By Stephanie Eckelkamp
Two and a half years ago, Sarah Hinsch felt like she’d unearthed a big secret. She was more vibrant, healthy, happy, and energized in her 30s than she had been her entire adult life. The reason: She was juicing, making smoothies, and generally packing her meals with fresh, organic, unprocessed fruits and vegetables—not the Twizzlers she’d subsisted on during her 20s. Her diet, it turned out, affected not only how she looked, but every aspect of her physical and mental health.
Because she wanted so desperately to share that feeling with others, Sarah opened Greenmouth Juice Bar & Cafe’s first location in Easton in 2014, then a second location in downtown Allentown in 2015. Here, we talk to Sarah about her inspiration, Greenmouth’s mission, and some seriously tasty menu items.
Q: So I love Greenmouth—can you tell me the backstory of how you came to open one of the trendiest cafes in the Lehigh Valley?
I struggled with food and diets my whole life. I was literally eating sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner—like literal bags of candy—and simultaneously counting fat grams and calories to keep my weight in check. Then around age 19, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine system disorder that can cause weight gain, excess hair growth, acne, and even infertility. So at that point, I thought that I’d never be able to get pregnant, and doctors just told me to go on birth control to control the symptoms—no one talked to me about my diet.
But then some things just started to click in my head. When I was 26, I visited a friend who had moved to northern England, where she had a fish monger, a butcher, and a lady that delivered their eggs and milk. They were getting their vegetables from a local farmer and even growing some of their own. And I thought, wow, this is how it used to be everywhere—what happened? Around the same time, I also did a lot of reading about nutrition. One book that really resonated was Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It digs deep into the history of food and common illness, and how non-industrialized countries don’t suffer from diabetes and cancer like we do. So that was really the aha moment for me, and when I started to asking myself, is this something my ancestors would have eaten before the industrial revolution?
So I started gradually making healthy changes to my diet, but it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I really got serious. I started making green juices at home, and by the end of my pregnancy I was doing this every day. And once I had my baby, smoothies became essential—I couldn’t juggle a baby and eat with a knife and fork! So I started making superfood smoothies loaded with things like coconut oil, almond butter, greens, berries, nuts, and seeds. I felt great and wanted to spread the word and all the information that I’d learned. So I started Greenmouth. It’s definitely a labor of love, and what I consider my community service project.
Q: Why do you consider Greenmouth your community service project?
Well, the reason there’s nothing quite like Greenmouth in the Lehigh Valley is because the profitability isn’t there. Easton and Allentown don’t have the volume of somewhere like NYC, plus my profit margin is so low—I should probably be charging about 30% more, but I want people to be able to experience this stuff. So right now, I have full time job that essentially pays for it, and I’ve cashed out all of my 401Ks. I’ve never taken a penny from Greenmouth because it’s a mission-based company. Even when it does start to turn a profit, that money will be funneled back into the mission.
Q: Wow, that’s amazing. What will you put the money toward when you eventually start turning a profit?
Even now, even though we’re not turning a profit, I donate quarterly to The Garden of Giving in Stroudsburg, which is owned by Tammy Graeber who literally turned her backyard garden into a farm that donates to 14 local food banks. But in the future, maybe we’ll open up another Greenmouth, or even buy a farm so we can sustain ourselves and donate any extras to food banks, hospitals, and healthy nutrition programs for new moms. The more organic, chemical- and pesticide-free farms we have, the healthier our earth is.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your ingredients and how you source them?
We’re buying the best of everything. It’s all raw, organic, mostly vegan, and locally sourced whenever possible. Next week I’m actually going to be driving three hours to meet a maple farmer. That’s why our costs can seem high, there are no short cuts and the integrity is 100% there. Not everything we use is USDA Certified Organic, but in those cases, I’ve gotten to know the farmers and I’ve seen their practices to ensure they’re not using chemicals or pesticides of any kind. I truly want to be part of the food revolution and educate people in a kind and loving way. And, of course, support the local farmers whenever possible.
Q: What do you tell people who think your food is too expensive, or that organic food is too expensive in general?
All I can say is that healthcare is really expensive, getting cancer is really expensive, and paying for medications is really expensive. So invest in the food that you eat and maybe prevent some of these future expenses from happening altogether. One of our taglines is from Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
You also have to vote with your dollars. Because organic produce isn’t treated with pesticides, sometimes a whole crop will get wiped out by bugs, birds, or deer. So these farmers need to increases prices to make up for those losses. Organic famers are also diversifying their crops, which takes more time and costs more money compared to most large scale farmers who do mono-crops. This diversification creates healthy, nutrient rich soil that in turn yields far more nutrient-rich produce. So if you want to continue to have access to this high quality food, you need to vote with your dollars and actually buy it.
Q: If someone’s a Greenmouth newbie, what are some menu items you’d recommend? You know, something approachable…not straight-up wheat grass shots.
Our most popular juice for newbies would be Sweet Greens. My daughter loves it. It has pineapple, apple, cucumber, and mild greens like spinach. For smoothies, the Rejuvenate is great. It has berries, greens, coconut water, and chia and flaxseeds.
Something totally unique is our vegan burrito. The inside tastes like taco meat, but it’s made out of sunflower seeds, spices, and olive oil. Then we add our cashew-based sour cream along with black bean salsa and fresh guacamole, all rolled up in a collard green wrap.
Oh, and the bullet coffee. It’s our take on the Bulletproof coffee—coffee, grass-fed butter, and coconut oil all whipped up in a blender. The idea behind it is that the healthy fats sustain the high you get from the caffeine, so you don’t crash. Our version takes things up a notch: In addition to coffee, coconut oil, and butter, we add dates, raw cacao powder, vanilla, and cinnamon to the mix. It’s decadent and ridiculous. You can’t get it anywhere else.
Q: Any tips for successful juicing and smoothie making at home for people who are just getting into it?
When you’re starting out, do things that taste good. For juice, add an apple or some pineapple, and use mild tasting veggies like spinach and cucumber. Eventually, you’ll be able to wean yourself off the fruit a bit and enjoy the flavor of veggies. You really shouldn’t be consuming more than about 4 ounces of fruit juice at any time, so be mindful of that.
For the smoothies, it’s kind of the same advice. Use a mild green like spinach and hold off on the kale for a while. Add some healthy fats to keep you full and energized like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds. Add some berries, which are pretty low in sugar. Blend it all together with some water, or something more flavorful like coconut water, which is loaded with electrolytes, or green tea, which contains powerful antioxidants. Experiment and see what tastes good.