ancestors and see how they used the forest as their pharmacy.

What is it like working with your brother? How does it work?

Most people may run a mile from the idea of working with family or friends. I trust my brother and we support each other.

To find that in business is a rarity and I feel it’s a crucial part of any partnership to run successfully. 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.


People are their own brands now. How do you get the life-work balance right and keep yourself healthy in the mix of living well promoting your product, and being your business?

When you set up a brand as large as we have, you make many compromises when it comes to 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. 

Key to that for me 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.

I make sure to drink my DIRTEA Coffee with Lion’s Mane for focus, Tremella for Skin and Chaga for immunity every day, and most importantly, to enjoy the ride!

How do you develop such a beautiful product with sustainability in mind?

Creating an environmentally friendly business model is really important to us at DIRTEA.  Our packaging is all eco-friendly and fully recyclable. Our cardboard shipping box is FSC approved, and we use compostable wood-wool packaging.

Our subscription plans are the most eco-friendly way to reduce waste so you can enjoy your mushrooms more!

You’ll receive an empty DIRTEA tin with a travel-safe, resealable, recyclable pouch for your first shipment. That way, it’s up to you whether you want to fill your tin or take your DIRTEA on the go.

All following shipments consist of recyclable pouches to refill your DIRTEA tin with and in smaller packaging.

Are you enjoying spreading the word as well as running the business?

They go hand in hand, and I enjoy both equally! DIRTEA has both purpose and meaning at its core. Our business is about providing access to the functional power of mushrooms with our products so people can live healthier, happier, more purposeful lives.

We are also an education platform about spreading the word through content, experiences and events, a lifestyle we inspire our growing community to live by.

DIRTEA offers a 10% discount to new customers.

Visit the WEBSITE and use the code Firstorder10 at the checkout.

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