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Scottish-born Steven Horne has been living in New Zealand since 1990. Living is the operative world, as he almost died not once, but three times. His life story is one of highs and lows that could definitely, writes Lorraine Thomson, be the substance of a dram-ma Hollywood movie.

Steven, now 49, has had every kind of medical condition you could imagine.

Largely due to his hefty weight [160kg at his heaviest] Steven, now 49, has had every kind of medical condition you could imagine and then some – type two diabetes, pancreatic disease, renal failure, liver damage and ascites [accumulation of fluid].

Due to living life in the fast lane, much of Steven's health issues stemmed from or were escalated by alcoholic abuse. His biggest success, he says, was beating the booze and being sober for over a decade.

After playing professional rugby league in the UK, he came to New Zealand – a country he regarded as the mecca of rugby.

“I was living a privileged life, but I was not a nice person. I consulted and worked for some of the world's wealthiest influential people and organizations. I had two children here, but it was all about me. I would take advantage of situations. I destroyed everything that was valuable to me n my life.”

Steven turned from caring only about himself to caring about others, especially New Zealanders – and he wants to give back.

The turning point was when he was given 18 months to live and he went off to Hong Kong to live his last days.

“I stared to drink bottled green tea and I ended up losing weight. I was drinking six or seven bottles of this tea a day. I became addictive.”

He was eating Asian seafood, but no bread. The green tea drink was increasing his metabolism to burn fat and increasing his immunity with natural antioxidants. He couldn't believe his luck – and he lived to tell the tale.

“I brought this Tao Ti Green Tea to New Zealand and thought this would be a good business opportunity. It failed to start with, due to the bitter taste, so I added the natural sweetener stevia. I wanted to make a funky drink New Zealanders would like. This became the first ready to drink real green tea using stevia – the first in the world.”

The drink was developed in response to Steve's belief “it is high sugar beverages that are killing children and causing life-threatening obesity”.

Largely through drinking Tao Ti green tea, Steven dropped 51kg in 13 months.

Largely through drinking Tao Ti green tea, Steven dropped 51kg in 13 months

Steve Horne


“It just kept falling off.”

He hasn't been on medication for years now and his aim is to inspire others not to make the same mistakes he made.

“Diabetes and obesity is at pandemic levels. Someone had to do something.”

The weight loss, he says, is achievable with no exercise at all. He is, however, now that he has more energy, looking at going to his local gym. Former professional rugby league player Ruben Wiki is going to be his personal trainer.

“So inspired by my vision of reducing obesity, many high profile people support me, including several New Zealand sporting icons,” he says.

“With all the fantastic health benefits, it was important I got my family onto it as soon as possible.” said rugby icon Keven Mealamu.

As far as his food intake goes, Steven eats a lot of protein and likes the occasional treat.

His green tea business is now selling 800 cases every month in New Zealand in three flavours [peach, apple and pineapple] to cafes, bars, restaurants, night clubs and gyms. The aim is to distribute the product throughout Australasia. A new brand soon to appear on his bottles, esebo, stands for obese [spelt backwards].

Green tea, he notes, is growing 22 per cent globally and is the second most consumed drink in the world, behind water.

Along with launching a new bottled green tea. Steven set up a charity, the Bank of Dreams Charitable Trust, Former All Black Waka Nathan is one of the trustees.

Every bottle of Tao Ti purchased contributes to the trust, which sponsors teams and groups that encourage healthy activity and provides fundraising for clubs or groups, with the vision to turn around obesity. Steve is definitely passionate about making a difference.

Much of the idea for this came from the movie Pay it Forward – the story of a young boy who starts a chain reaction of goodness for his social studies project. His vision is simple: Do a good deed for three people, and instead of expecting them to pay you back, ask them to pay it forward to three more people. This story reflects the inspiration behind Tao Ti's philosophy, not just to be a sustainable business, but to make a difference in the live of the people who drink the products and to the wider community who have so much to benefit through better health.

Ambassador for the product and TV presenter Jo Holley is a loyal supporter.

“After reading Steve’s story and vision to inspire and give hope to so many people, I had to be involved,” she says. “I am proud to be the Face of Tao Ti.”




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A chance conversation has put Tokoroa on the map as the New Zealand "capital" of an Asian green tea drink, that the distributor says "will change the world".

Auckland-based entrepreneur Steven Horne discovered the Tao Ti drink on a trip to Hong Kong two and a half years ago and swears it is the reason for his dramatic weight loss going from 139kg to 88kg in 13 months.

He said the drink, with its anti-oxidant properties, is also responsible for lowering his cholesterol and blood pressure and controlling his diabetes.

Now, Mr Horne, a recovering alcoholic, is promoting the drink to New Zealanders. But in particular he wants to promote it to Maori and Pacific islanders who he believes will benefit the most because of the prevalence of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease among their populations.

Far from it being a hard sell for his product, Mr Horne is treating it as a personal crusade, trying to pass on the benefits that he said he has experienced from the product.

In fact, he seems to be giving more of the product away than he is actually selling at the moment, but that is not worrying him.

"It is not all about making money, it is about offering people some hope, a solution to health problems."

The link with Tokoroa came about after a chance comment during a chance meeting with Reuben Samuel, the Waikato Rugby Union's community rugby officer for the South Waikato.

This led to Mr Horne getting involved with groups in the town including a Pacific health group, junior rugby league and the town's New World supermarket, which is the first major supermarket in the country to stock the product.

Mr Horne's company, Tao Ti Pacific, is in talks with major supermarket chains for distribution rights and there have been offers from companies wanting to go into partnership with him. He said he is wary of who he goes into partnership with as his vision is not just about the bottom line, it is about making people's lives better.

"I offer the Pacific group in Tokoroa the product at cost price as I want them to see the same benefit that I did. I want them to see what it can do, see that benefit for themselves."

The company plans to donate $40,000 worth of product to Maori and Pacific Island health organisations to help promote a healthier lifestyle to youth.

While Mr Horne is passionate about the benefit of the drink, he wants it to go hand-in-hand with exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

Mr Horne, a Scotsman, was a former rugby league player in the UK before he embarked on a career as a high-flying marketing man working in places such as Dubai and Tahiti and for the rich and famous.

- © Fairfax NZ News



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Colin Slade and Steve Horne

All Black Colin Slade has joined the green tea craze.

Yesterday he was in New Plymouth promoting the cold herbal brew as a way to tackle obesity.

At a seminar at the Plymouth Hotel, Slade joined green tea company Tao Ti founder Steve Horne to talk about using the drink to overcome obesity and diabetes.

Once weighing in at 160 kilograms, Mr Horne lost 51kg in 13 months after stumbling across Tao Ti green tea in a convenience store in Hong Kong.

Slade said it was during a training session when he was injured and sidelined that he met Mr Horne and got talking to him about the benefits of green tea.

"As a rugby player I lead a naturally healthy lifestyle but while it's natural for me to be healthy it can be quite tough for others," he said.

"At the end of the day a lot of kids aspire to be where I am with my sport but they won't get there without being healthy."

The recommended dosage of Tao Ti is two bottles a day and Slade says since adding it to his diet he feels better both mentally and physically.

"Plenty of us guys like the idea and benefits of drinking green tea but don't exactly want to be sitting down sipping a hot cup of it so this works well."

Hawera's Kiwi Life Health and Fitness personal trainer Maz Fletcher read about Mr Horne, and organised for him to speak at a seminar about the product a few months ago.

"In eight weeks we sold 300 boxes of Tao Ti and we didn't even advertise it," she said.

"It was just word of mouth and people got excited about it."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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Steve Horne is pretty close to a medical marvel.

Steve Horne Green Tea

An obese, fast-living chronic alcoholic with diabetes and a raft of health problems, his body began shutting down with doctors suggesting he had only 18 months to live.

Moving to Thailand to live out his last days in style, Mr Horne started drinking green tea while in Hong Kong on a th

ree-week layover and his 150kg frame lost nine kilos and he went to the doctor in panic.

He came out with a clean bill of health and the advice that "whatever you are doing, it's working".

The now 88 kilo man visited Hawera last week to speak with members of Kiwilife Gym about his journey.

"I went into a 7/11 in Hong Kong and I've just picked one (tea product) up that was all in Chinese writing," he says.

He credits the drink, which he picked up by chance, with saving his life and creating a new business opportunity which allows him to help others.

Mr Horne is now 60kg lighter, diabetic medication-free, has acceptable cholesterol and actively exercises.

"It's happened to me so we can use that as a marketing thing," he says.

Mr Horne now sells Tao Ti nationwide as a healthy alternative to softdrinks and says it doesn't taste anything like most bitter green teas.

A portion of the profit from each bottle sold goes into the Bank of Dreams Charitable Trust, which he started after his epiphany.

"The more money we can make, the more we can give back to the community," he says.

The business model is based on the movie Pay it Forward and it's a principal he lives by.

"I come round the country talking to people and inspiring them with my story to make a difference to themselves and those around them."

Tao Ti Green Tea is sold at KiwiLife Health and Fitness Gym.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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