OUR STORY

Following the beaten path was never our thing. 

The behind-the-scenes story is often more gritty than pretty. If that's your thing, read on for the story behind Wild Leaves.

The Wild Leaves Journey

Like many people, I didn’t grow up in nature. I grew up in the suburbs of a big city (Detroit) and it was about as midwest USA as it gets. Growing up in a sprawling metropolis was not exactly conducive to getting hands-on with the local flora either. Yet as I got a little older and ventured out into the world, I could feel nature's magnetism gently tugging at me. The problem was I never really felt comfortable interacting with nature-nature beyond surface interactions like a walk in the woods or a bike ride along a path. I didn't know how to get hands-on and elbow-deep with my surroundings. 

Take dandelions for example. I grew up believing they were a weed meant to be pulled out of the lawn and tossed away! It was only much later that I found out that like most "weeds", dandelions are edible, and not only can you eat them but they’re loaded with healing properties widely used in the kitchen and in naturopathy.  

 

The ole existential crisis strikes

Fast forward a few years to me setting off into the world as a curious adult. At first, I did what I thought we were meant to do: I got a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, aimed for the dream job, but, although I’m ambitious, corporate life was never for me. City life was also never for me although I gravitate toward it. Moving to Europe in my early 20s and trying to put down roots in a completely new country wasn’t as easy as I had imagined it either. Just envision an early-year Millenial riding on the promise of "Get your college degree and the world will be your oyster" showing up in Europe without a job, visa, home, and a dwindling $300.

 

If this sounds like I was hurtling towards an existential “Who-am-I-and-where-do-I-belong?” crisis, then you are absolutely right.

Yet still, I followed the narrative of doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I tried every avenue to make the office "dream" work but it just wasn't for me. It felt like I was merely holding on by threads every time I tried to follow the beaten path/suit

I eventually went freelance as a copywriter, editor, and translator and actually had a lot of clients and work coming in. I enjoyed it but I was plugging into the machine way too much and felt quite disconnected from nature (and myself) if I am being totally honest. 

 

The wind-ey road to Wild Leaves

Becoming an herbalist was a-brewin' for a few years before I even knew it. Alongside copywriting, I have been a yoga teacher since 2013. I loved teaching, traveling to India and Asia, learning about Ayurveda and TCM as well as picking up loads of new methods for meditation, bodywork, yoga, and nutrition along the way. Despite gathering lots of arrows for the bow, I still felt like I was missing the essential ingredient that would bring it all together. My standards are really high so the only way I wanted to put something out into the world was if I felt like I knew what I was talking about (the term for this is imposter syndrome. Who else knows the feeling?). After a couple of years of internal debate about whether to focus on herbs, acupuncture, or bodywork something finally clicked and I knew it was plants.

 

In 2020, I signed up for a 3-year herbalism course to become a practitioner to treat patients, but three years is a long time for someone who finally figured out what they wanted to be doing.

 

A good talk with a dear friend revealed that natural skincare would be a great route to go down so I signed up for a course to become a qualified skincare formulator. It’s pretty serendipitous in a way because even as a poor student in my 20s I always splurged on the best natural skincare I could find (there weren’t actually many options back then). My logic was: if I only have one face for the rest of my life, I wanted to put my best face forward.

 

Skincare felt right. And combining it with my budding love and knowledge of herbs also felt right. I set out making my own products based on my plant knowledge for a while but then realized that it’s better to work together with developers who can do regular the testing in a lab. But this all takes time. A lot of time. As I was doing the footwork to find and collaborate with the right developers, the natural skincare market was blowing up fast so I had to ask myself what is the differentiator at Wild Leaves…

 

This led me to come back to an old dream of mine. Mushrooms + Chai. Since traveling to India for the first time in 2011 to research and write my Master’s thesis, I became absolutely obsessed with chai. Sipping tea from the wallahs selling the simplest yet most perfect cups of masala chai on street corners or on a seemingly endless train journey felt so comforting and right. If you’ve ever had a chai in India you know the feeling.

 

Drinking the cuppa chai was also a moment of sharing - the chai is not a to-go kind of drink (unless you’re on a train). The brew’s ingredients of ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and clove (among others depending on the region) alchemize and bubble in a huge cauldron until spicy perfection. Once it's steeped you’re handed a cup from the chai wallah (who brews, serves, and money exchanges) as you sit around the pot sipping away and watching the scooters and people go by. It’s definitely a moment/vibe.

 

Not being able to live in India forever though, I wanted to bring that feeling back home. I spent a long time trying to craft the perfect chai until finally, it happened!

 

Enter the mushrooms.

During my last trip to India in 2016, I was introduced to medicinal mushrooms, Chaga actually (a pretty good story by the way!). Chaga has become somewhat of a household name as of late, but some years back it was this weird and mysterious thing that grew on trees yet still earned the name of "mushroom" (Read more about polypores and mushrooms -- link to mushroom page). The extent of my knowledge about mushrooms was either as an ingredient in the kitchen, a poison, or a psychedelic. When I tried Chaga tea for the first time a part of me was truly convinced I was going to get high. What really happened was I experienced medicinal mushrooms for the first time.

 

Why Chai when there’s coffee?

Have you ever caught yourself saying: “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee?” I'd wager you have because that’s basically all of us. Why? Because coffee is addictive. It’s the lifeline to hustle and grind culture which either on a conscious or subconscious level we’re all affected by. Sometimes we really do need an energy boost, but nobody needs the jitters-crash-repeat cycle this fickle mistress (aka coffee) lures us into. Every. Single. Day.


The thing about coffee is that its caffeine hits the adrenals hard. Real hard. It puts our organs into overdrive while dehydrating our cells and making us tired from our core. When this happens, going for more seems like the only viable option because … hustle culture.

The drink that we use every day as a lifeline to our energy and success just wasn't living up to its promise. Or my expectations of what I want from an energizing drink.

Mushrooms are having a moment

Medicinal mushrooms have been well-established in the kitchen and in naturopathic practices on other continents, but they’ve yet to really take root in Europe. With the cognitive, health, and performance benefits medicinal mushrooms offer, they can provide natural energy and focus without falling into the familiar jitters-crash-repeat cycle.

 

As a big fan of seemingly weird holistic connections throughout the body and all things gut-brain-skin axis (link to a page), bringing some nomadic yet down-to-earth vibes from my travels back to Europe felt really aligned. The cosmic lovechild of mushies and chai is the Adaptogen Chai. The Adaptogen Gold, which is pure anti-inflammatory goodness in a mug, is the Wild Leaves version of a turmeric latte and contains zero caffeine. 

Fun and simple self-care rituals rooted in nature

My personal journey has been bringing more nature into my own home, an experience I want to share with you. And not only in a one-dimensional way, but really interacting with plants, mushrooms, and nature by learning to identify, forage, brew, ferment, formulate skincare and create healthy soul food recipes in the kitchen.

 

Wild Leaves is all about creating community and integrating fun and simple self-care rituals rooted in nature into our daily lives.

 

Rituals can come in many shapes and sizes but there’s one thing they have in common: rituals are about taking care of our bodies, our minds, our spirits, and our environment while being supported by the right people and spaces.

 

Whether you’re into skincare, want to dabble in a new drink made with adaptogen mushrooms, or do a mix of both, we got you.

 

I hope you enjoy Wild Leaves and would love to hear what you think!

 

With love from Berlin,

Erin (Founder & CEO)

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