Lee Heng | My Blue Tea

2 minutes with Lee Heng
Occupation: owner/operator
Business: My Blue Tea
Lives: Port Macquarie, NSW
Age: 50


What was the food culture in your family growing up?
Multi-racial & international – eating is Malaysia’s national sport. The normal greeting back then was ‘have you eaten?’ Rice is a staple alongside other dishes, usually a couple of proteins, a vegetable and a soup. But we also love our curries, roti canai and nasi lemak which we sometimes have for breakfast.

Any specific memories around the butterfly pea that you can recall?
Growing up and being awed with all these blue kueh (sweets or desserts). Almost every house has a plant but most don’t use them in cooking. Only recently, people have become more health conscious so the trend is increasing and I’ve simply expanded on that.

Is the butterfly pea flower traditionally used as a food or medicine?
Originally, it was considered a food colouring by the Straits Chinese of Malacca, which is now part of Malaysia. It was used to create blue rice and a blue sticky rice dessert called pulut tai-tai. Slowly, it appeared in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a number of ailments for women, and in India where it is considered Ayurvedic. They are also grown in Australia and are good for the soil by adding nitrogen back into the ground. So they are good for the soil and the soul.

Tell us about your favourite ways to use My Blue Tea powders.
Aside from the colour changing properties of the powders, I actually enjoy seeing the way chefs and bakers are using the various powders to create their products.

A Brisbane client is making all natural cleaning products. In Perth, the first natural blue gelato with sea salt is gaining a loyal following. Trending now in Sydney is both the butterfly pea sourdough and the purple sweet potato sourdough. We displayed these at the Sydney Tea Festival and it received a huge amount of interest. The colours are gorgeous and taste yum!

Why did you want to start your own business?
Over the last few years, I saw that people were seeking to improve their overall health and well-being and were turning to healthier inputs into their diets. After researching trends around health and superfoods, I decided to start My Blue Tea based on natural and organic plant-based products. Slowly, the business morphed and grew with other tropical plants and we have now added a range of ‘exotic lattes.’ 

What has been the most challenging thing so far and how have you dealt with it?  
Helping others to cook when they’re better cooks than myself. Also, trying to expand from food-based into other applications, such as health and beauty products. We now have some customers making bath bombs, bath salts and sugars, as well as facial waters. Another client is also using the products to make play dough. The only negative is the children love it too much and they eat the Kaffir lime leaf play dough because it tastes too good.

Why do you sell freeze-dried powders and how do you go about manufacturing them?
Many years ago, I was involved in a project with turmeric juice, looking at the costs involved, distribution etc. Powder was the obvious way to go. The freeze-drying process is not new, but the process we use ensures that the nutrients and health benefits are retained in the end products, and it avoids any chemical process, so it is better for you.

How would you like to see My Blue Tea grow as a business in the future?
Besides blue, we would also like to introduce other exotic Asian flavours to Australia and we have recently added durian powder, which is great in lattes, and purple sweet potato powder. Colour is a huge factor in both what and how much people eat. If we’ve learnt anything from M&M’S, it must be that even though all the colours taste exactly the same, the human mind sees the variety of colours attractive, fun and tempting.

Like all business owners, I would love the business to grow exponentially. It can do so with the growth in acceptance and appeal of the health benefits of our plant-based powders.

If you love blue, you can follow Lee’s Insta feed @my.blue.tea for her gorgeous creations with the butterfly pea flower.

Interview by Amanda Kennedy @artbyamandakennedy

Lee Heng cropped.jpg

Alexx Stuart | Low Tox Life

Photography by Rob Palmer

Photography by Rob Palmer

2 minutes with Alexx Stuart
Occupation: educator, activist, change agent and now author
Business: Low Tox Life
Lives: Sydney East
Age: 41


What was the food culture of your family growing up and how does that compare with the one you’re creating for your own family now?
I've had a beautifully mixed food culture in my family. We're French/Mauritian on Mum's side and British on Dad's – so everything from French, Indian, Créole, African, British influences through our day-to-day eating. Plus a great whack of convenience-led takeaways, because I was a child of the 80s and that's what we all did. I guess the main difference now is a deeper understanding of where our food comes from. From my work and research I now place a stronger emphasis on produce rather than products.

What were you doing before you pursued your path into Low Tox Life?
I was in two industries before starting Low Tox Life. Firstly, Prestige Beauty and Fragrance and then what I called my quarter life crisis and starting in hospitality with a brief foray into singing in bars and nightclubs (as you do). Over time, I started to piece together why I often felt so dreadful. I felt called to share what I was learning, firstly with friends and family, and then the wider community. I want to share the information about what we put on us, in us as food and what we surround ourselves within our homes.

Where do you get your enthusiasm and energy from?
Helping people live their best lives and leave a healthier planet behind for our kids – that makes it pretty darn easy to wake up every day and be excited.

What are the most rewarding things about what you do?
Seeing people's life-changing comments once they've been through one of our courses; meeting people at talks and workshops, and receiving messages about how one of the podcasts was a game-changer for the health of their child. It honestly blows my mind and I'm so grateful for the beautiful exchange of energy between me and our community. Social media is the absolute last thing I would hand over to someone else in my team. I just love chatting with people, helping them, and working on puzzles together. It's the best!

If we were to visit, what recipe from Low Tox Life book would you prepare for us?
If we were going to have a long lunch, it'd be the Mauritian feast in my book. I love showing off Mauritian food – everyone always loves it. For dessert, we'd wait a couple of hours and then have the spiced fig gingerbread with a cup of Mauritian vanilla tea which always reminds me of my grandmère.

What is your favourite food indulgence?
85% chocolate. Not a day goes by without it.

Who was one of your favourite foodies that you’ve interviewed on your podcast and why
Jude Blereau (read our interview with Jude here). She is a dear friend and the fairy godmother of the whole-food movement here in Australia. Her passion for food and the joy you hear in her voice when she speaks about cooking is enough to carry you into the kitchen to cook for 20.

What is the one message you want the readers of your new book to takeaway from it?
That if you are wanting to make changes, do it at your pace and in your way so that all your changes resonate along the way. I am not your guru. There is no ‘perfect way’ to do a low tox life and if you're feeling overwhelmed or guilty - don't! You can't be hard on yourself for what you didn't know yesterday. Just get excited for what you are going to change from today, now that you know differently.

Alexx’s book is called Low Tox Life: A handbook for a healthy you and a happy planet (Murdoch Books) and is available now, check it out here. You can also follow Alexx on Instagram @lowtoxlife

Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy



Ilana Atlas | Oakridge Wines

Ilana Atlas
Occupation: Director of Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley
Lives: Sydney

Ilana was a guest speaker at our recent event Women of Oakridge. As a corporate lawyer, Ilana has extensive experience in business, holding executive and non-executive positions in a selection of Australia’s most well-known companies. She currently sits on the boards of Coca-Cola Amatil, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westfield Holdings Limited. The following is an excerpt from Ilana's inspiring talk at the event...

We all have war stories and it is fun and therapeutic to share them but what can we do. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way

1.     Celebrate and learn from success. There are incredibly talented women making wine, growing grapes, running wine companies - incredibly talented women chefs, women running brilliant front of house, owning restaurants, incredible women suppliers to restaurants of magnificent produce. Ask them to tell their stories, learn how they did it, how did they manage their kids during vintage, how did they make sure they got paid the same amount as the men and got bonuses when they performed brilliantly, how did they start their restaurant. The constant theme will be bravery, taking calculated risks.

2.     My second thing is to make sure we help each other. To be brave you need a support crew; people you ask and tell, who have shared experiences. The sisterhood is powerful. I have had so many wonderful women in my life, I know how important it is for me to be a wonderful women for others.

3.     And to help be brave you need to be prepared. I look at the prep that our chefs do at Oakridge, or front of house before service - women in food and wine know everything about being prepared. That needs to translate to your career and place in the world. If you want a pay rise you need to put together the reasons and present them so it is obvious. If you want to work more flexibly, you need to build the case and put it so confidently, no-one in their right mind could object. It is all about preparation and planning. That helps make the risks we take more manageable and helps us be more confident.

4.      Enlist the blokes. This is really important. I have spent a lot of the last 40 years talking to other women about equality and opportunity. Surprise, surprise they all agree with me. That feels good, but does not create change. Blokes are 50% of the audience - we need to enlist them to the cause and send them out to convert all the other blokes. They need to be our front line.

5.     Finally and most importantly, whatever it is - enjoy it. If you are not, every minute will be like an hour, every day like a year and you will be crossing the days off your calendar. Love it whatever it is. I listen to Jo Barrett talking about creating a sustainable restaurant, milling her flour, her desert made out of waste and she is rapturous. I wish I had felt that way about the Corporations Law. Passion and joy …. That is what we are after. I thank the women at Oakridge for giving me passion and joy and hope you find a lot of it in the future.