What Is Spirulina And Other FAQ’s?

What is spirulina?

Spirulina is one of the world’s most sustainable superfood. It is a cyanobacteria, a group of ancient microorganisms first responsible for the apparition of oxygen on earth 3.5 billion years ago. Because it is a simple bacteria (unlike all plants and microalgae such as Chlorella vulgaris), it does not contain a cellulosic cell wall and is therefore very easy to digest. This high digestibility combines with an impressive nutrient profile* to makes spirulina one of the best superfoods in the world.

It is also very similar to algae and can be compared to a microscopic aquatic plant because, like plants, it uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and other chemicals into biomass.

* High content of proteins including all essential amino acids, vitamins Bs and other vitamins, antioxidants and pigment, minerals such as iron and zinc etc.

Can children/pregnant women take spirulina?

There are no known negative side effects of using spirulina for pregnant women and children. Tahi Spirulina is regularly tested by accredited independent laboratories and is safe to consume (it is grown in drinking water using clean salts).

Is there medical evidence on the benefits of spirulina consumption?

Yes, absolutely and the evidence is growing. We will regularly post highlights on our blogs and social media, but it is critical to always remember no amount of superfood will equate the advantages of regular exercise and a healthy general diet. So, consume Spirulina wisely, it is an amazing natural product that provides an amazing amount of critical nutrients and bioactive compounds, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian.

Why does my first order seem different from my second batch?

As our spirulina is a natural product and we practise an artisan production process that is batch made, there may be variations in colour and scent of your product due the natural variations in light and temperature Spirulina experiences when growing outdoors.

Why does Tahi Spirulina taste different from other spirulina powders I’ve tried?

Because of our artisan production system, Tahi Spirulina may taste and smell different to the commercial products you are used to. This is totally normal, and Tahi Spirulina’s less fishy fragrance is appreciated by most.

Our production methods and growing inputs are behind the difference in taste between Tahi Spirulina and other products. We don’t use the fish or composted inputs that are common in organic certified imported products so Tahi Spirulina has less of that fishy fragrance. But our low temperature drying means Tahi Spirulina retains all of its goodness including the aromatic compounds that are absent in some competing products which are spray dried.

Do I need to cook spirulina?

Not at all. This amazing ancient superfood is ready to serve as is direct from the pouch. It’s versatile enough to work on savouries or sweets so get creative with Tahi Spirulina. Send us your favourite spirulina recipe so we can share it on our channels to help spread the word on this super good, superfood.

How do I store Tahi Spirulina powder?

Your Tahi Spirulina powder will come in a resealable pouch but once opened, it is best stored in the fridge or in a cool, dark place away from sunlight. Great to travel with! This is the reason why we prefer to supply Tahi Spirulina in a flexible, resealable, aluminium-lined pouch: the liner prevents the entry of light and oxygen, and it is easy to remove the air from the pouch after each use to minimize oxidation and loss of quality.

Is Tahi Spirulina organic?

One of the first things we did before starting this project was to call a leading NZ certification company to ask what was required to produce organic spirulina. We were informed that the organic spirulina currently sold in NZ is accredited by overseas agencies where it is produced and then automatically obtains NZ organic certification via international agreements between certifiers.

The NZ certifier had not visited the spirulina farm and could not provide us technical information. We also discovered that producers in the USA, Australia and France complained about the fact they could not obtain organic certification in their home countries but faced competition from organically certified spirulina produced in China and India.

To understand this situation, it is important to know that organic certification focuses more on environmental impacts than food quality. Among many other criteria, an organic farmer must use specific organic fertilizers (often fish waste) to its ‘crops’ while also minimizing nutrient runoff causing eutrophication (this is of course over-simplistic as there are many more aspect to consider). Nutrient runoff can be completely avoided during spirulina cultivation by producers focusing on using nitrate (found naturally in Chile) as a nitrogen fertilizer because it supports healthy growth and top sensory quality.

The use of fish waste as an organic fertilizer often produces poor taste and is not suitable for vegan and vegetarians. The French producers are working on developing a specific charter for ‘organic spirulina’ and we are keeping a very interested eye on this development.

So, to conclude, we are not organic, we are better: top quality with minimal environmental impacts.

Is the packaging biodegradable or can it recycled?

We are currently using a 3-layer pouch designed for optimal preservation of nutritional value – it is resealable, air-tight and prevents light penetration. Unfortunately, this packaging material is neither biodegradable nor recyclable. There are currently lots of discussion about packaging materials presumably biodegradable or recyclable, but which aren’t in practice. At this early stage we are still investigating alternatives and for the time being have opted for the safest approach from a food safety and nutrition perspective. We however take this very seriously and hope to be able to provide better packaging in the future.

What are the health benefits of spirulina?

No food supplement will ever be able to replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, spirulina is an amazing ‘insurance policy’ especially recommended for athletes, vegan and vegetarians:

• Spirulina contains more than 60% easily digestible and available proteins, including all essential amino acids, which makes it the ideal partner to a vegan diet.
• One of these proteins is the natural blue pigment phycocyanin that has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties
• Spirulina also contains the green pigment chlorophyll, and more of the red-orange pigment beta-carotene than even carrots. Beta-carotene is an anti-oxidant and safe precursor of vitamin A because there is no risk of overdose.
• No other food contains higher amounts of iron and is as easy for your body to assimilate. This is critical because iron deficiency is common, especially in children and pregnant women.
• Spirulina contains numerous minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium etc.) and vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, E and K) that are critical to proper body functions.

What’s the difference between artisan, standard and organic spirulina?

Standard: Most of the spirulina sold in New Zealand has been cultivated in very large open ponds and dried using spray-driers (the same technique is used to produce milk powder in New Zealand). The two main issues with this ‘standard’ practice is that open ponds are prone to pollution by, for example, bird droppings, and that spray drying can cause the biomass to overheat and lose its nutritional value.

Organic certification: One of the key requirements to organic certification is that the nitrogen fed to the spirulina must be itself organically sourced. For this purpose, ‘organic spirulina’ is typically fed fish waste, which can cause poor taste and means the spirulina can no longer be considered as vegan or vegetarian. There is a misconception that organic certification means better product quality while in reality it is about environmental credentials. In the case of spirulina, organic certification is likely detrimental to quality for negligible added environmental benefits because spirulina cultivation is already very sustainable: no herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics or other toxic chemicals are needed, there are virtually no nutrient loss, and water and land use is very small compared to traditional agriculture. It is important to know that the organic spirulina sold in New Zealand is most likely both produced and certified in India or China: the NZ certifier is not obliged to visit and audit an overseas producer as certification is done via international agreements. We are not alone having this ‘organic dilemma’ as no producers in USA and France are currently organically certified for the very same reasons. We all believe that certification agencies have yet to determine what ‘organic spirulina’ truly is.

Artisan production: This production model was developed in France and focuses on quality. The two main points of difference with the standard model is that our spirulina is grown in small covered ponds and dried at low temperature. Cultivation in small covered ponds prevents pollution and enables the strict control of every batch harvested. This also minimizes evaporation losses as an added environmental credential. Drying at low temperature maintains the nutritional value of spirulina (vitamins Bs and phycocyanin are very heat sensitive) and, with the right process, very energy efficient.

How is the best before date set?

Our spirulina powder is as dry as flour so there is no risk of food spoilage if kept sealed and stored in pouch correctly. We provide a “best before” date (not an expiry date) on our packaging which is set to 2 years after production.

Why is Tahi Spirulina powder more granular than other brands I’ve tried before?

The reason why our spirulina is more granular is due to the artisan production model we use.

Our biomass is harvested by hand and dried at low temperatures (below 40 degrees C) to preserve its nutritional properties – particularly phycocyanin and B vitamins which are heat sensitive.

When we grind our dried biomass, our particle size remains quite high and diverse -we have both relatively large and relatively small particles with each particle being made of 1000s of individual spirulina cells that have stuck together during drying.

Overseas producers (besides the French) use spray dryers so the particle size is much smaller and more homogenous than ours. But the use of spray dryers poses a higher risk to loss of nutritional value during (too hot) and after (small size = faster oxidation) drying.

Thus, the more granular texture is caused by our process, but this is also evidence of best nutritional quality.

Spirulina powder mixes well with a variety of foods and beverages and does not need to be cooked. It can be blended or stirred directly into items like hummus, juice, soup, salad, yoghurt, smoothies, and raw baking.

What’s the difference between spirulina and chlorella?

Chlorella is mainly rich in carbohydrates and chlorophyll, and it is difficult to digest (because the cells are naturally protected by a very hard wall).

Spirulina is rich in protein, iron, antioxidants (phycocyanin and carotenoids) and vitamin A precursors. It is very easy to digest.

Do you sell the blue variety of spirulina?

All spirulina are ‘blue-green cyanobacteria’ that contains green (chlorophyll), blue (phycocyanin) and red (beta-carotene) pigments.

The individual concentrations of this pigment can vary with time, cultivation conditions, location, and the sub-species used. To our knowledge only 2-3 sub-species are commercially available, and we use the most common. They all look pretty much the same: dark green with blue nuances.

From our research, the ‘blue’ spirulina you refer to is processed biomass obtained by mixing normal (blue green) biomass with phycocyanin (blue pigment) itself extracted from normal biomass.

‘Blue’ spirulina is therefore a blend of raw biomass and additional extract. We do not currently sell this.

However, our artisan production model means that we dry our spirulina at low temperatures and in doing so, help maintain the nutritional value of spirulina – particularly vitamin Bs and phycocyanin which are very heat sensitive.