Tanya Maher, the nutritional brains behind London’s thriving raw-food venue Tanya’s Cafe, is a champion of the raw food movement having found success with her wellness company, Better Raw. She can only be described as the very top of London’s emerging raw food scene.Tanya’s cocktail of super-food success is currently made up of two raw food locations in Chelsea and Parson’s Green, a thriving coaching business and numerous published books. Having trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Tanya has brought her specialist knowledge to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with Tanya’s Cafe – providing foodies all over London with opportunity to experience delicious raw-living recipes that help cleanse people and planet alike.
Getting to Know Tanya
What was the reason you turned to healthy food?
Raw foods featured in my life on two life-changing occasions. The first one was by default, when a car crash left me with a broken back and an inflamed pancreas which the doctors wanted to cut out. My body rejected all hospital food. Eventually I realised all I could tolerate was soothing mint tea, healing manuka honey and raw vegetable juice. Ten years later, and the second time I came across raw food was whilst reading a book of testimonials on how people healed every possible illness by consuming a raw food diet. That’s exactly what I’d once done, I just didn’t realise it then! It occurred to me that if you could cure diseases on raw food, you could probably prevent them too, so it felt like a no brainer to explore more raw and make that transition.
How did the opportunity arise to set up your first location in Chelsea?
From all of my years in wellness coaching, this was something that had been requested for a long time and I like to follow my clients’ demands, what better way to do that than to open a café! The co-founder of Tanya’s also happened to be a coaching client of mine who shared the same vision and values. Together we decided not to wait around, and build a feel good space where people could enjoy the best foods on offer and know that no matter what, it won’t come with pesticides or additives of any kind.
Is there a big enough market for raw food Café’s in smaller cities?
For sure! From when I arrived in London 6 years ago to now, there’s been a massive change. Raw food has become a lifestyle. People now understand the differences between vegan, vegetarian and raw. Over one summer, London opened 25 new cold pressed juice bars, which hasn’t stopped. Those who have been exposed to what places like London, New York and Los Angeles have to offer, do travel a lot, and will no doubt seek out the healthy organic and raw offerings in the smaller cities. I have a lot of people writing to me from all across Europe and the UK asking to open a Tanya’s Cafe in their town, so there is a definitely a market outside of big cities.
What activities do you do alongside those in Chelsea?
I run an annual retreat in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, also known as The Valley Of Longevity. The Retreat is called Soul Adventures because it combines raw foods, yoga, meditation and lots of adventure, involving sweat lodges, wild water swimming and hiking up high peaks. It’s usually held October or May and we get hundreds of applicants from all around the world. It’s the one thing I like to keep intimate and since my parents live in Vilcabamba, I try to make a holiday out of it. If you are interested, it’s a good idea to apply as soon as the info is released via my www.betterraw.com newsletter, because I like to reward early birds by approving their applications first.
How long will be until raw food becomes largely accessible?
By the quick growth we’ve seen in demand for organic produce and the growing recognition of vegetarianism in the last few years, perhaps it won’t take long for raw food products to grace the supermarket aisles. There’s a long way to go, as we are literally competing against the giants of dairy, soy, refined sugar and fast food industries, which are massive and have real capital to spend on marketing. I’m in no big rush to transform the world, because I believe that the way raw food has already begun to spread, it’s here to stay. We’ve all seen too many effects of bad dieting and we’ve all heard about how powerful alternative healing methods can be. It’s hard to ignore that raw food can both heal and prevent disease and it’s even harder to ignore that it could be a tasty way to live too once you try it.
Which factors have been key to growth?
I think offering security and guarantee to our customers has been a big factor to our growth, but then again once you see how light, positive and energised you feel after a meal here. Naturally, you can’t help but want to spread the word. We see a lot of regulars because of the way our food tastes and makes them feel.
How have you innovated?
I actually founded Europe’s first Superfood Cocktail Bar. Each day at 4pm, we open up our bar and begin serving cocktails all the way through dinner service. It’s taken us a long time to find only ethically sourced, plant based spirits which are also free from additives and gluten. The best and cleanest spirits are combined with our own cold-pressed organic juices and superfoods. Our bar looks a little like a colourful lab of potent superfood powders, such as acai, spirulina, matcha, lucuma and more. They are all just either berries, fruits, algae or leaves which have been carefully dried and ground to a powder.
I also run an ultimate food programme called the ‘Alkaline Cleanse’, a nutritionally designed detox program which combines the best of juicing and certain solid foods taken at specific times of the day for ultimate digestion and assimilation of nutrients. It also gives a gentle and effective toxin release. When your insides need a proper scrub, drinking just juice means you won’t get all, if any, of the nutrients and minerals from it, as well as being left feeling hungry and deprived. This is why you need a carefully constructed detox plan with nourishing solid foods to support your whole body, and my cleanse does that.
Rebel Wrap Up
What would advise those looking to become a health coach?
I’m very fussy when it comes to representing other brands so there are only two that I am an ambassador for and IIN is one of them, which is the scheme I studied to qualify as a health coach. The other is Tribest and they make raw food equipment. I think the main thing to do is to realise how much your role is needed in the world. If we had more wellness coaches, we could prevent so much disease and motivate one another too. It’s a profession that has been a bit underestimated, but there is such a rising demand. I won’t be surprised if one day our work was subsidised by the government or seen as important (if not more so) as the work of doctors and psychologists.
Who do you believe will impact the emerging raw food movement?
I believe a younger generation will have the strongest voice and a positive tone will have the most long lasting impact. It’s probably a group of people too, rather than individuals, so I’m hoping to see more people collaborating and spreading the ripple effect as a team.
Lastly, are you a fan of Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Tax?
Yes! I believe anything is possible and if enough of us continue to vote with our dollar on organic, raw, healthy, unpasteurised, natural products – we will bring up the demand high enough for it to be mass produced, and therefore cheaper.