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The Armchair Personal Trainer

Ways to make your life a bit healthier.

Mel Yates, G&G

Ethics, alchemy, and extracting chocolate with Blue Sky.

We're passionate about sourcing the best ingredients. It makes all the difference between a good and great tasting drink. One of our suppliers is a company called Blue Sky Botanics. You'll find their ingredients in most of our drinks and we've been so impressed by their ethos that we invited Daniel Jones, head of innovation, to chat about what they do. 

Where do you source your raw ingredients from?

We work with local foraging experts as well as directly with farmers & traders all over the world.  We are experts in sourcing authentic botanicals from fully traceable & ethical sources.  Our botanicals are carefully selected to ensure that we source only the very best tasting herbs, spices and fruits.

You’re a bit like alchemists, how do you magically infuse your extracts?

If we go to that much effort sourcing these wonderful botanicals, it is only right that we treat them with the respect they deserve. We don’t apply any heat, all of our infusions are cold. This helps to capture the wonderful delicate flavour profiles, as well as being good for you by extracting all of the ‘good’ molecules.

It’s basically like magic. We infuse a botanical for a set amount of time, press it, filter it and in the end we have created a fantastic natural liquid extract.  All made by hand on our organic farm, nestled in the beautiful British countryside.

How do you come up with new ideas?

We have an amazing team of passionate people (and I’m a trained chef that helps). We look at trends, history, science and flavour pairing, and basically just play until we achieve something amazing.

If we can source it, we can extract it. So that narrows it down to thousands of botanicals – herbs, spices, flowers, fruits – basically anything that is edible from a plant.

We specialise in bespoke blends and our most recent one was inspired by the aromas of a Poire belle Hélène (or Poached Pear if you are not a chef) … Star Anise, Cassia, Vanilla. And when this is married with an apple or pear juice – WOW!

Tell us about some of the ideas you’re currently working on?

We are currently working on a range of ‘shrubs’ – acidulated fruit based drinks with botanicals. With people's palettes changing and wanting less refined sugar in their diets, we look to naturally sweet botanicals and the use of vinegar to enhance and...

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Healthier toffee apples

Elderbrook Toffee Apples

We've been busy dipping our Granny Smith's in toffee using recipes without refined sugar. Some were a bit hit and miss but with we found a winner.  To add a little twist, we flavoured our crop with a dash of Elderbrook Orange, Apricot & Goldenberry. 

You will need:

  • 100g coconut palm sugar (available from Holland & Barrett and health stores)
  • 40ml water
  • 20ml Elderbrook Orange, Apricot & Goldenberry cordial
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp date syrup
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 3 lollypop sticks

What to do:

1. Pierce the apples with the lolly pop sticks and place on baking paper. Set aside.

2. Mix the water and cordial together. Combine with the coconut palm sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and heat slowly. After about two minutes the mixture will start to thicken. Add the butter, date syrup and mix.  

3. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil, stir continuously for two minutes. This is super important otherwise, the toffee won't harden. If you have a sugar thermometer check the mixture reaches 140C. 

4. Reduce to a low heat and stir for a minute until the mixture is a maple syrup like consistency. Remove from the heat. 

5. Pour the toffee mixture over each apple doing your best to avoid the sticks. (Ours got a little messy.)

6. Sprinkle with desiccated coconut. 

7. They should start to set straight away, if not, then your mixture didn't boil for long enough. You can fix this by putting your apples in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Just don't leave them there for too long or you might break a tooth. 

 

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Better-for-you plants

The story of plants is long. They first appeared on earth about 700 million years ago and have since evolved into the weird and wonderful. Take Nepenthes Attenboroughli as an example. It looks like a green kitchen jug, harmless enough until you take a peek inside and discover a concoction of acids and enzymes.  Unlucky mice and rats fall into it, are digested, never to be seen again. And yes, it was named after the far kinder natured David Attenborough.

Lucky for us, most plants are not the carnivorous type and make a nice addition to the office. According to NASA, some even have the ability to purify air and eliminate certain airborne impurities. Sounds good, so here’s our top pick of better-for-you plants.

1. Areca Palm

Like donning on Versace and making an entrance? Then the Areca Palm is for you. They grow big, bold and command attention. Most are purchased as pups and then add an iPhone in height every year until they could give Usain Bolt a run for his money. They love bright airy rooms so make sure you have enough space for them grown up in.

2. Peace Lilly

Keep things posh, pretty and do your bit for a harmonious world with a Peace Lilly. They’re very popular and great if your green fingers are a little forgetful since they rarely need watering. They may be small but are excellent at keeping air fresh. Keep them sparkling with the occasional damp cloth wipe down.

3. Snake Plant

Remember the “If everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagon” adverts in 80s? Well, if VW made plants, this would be it. Stick one in the corner, water every fortnight and it will purr away as happy as a kitten’s first encounter with catnip. And while it’s not bothering you, NASA has shown it’s one of the best plants to remove some of those not so friendly impurities in the air. 

4. Philodendron

Become a plant whisperer with a Philodendron, they (kind of) talk to you. They love the indoors and will love you more if you place them in bright, indirect sunlight. Place near a window but where the sun never catches its leaves. If they...

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Better-for-you cordials

We’re not the type to endure the Marathon Des Sables, fast twice a week or purge our bodies on a detox break. Nor do we want to dine at the golden arches, glug on spoonsful of sugar or dunk a donut in our morning coffee. 

For us, life is about making better choices that are easy to stick with. And when it comes to cordials, there are three differences that make Elderbrook a better-for-you choice compared to others you might find in a supermarket. 

No added water.

We think it’s a little odd to use water as an ingredient in bottles of cordials, so we don’t do it. When you buy a bottle of Elderbrook, our promise to you is that you’re buying nothing but ingredients. No added water, ever.

No refined sugar.

We believe when it comes to soft drinks, we should all be cutting down the refined sugar without upping the artificial ingredients. We use coconut nectar rather than white granules to sweeten our drinks. It contains naturally occurring sugar and helpful things like vitamin C and minerals. We add a little stevia leaf too that helps keep our drinks naturally sweet. What this all means is that if you swapped out a daily glass of regular supermarket cordial for Elderbrook, you’d drink 2.3KG less of sugar each year.

Better-for-you ingredients.

The fact is, some ingredients have more about them than the rest and we put some in our drinks.  There’s only a small amount in each bottle so we can’t promise everlasting youth, waves of energy or sprouting wings but we’re the nutritional heavy weights of cordials. We also hope that knowing the difference between a mulberry and maca means you’ll start looking out for a few better-for-you ingredients to add to your meals (or drinks). 

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Better-for-you ingredients

We’re not the type to worship a loganberry or claim chia seeds have magic powers. But the fact is, some ingredients have more about them than the rest. There a lots, like blueberries, available in a supermarket near you but we like things a little more exotic. Here’s our pick of some better-for-you ingredients that you may not have heard of.

Baobab tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a melon. It has twice as much calcium as milk, three times more vitamin C than an orange, and three times the Bs of the average word.

The South American goldenberry goes by a few different names, and they’re all great: Inca berry, cape gooseberry and Peruvian ground cherry. Its proteins and vitamin A are good for your skin and immune system, and it’s pretty low in sugar.

Goji berries aren’t much to look at (think small, shrivelled, red). Don’t be fooled. They’re high in fibre, vitamin C and minerals, and they have more iron in them than spinach.

Mulberries are dark, juicy and good for you. They help keep your bones, your eyes and your immune system healthy. And they top up your vitamin C and iron. Not just arm candy, then.

There are 24 vitamins and minerals in yerba mate tea leaves. Like caffeine, yerba mate gives you energy and keeps you alert. Unlike caffeine, it won’t give you the jitters.

Rosehips are the fruit from wild dog roses. Once all their white petals have fallen off, the hips are picked. They have half as much vitamin C as an orange, so they’re good for keeping your immune system healthy. And hip.

Lucuma is the most popular ice cream flavour in Peru. When it’s not for pudding, it gives you fibre, vitamin B and minerals. And it releases energy slowly rather than in one big sugar-hit.

Yuzu is a citrus fruit from Japan that’s a bit like a lemon, mandarin and grapefruit in one. So it’s full of vitamin C.

Maca is not a former Beatle. It is full of iron, potassium and calcium: a holy trinity that helps your skin, bones and blood do their thing.

You may not find some of these ingredients in your local supermarket, so to make life easier, you can...

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