Chi San Wan is a creative consultant, mama, entrepreneur and author based in London. We love Chi’s beautiful cookbook, her aesthetic, and down-to-earth approach to wellness, and we were very excited to get a peak at her everyday routine.
In this interview, Chi tells us about her morning and bedtime routines, her ways of dealing with stress, the simple beauty tricks she’s learned from her mother, making space for the occasional cake and wine, and much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I enjoy routine, especially in the mornings. Before Marloe came along, routine was the only thing keeping me grounded. I have all sorts floating around in my head, and working for myself means one day can be very different to the next, so I need my mornings to be predictable in order to get me in the right mind-set for the rest of the day. However, now that those routines are governed by Marloe, our one year old, things are somewhat less predictable, and I have learnt to let go of the importance of routine a little.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
They vary slightly from day to day, depending on what’s on the agenda, but in an ideal and average world my morning would be waking up around 6am, do some stretching, then 20 mins of meditation. Around 6:30am Marloe wakes up and we like to cuddle in bed together as a family (she’s really into giving kisses at the moment). We get out of bed around 7am and take turns to shower whilst the other one plays with Marloe, makes lemon hot water and preps breakfast. We sit down together for breakfast between 7:30am-8am and have our mornings chats – most of the time there’s food throwing involved.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I like to stop any computer work by 9pm, make myself a small hot drink and climb into bed to do some reading – usually self-help or study. I try to sleep by 10pm latest, but sometimes me and my boyfriend just end up chatting about the day until 11pm or midnight…
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – multi-grain porridge with almond milk, topped with whatever seasonal fruits are around and some nut butter
Lunch – quinoa, roast veg, salad, some kraut, some seaweed – usually leftovers
Snack – sourdough and avocado, or an apple with cheese / nut butter, whatever I find on my travels
Dinner – salmon and veg, or daal / curry with rice, yoghurt and lots of freshly chopped herbs
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
If I have the time, I will make myself a matcha latte in the mornings or for a snack. If we have eggs, maybe I will have an Earl Grey tea or some fresh juice. I only ever drink coffee when I fancy a croissant! Then it would have to be a flat white with fresh almond milk or oat milk.
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
I never used to! But somehow, during pregnancy and since Marloe was born, I have developed a sweet tooth! Maybe it’s to keep energy up? As the weather is colder now in London, I have been obsessed with searching for the best hot chocolate (always disappointing and not chocolatey enough!). When I get the urge for something sweet, it’s usually something very specific, not any old sweet thing will suffice, and I will have to go on a hunt for it. Though usually after dinner, I am happy with a piece of raw chocolate from the fridge.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I try and have a wide and varied diet to keep things in check, and food is the first thing I look to when trying to manage my general wellness. I try and listen to my body, even if sometimes it’s asking for wine or cake! Usually, it needs just that and feels much better for it. In terms of taking anything else, since pregnancy and the birth of Marloe I have taken a high DHA Omega 3 supplement and probiotics daily (just in case I don’t get the chance to eat it in food form). Once a week I will make some water steeped in goji berries, longan (when my mum visits, she will always leave me some) and any dried herbs I have on hand and sip on that. I have some adaptogenics on hand too – chaga, cordyceps, reishi, ashwaghanda, schisandra – but I don’t make a habit of taking them everyday, only when I need to.
— What is your approach to feeding your daughter? Do you try to guard her from all unhealthy/processed foods, or are you more relaxed about it all? Do you have any advice for parents who want to raise their kids to be comfortable with real, whole foods?
For her first year I was a little precious about what I gave her to eat – everything was made at home and organic produce only. I went with baby led weaning which is so messy, anyone who knows me knows I cannot handle mess so this was, and still is, a learning curve for me. But it gives me great pleasure watching Marloe enjoy her food, and try anything I give her. She has days where she is super picky, but generally she is a happy eater. I am more relaxed and realistic about what she consumes now, because I can’t always control where we are – she has predominately home made food, but when we are out she will have bits of whatever we are eating, and it’s fun to watch her try new things! I really recommend baby led weaning. If you read up on it, it makes a lot of sense to get kids to eat real, whole foods this way – who wants to eat mush? It could be anything! Real food looks and tastes much more exciting and it makes them more adventurous with food, and less fussy. Eating together at the table is important to me as well, and for Marloe to have what we are eating – she knows if we have given her a different meal and will shout until we feed her some of ours.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I love to fit yoga in when I can and I walk a lot (at a very fast pace), but other than that, it’s chasing the baby around.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I don’t do any form of exercise that I find ‘torturous’, such as spin or anything high adrenaline; it doesn’t work for me. I enjoy yoga – dynamic or kundalini, and walking in nature a lot.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
I think if you’re comfortable in your own skin, that is beautiful. But for everyone, that could be down to many different factors and it will chop and change with time. Someone who is confident but grounded with integrity – their beauty will shine through.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
It’s pretty simple and not that exciting! I try and dry-brush when I can, I use Dr. Bronners Baby soap for the body, and then after a shower, whilst the body is wet, I will rub a concoction of almond oil, sesame oil and essential oils that I fancy, all over. For my face, I take the day off with coconut oil and rose water (I make my own with 3/4 organic rose water and 1/4 colloidal silver). For my morning shower, I will use a thin flannel to scrub the face and spray with rose water, followed by a tiny bit of Nucifera, The Balm – a recent find in LA. It’s been amazing for the change in weather in the UK.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
Water, water, water. Not eating so much dairy, wheat and sugar, but consuming more good fats like avocado, coconut and ghee.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
My mum looks so good and youthful, but she has never drank much, never smoked, never wore make-up…that’s her trick! I have never smoked, I drink less now naturally, as I am breastfeeding and I’m too busy to do any make-up, so usually a go at the eyelash curlers will do for the day!
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
I think fitting in meditation everyday greatly reduces stress for me and puts things into perspective.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
Acupuncture. Talking it out with my boyfriend and friends. Knowing that ‘this too shall pass’. Treating myself to whatever food and drink I desire (within budget of course).
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
I take Wellness tablets. I make sure to be hydrated and wrap up warm at all times, especially the throat and chest. I make congee or daal, something warming and easy to digest so the body can rest.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
At the moment, I am very much governed by my daughter’s day to day antics, and I try and fit everything else around her. This does stress me out at times, but then I try and remember to enjoy these first years with her. I am lucky to have this time together with her, because I am freelance. I just try and plan my time carefully (shared iCal helps!), but not everything always goes to plan – which I am learning to let go of.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
Things generally fall better into place when I take time to be kind to myself, so I just keep reminding myself that self-care is important, especially for a working mum. Setting routines like bed times for myself etc helps with this and saying no to some friends, projects, events etc when you just need the time to sort stuff out, so that everything else can run more smoothly. Obviously there is room for spontaneity, that’s what keeps me feeling alive!
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Meditation. Making the time for it. It keeps me feeling focused, rested and puts things into perspective. It’s a form of self-care and love for myself, and is incredibly nurturing. I don’t always do it every day twice a day, but when I do, it helps immensely. I learnt from Jacqui at The Broad Place in the summer and, hands down, they’re the best teachings of meditation I have come across, because it’s real and it works.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
It’s easier said than done, but I try not to stress about it, and just trust the process rather than sit and wallow. I’ll meet up with friends and my peers and we chat it out – usually it’s something that is felt by a few people, and I find that it usually reverberates between similar minds, like there’s something going on with the energy around us.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
I can’t pinpoint one thing, it’s a zeitgeist thing, it’s in the air…maybe because we are entering a revolution, the age of Aquarius. I am constantly inspired and influenced by the people I surround myself with, the internet, social media, so books / movies / classes suggested through those mediums are naturally the ones I gravitate to.
— You co-authored A Simple Table, a beautiful cookbook that focuses on fresh and simple meals. What was the key message that you aimed to communicate with the recipes and lifestyle tips in the book?
Thank you. The key message was that everyday nourishment needn’t be difficult or a chore. It could be simple acts of kindness to yourself, or simple recipes that don’t require crazy expensive ingredients. It’s to encourage the reader to explore what makes them feel good inside and out, as everyone is different and there is no one formula. Most of all, it was to enjoy the simple pleasures.
— Tell us a bit about the fresh almond milk company that you co-founded, The Pressery. What inspired you to start it and what did you learn from having that business?
I felt a change in me, and the start of a movement back in 2013 when I became a little disillusioned working in fashion, and more excited about food and drink and the effects it has on us. I have always been a food fanatic, so it was natural for me to explore this familiar and yet unknown territory. My business partner had been feeling the same for a while, so it felt like the right time to launch a small business in something we were both passionate about. I was already making almond milk at home, and after some research we settled on focusing on making the one product the best we could. There is a lot to learn through starting a business from nothing (I was a freelance fashion stylist before that), and building a brand from scratch – we started selling at a market and then got into Selfridges, and I grew the social media following from 0 to 22k organically in 2 years. I’ve met many people through the business, with whom I am still good friends now and work with today, as a creative consultant. It was a natural progression for me and I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for The Pressery.
Fun and Inspiration
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
I like to have a glass of red wine, make dinner with my boyfriend and possibly have a candle lit bath with Epsom salts and essential oils.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, there is always a piece that speaks to me at any point in my life
Song/Album – I will never tire of Your Hand In Mine by Explosions In The Sky
Movie – In The Mood For Love has been a long favourite – the soundtrack, the colours, the feelings…
Piece of Art – anything by Agnes Martin really does feed and soothe my soul, when the exhibition was at the Tate Modern, I went about 5 times!
— What are your favorite places to eat in London?
Leila’s for breakfast, Esters for brunch, Towpath for lunch, Granger & Co Kings Cross for work meetings, Violet for cake and tea, P. Franco for wine and small dishes and for dinner – Primeur, Campania and Jones, Uchi, Western’s Laundry, Legs, Luca…too many!
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
– comfy t-shirt and shorts for sleep
– current book
– rose water spray
– essential oils to mix
– Dr. Bronners Baby soap (which doubles up as shaving foam)
– x2 pairs of jeans (one boyfriend, one flares)
– x1 sunglasses
– x1 rucksack, x1 fancy bag, x1 tote bag
– x1 black trousers (usually wide culottes)
– x3 different style tees
– x1 cashmere sweater
– x2 white shirts
– x1 jumpsuit / playsuit
– x1 dress for day or evening
– x2 sandals (one Birkenstocks, one Isabel Marant)
– x1 trainers
– x1 smart shoes (for me, it’s Doc Martens)
– x1 jacket or coat (depending on the destination’s temperature)
– x1 light cashmere scarf
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Photos taken by Jessica MacCormick, Emma Lee and Chi San Wan.