We arrived at Kotuku early in the afternoon. Olly, the owner, welcomed us with slices of raw wildflower honeycomb from the Santa Barbara mountains and the most decadent, cheesecake-like coconut yogurt.
Olly opened Kotuku, the Santa Barbara based elixir bar, in 2013. This is the go-to place for next level alchemy and elevating cuisine. Whilst we chatted with Olly, he sampled us some private-reserve shilajit from Kashmir and then made us an herbal cappuccino with sprouted almond milk, gynostemma, mucuna, reishi, and molasses. Needless to say, Olly is a sweetheart and a sage.
What inspired you to start this?
My parents had a co-op and organic farm in New Zealand, so I grew up around the health and wellness mindset. As I got older, I got interested in Daoism, Tai Chi, meditation, Chinese mysticsm and stuff in my early twenties. That whole ‘hermit, step out of society’ thing really appealed to me at an early age.
When I was studying Chinese medicine, I remember trying to find wolfeberries in New Zealand…and it was impossible. No one knew what a wolfberry was. Now, you can’t move without seeing goji berries (which are what wolfberries are). The internet has completely changed the health food movement. Our access to things is endless.
When I came to California, the health food movement was so alive. It rekindled my excitement for tonic herbs. It all came to life for me here.
What is your favorite herb?
I love reishi. We’re really stoked at the moment because we just started working with this really amazing reishi grower in China and are bringing over the spore powder. It’s the highest grade, organic powder. It’s super potent.
If there is one herb you could recommend to people, what would it be?
We recommend Triphala to start with. It’s one of the best digestive tonics. It’s three sour, astringent berries that are regulating for the gall bladder and pancreas. Our digestion is the foundation for health.
Also, in tonic herbalism, schisandra is considered classic and standard to start with because it repairs and strengthens the entire body.