From a really young age I've always been in the kitchen experimenting. The earliest memories are when I was about 4-5 years old and my Dad's secretary used to mind me some days during the week and I would go to her house in the holidays. Without fail every time I visited, I would be in the kitchen standing on a chair, with all the ingredients on the bench and I would just make up a recipe. I remember being so chuffed that I invented 'cake cookies' this one time - probably more of an incidental baking fail than anything - but I was stoked nonetheless. I think they were even blue and green as I loved using food colouring too (at the time). Oh, and whatever I baked was usually always chocolate flavoured or had chocolate icing.
From then on, I was always shadowing Mum in the kitchen and questioning her about what she was cooking and what ingredients she was adding. I used to often make dessert for the family and chocolate self saucing pudding became a regular favourite. Desserts and sweets were my favourite thing to cook.
Mum has always been an amazing cook (still is). No shortcuts, always making everything from scratch, so this has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. Nothing's ever too hard or unachievable, it's just the way it is in our family, which I love. I feel very grateful to have grown up learning to cook from a young age. If I was able to cook at school every week I would have LOVED school.
I think it was in year 5 or 6, my friend and I decided to host a dinner party for our parents to 'thank them'. I designed the menu, taking my favourite dishes that mum cooked and every time she made them I would quiz her about the ingredients and then go and secretly write them down. We went shopping for everything, telling our parents it was a surprise (I'm sure they knew what we were doing as they clearly funded the exercise)
We kicked my parents out of the house for the day and cooked up a storm. We printed menus for each of them and and served a four course feast.
I remember in a high school food tech class, we had to make Spaghetti Bolognese, and were given the recipe prior to the class. I didn't think the recipe was that great, so I took it upon myself to bring in a whole heap of extra herbs, spices and secret ingredients. The teacher was extremely impressed with the flavour (haha.)
From there as I grew older I would always be baking sweets, cakes, slices and desserts.
When I moved out of home around the age of 19, I grew more health conscious and started experimenting with making my favourite desserts but turning them into healthy versions. I slowly built up a collection of whole food ingredients and would just either make something up from scratch, or take a traditional recipe and swap the ingredients for healthier versions. This is when I began to notice the health movement booming and where I found my true passion.
I use to dream of owning my own coffee brand (but this was back in the day before coffee boomed to what it is now). My friends, colleagues and family would always tell me I should open my own cafe, which isn't entirely off the cards but always felt so far away.
I've always been a huge chocolate lover and over the years, have become OBSESSED with cacao. I think the more you eat cacao, the more appreciation you have for the pure stuff and you get a taste for dark chocolate too. Nowadays, I can barely eat a piece of milk chocolate, it's way too sweet and artificial.
I began to become so fascinated with every aspect of cacao, and the tree where chocolate comes from. I remember being in Samoa and a friend I was with pointed out some cacao pods hanging from a tree on the side of the road, I couldn't believe it, I wanted to know more.
In 2013, I went on a trip to South America. Whilst I would have loved to get to the cacao farms, we didn't have time. What we did do however was take a visit to a chocolate museum which was the next best thing to fuel my curiosity. On arrival, we were offered a 'cacao husk tea'. I had no idea what this was exactly but they kindly explained it was tea brewed from the shell of the cacao beans, and poured us a little cup. Wow, I was amazed! We sipped on our tea while touring the place and then went on our way.
It wasn't until later that year when one day I was in the office kitchen making a cup of tea with a tea bag and day dreaming away as you do, that I had a flash back to the cacao tea we had in South America. This was my 'ah ha' moment. 'That was delicious', I remenisced. 'Do they have that in Australia', I wondered. I began to do a quick google search to find that nothing of the like existed here. I was excited.
I started researching and reaching out to people to get samples of husk to try. I remember telling my brother first to bounce the idea off him, he thought it was brilliant and was intrigued by the product.
When I discovered it was also nourishing and full of nutrients, I knew the world needed to know about it!
I've always had an inner niggling that I would start a business of some kind, I just never knew what or when, but when the idea came to me, I was excited!
I decided to take up a course in integrative nutrition as I was so passionate about it, but it still didn't quite hit the nail on the head in terms of what I wanted to do.
By this time I'd landed a job in the health food & wellness industry (I'd manifested a dream job, and loving every minute) and was lucky enough to continue channelling my inner-cook to create healthy wholefood recipes that were featured in videos, e-books and on publications like Women's Health, 9Kitchen, I Quit Sugar, Yum Gluten Free and Sporteluxe.
I continued working behind the scenes, investing all of my spare time researching, sourcing samples & packaging, scribbling notes, designing logos, building a website...and I still hadn't told anyone except my family, not even my best friends. In fact, I sat on the idea for about 3 years, I think this was out of fear that I could never actually do it.
But I was working in a small startup company in an industry I am extremely passionate about. I learnt so much along the way, gained a whole heap of inspiration and finally built up the courage to put it out there. I slowly started telling a few more people that were close to me and getting them to sample the tea, all of which were so supportive and backed me the whole way. The feedback I received was so positive and exciting, which led me to launching just a few months after.
This was me on the day of launch (28th July, 2016), and first ever event/market stall. I didn't actually man the stall the entire night as I was running the event, but my incredible family held the fort and did an ace job at representing my brand.
To say I am grateful for all of my family and friends (and everyone in between) who have helped along the way, would be an understatement. I wouldn't be where I am today without them, from running market stalls, helping set up/ pack down, lending vehicles, running errands, sticking on labels, attending trade shows, offering advice, passing on contacts, bouncing ideas off and SO MUCH MORE, I am extremely lucky to have such a generous support network around me.
For me, kkao Co. not only inspires a healthy alternative to eating chocolate or drinking coffee, it's about getting back to simple, real and whole foods, and minimising the consumption of artificial and processed foods and drinks.
There are so many ‘food-like products we consume these days, filled with sugars, chemicals and array of ingredients we cannot recognise.
Over the years, it has become apparent to me that we need to change the way we think about what we are putting into our bodies. It doesn’t mean living solely on spinach and cucumber and depriving yourself of the foods you love to eat, but it does mean becoming more aware of where our foods come from, what’s in them and how it has impacted the environment and people involved in the production.
Discovering a product that was natural, sustainable and good for you has provided me an avenue to do greater good, for people’s health, the environment and the communities.
As we say at kkäo Co, our ambition is to 'IGNITE YOUR BLISS'. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the experience of chocolate, and feel good about it.
Our cacao teas have been created with 4 important fundamentals in mind, that are always at the core of everything we do.
Our teas are 100% natural and contain no added sugars, artificial flavours or ingredients. For us, it’s all about getting back to simple, real and whole foods; and minimising the consumption of artificial and processed ingredients that have can harmful effects on our health.
We love foods and ingredients that are in their most natural state. Chocolate can not get more natural than this!
Not only does this tea satisfy the desire for that chocolate fix, but is also rich in nutritional antioxidants, vitamins and minerals; to name a few magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium plus feel-good 'bliss-chemicals' known to promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
Caffeine free and naturally containing theobromine, cacao tea offers a gentle pick-me-up to boost your mood and make you feel GOOD.
The perfect alternative to a sugar-laden chocolate bar or a caffeine-heavy coffee.
Our cacao teas are made from cacao bean husk, which is the outer shell of the cacao bean and a by-product of chocolate making.
When cacao beans are harvested from the cacao pods, fermented and dried, they are then roasted and cracked to separate the nibs from the husk (shell). The nibs go on to make chocolate and the husks are left to create our beautiful cacao teas.
We are extending the life of the cacao bean!
One thing that’s extremely important to us is the ethical sourcing of our cacao.
In the cacao industry it’s very common for crops to be produced with profit margins prioritised over ethics and the exploitation of slave labour still exists.
Our cacao is ethically sourced from around the world from suppliers who only trade directly with the farmers and have close relationships with them. This not only means farmers are paid higher than fair trade prices, enabling them to support their families, invest back into their farms and communities, but enables a 'quality over quantity' approach, unlike on a large commercial level where crops are produced for high-yield, lost cost and this is where unethical farming practices and slave labour takes place.
To everyone who has supported myself and kkao Co. along the way, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
It means a lot to have you on this journey with me, and I hope you'll stay for the ride.
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We tell you the best method to brew a really amazing cup of cacao tea, and some delicious variations so you can adjust as you like to your personal taste.