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At Ombar we’re passionate about ethically sourcing the highest quality Ecuadorian cacao for our delicious chocolate bars. To ensure the quality of our cacao and the working conditions of our farmers, we have a team member based out in Ecuador: Paola, our Cacao Supply Chain Manager.

We think Paola is the bee’s knees, and we’d like to share with you what she does so you can get to know her a bit. We’ve asked her some questions about her passions and the work she does for Ombar…   

 

Could you start by giving us an overview of your role? What is it that you do for Ombar?

I’m in charge of supplying Ombar with the best quality cacao beans from Ecuador. I explore and select areas in Ecuador where special types of cacao are grown. For example, in Esmeraldas province there are some very old cacao trees with genetics and flavours found nowhere else in the world, and we select a lot of this cacao for Ombar.

I’m also in charge of controlling the post-harvest processing of the cacao beans. The beans must be fermented and sun-dried in the right way at the right time; so I develop the infrastructure for the post-harvest process and work with cacao farming cooperatives to improve methods. Working with farmers to improve their processing techniques not only means that we get a better-quality cacao for Ombar, but it also means that farmers can negotiate a better price for their cacao!  

These two elements which I manage, selecting the types of cacao and post-harvest processing, are super important as they determine the quality and ultimate flavour of the chocolate.

What’s your background and what got you interested in cacao?

I’m an Economist and Tropical Ecologist. I was born in Quito, found in the highlands of Ecuador; my mom is from Esmeraldas, coastal Ecuador, and my dad is from Quito.

I first became interested in cacao whilst working for an environmental conservation agency, where I discovered that managing cacao production could generate environmental and social benefits. For example, when farmers are paid a fair price for their cacao they’re incentivised to maintain native cacao tree types, protect other trees that provide the shade for the cacao to grow in and reforest areas where cacao trees can be grown.

 

What’s an average workday look like for you?

I split my time between the field and the city. While working in the city, I make sure that the cacao beans arrive on time to the winnowing factory, that they have the desired humidity to be transformed into nibs and that all the export paperwork is ready. I’m also in charge of getting samples to laboratories for analysis.

When I’m in the field I visit both the farmers to check that they are following the correct harvesting protocols, and the different post-harvest stations to carry out quality control checks. I also work with the cooperatives on projects to improve the productivity of the cacao farms overall. And finally, I’m working with a group of farmers to reforest pastureland with native cacao trees and other native species.

 

What’s the most rewarding/best thing about your job?

There are so many rewarding things about my job! First, it makes me happy to see farmers’ livelihoods improve with the income they get from selling their cacao at fair trade prices.

I also love the fact that through our efforts we are helping to protect very old cacao tree types and a wide variety of fruit and wood species that make up the unique genetics of the Ecuadorian coastal forests. One of the projects we are working on now is to reforest some pastureland areas with cacao “arriba” and associative trees. These trees will last much longer than any of us, so I love that I’m making a positive environmental impact for future generations.

Finally, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is tasting the final product: Ombar chocolate! The people working in Ecuador put so much effort into producing the best quality cacao beans, it’s amazing to see all that effort result in a beautiful, unique-tasting chocolate, which I’m sure is one of the highest quality chocolates on the market!

 

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Ombar | Chocolate Blog by Accounts Access - 1M ago

Cacao or cocoa? Which one is it? Why do different people say it differently? Aren’t they the same thing?

Most of us have grown up familiar with the word ‘cocoa’. It’s an ingredient in most everyday chocolate bars, and it’s probably what your gran used to make your favourite chocolate cake with.

But now we hear more and more about ‘cacao’, pronounced with an ‘ow’ at the end. So, what’s the difference? Or is it just cocoa spelled another way?

 

What is cacao?

We’re not just trying to say the word in a fancy way… cacao is different to cocoa.

Both start from the same raw ingredient: cacao beans, from the Theobroma cacao plant.

If these beans are roasted at high temperatures before being processed to become an ingredient in making chocolate, then they’re considered cocoa.

But if the beans are not roasted, and are instead left to dry naturally in the sun before undergoing a similar processing method, then the ingredient going into the chocolate is considered cacao rather than cocoa.

In other words, it’s the roasting process that changes cacao to cocoa.

While this definition of cacao is not a hard and fast rule by any means, it has become the generally accepted term to refer to the raw ingredient. In fact, it was largely the raw food movement that started calling it cacao as a way to distinguish it from the usual stuff. 

 

So which is better? Cacao or cocoa?

Raw cacao beans are rich in nutrients and contain over 300 natural compounds. These include flavanols, which are considered to have powerful antioxidant activity and have been researched for a wide variety of health benefits, including for our heart, brain, immunity and even skin. (You can read more about flavanols here.)

However, many of these natural substances are sensitive to heat. So roasting them at high temps to make cocoa can destroy the flavanols, as well as enzymes, vitamins and other nutrients. Keeping them at low temperatures instead preserves this natural goodness.

So cacao – and raw chocolate made from it – can have greater health benefits than cocoa or a typical chocolate bar. Which is exactly why at Ombar, we keep it raw.

 

Cacao in Ombar

All of our chocolate is made with raw cacao, not cocoa, so you can be sure you’re getting the greatest goodness from your chocolate. What’s more, our entire Ombar range is organic, dairy-free and contains only natural, whole food ingredients, such as unrefined coconut sugar, fruit, creamed coconut and live cultures.  Ombar really is chocolate you can feel good about!

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The short answer is YES, vegans can eat chocolate!

When you tell someone you’re a vegan you’re often met with a response something like this: ‘Oh, I could never go vegan… I could never go without [insert food]’. And more often than not, that ‘couldn’t-live-without’ food is chocolate.

At Ombar we think everyone should be able to enjoy the delights of seriously good chocolate. In fact, by removing the milk from chocolate we believe we’ve made a better chocolate that’s not only accessible to more people, but even healthier and more chocolatey than ever!

 

Dairy-Free

Ombar chocolate is vegan, made with only plant-based ingredients, and no compromise on flavour. And with a range of over 12 different flavours there is sure to be one to suit every taste!  Our Coco Mylk flavour is our version of a conventional ‘milk chocolate’ and is as creamy and indulgent as you like. But here’s the magic part, it’s made without any dairy whatsoever! Instead, we use creamed coconut to get that deliciously creamy taste.

The idea of chocolate containing dairy milk is actually a pretty new concept. When chocolate was first created, over 3,000 years ago in South America, it was never consumed with milk and was even used in its pure form as a medicine1. It wasn’t until relatively recently, in 1875, that the first milk chocolate was created2.

 

More room for chocolate!

As well as using a plant-based alternative to dairy milk, we’ve also increased the amount of cacao in our chocolate compared to other brands. Cacao (or cocoa) is the ingredient that gives chocolate its distinctive taste and makes chocolate, well, chocolate! We like to use a minimum of 55% cacao in all our products. Whereas in conventional milk chocolate, cacao will often only be used in small quantities as a flavouring agent.

If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you’ll know that raw cacao is a mineral marvel which has a range of health benefits, including, amongst other things, helping to boost your brain, protecting your heart and keeping your skin and hair healthy. Raw cacao also contains a massive amount of antioxidants4. These are important because they neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals in the body, which, if left to their own devices, can lead to several diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart disease5.

Having a higher percentage of cacao in our chocolate not only makes it healthier, we think it also makes it taste chocolatier. Without the dairy milk and other nasty additives, the complex flavour of the raw cacao really shines through, making for an irresistible chocolate with buckets of flavour!

 

Don’t block the benefits

Studies have found that consuming chocolate that contains milk can actually block some of the health benefits of eating chocolate6. In particular, milk has been found to inhibit the absorption of the antioxidants present in cacao/chocolate. One study, which compared the antioxidant capacity of dark chocolate and milk chocolate, found that the presence of milk in milk chocolate reduced the antioxidant capacity of the chocolate by 50%7!

Meanwhile other studies, which measured the antioxidant levels in the blood after eating chocolate, found that the levels of antioxidants increased significantly when people ate dark chocolate, but there was no significant change when they ate milk chocolate6.

So by choosing a vegan chocolate you’re actually able to take advantage of more of its health benefits!

At Ombar we think we’ve struck the perfect harmony with the best of both worlds. Our Coco Mylk is as creamy and smooth as you like, but is still dairy-free and packed full of raw cacao. Making it a chocolate you can feel good about!

 

References:
  1. Dillinger, T., Barriga, P., Escarcega, S., Jimenez, M., Lowe, D. and Grivetti, L. (2000). Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? A Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 130(8).  
  2. Cadbury, D. (2011). Chocolate wars. London: HarperPress.
  3. University Health News. (2017). Surprising Cocoa Benefits Include Heart Health and Prediabetes Improvement. [online] Available at: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/heart-health/surprising-cocoa-benefits-include-heart-health-and-prediabetes-improvement/ [Accessed 1 Feb. 2018].
  4. Barns, C. (2017). Cacao: the mineral marvel. [online] Ombar. Available at: https://www.ombar.co.uk/blogs/news/cacao-the-mineral-marvel [Accessed 1 Apr. 2017].
  5. Staff, U. (2018). What Do Antioxidants Do and Why Are They Important?. [online] University Health News. Available at: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/what-do-antioxidants-do-and-why-are-they-important/ [Accessed 15 May 2018].
  6. Serafini, M., Bugianesi, R., Maiani, G., Valtuena, S., De Santis, S. and Crozier, A. (2003). Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Nature, 424(6952), pp.1013-1013.
  7. Tabernero, M., Serrano, J. and Saura-Calixto, F. (2006). The antioxidant capacity of cocoa products: contribution to the Spanish diet. International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 41(s1), pp.28-32.
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GOOD NEWS ALERT: Ombar have officially been certified by Fair for Life! For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, Fair for Life is an internationally recognised certification for fair trade and responsible supply chains.

Put simply, Fair for Life makes sure companies are using ingredients that are produced by those with genuine fair trade and socially responsible practices and procedures, which are adhered to all the way to the finished product. They also ensure that all producers and workers who are at a socio-economic disadvantage have access to a wider range of social and economic benefits.

Fair for Life stands out for us as a certification programme a cut above the rest, delving much deeper into the supply chain than most fair trade programmes. This was a factor very important to us when choosing which certification to go with.

Of course, ethical sourcing is nothing new to us here at Ombar. We want to be the best chocolate in the world – from flavour to fairer trade! That means ensuring it tastes absolutely delicious (we think we’ve hit the nail on the head here!), whilst also guaranteeing the ingredients are sustainably sourced and that we’re supporting those in our supply chain from start to finish.

This new certification with Fair for Life cements our on-going commitment to social responsibility, traceability throughout the supply chain and fair trade practices.

The Ombar supply chain

The most important ingredient in Ombar is, you’ve guessed it, cacao! We source our premium, raw cacao from Ecuador; a fine flavoured variety which is indigenous to Ecuador. Remarkably, around 95% of Ecuador's cacao comes from smallholdings - farmers with a few hectares of land that they grow a variety of crops on, including cacao. The farmers harvest the cacao pods and take the beans to an association - like a co-operative - for fermentation and drying.

It’s here we believe we can make the most impact in our cacao supply chain, and so we have our very own team member (Paola) who works directly with the farmers and co-operatives to improve their growing and harvesting practises. Thanks to the work Paola is doing and our direct investment into improved infrastructure, the farmers are able to finesse their techniques, thereby guaranteeing higher quality ingredients. For them, this means security of supply and a higher worth for their crops. A win-win for all!

Ombar founder Richard Turner

Here’s what our founder Richard Turner has to say about our work with the co-operatives in Ecuador and our new Fair for Life certification:

“Our ethos at Ombar is to be empowered, healthy, mindful and bold, and we certainly believe our supply chain should reflect these ideals too. Our cacao is sourced directly from farmers’ co-operatives with whom we work closely to improve quality and infrastructure, enabling farmer’s to charge premium prices for their fair trade cacao. The new certification with Fair for Life is testament to our constant commitment to mission-driven trade as a driving force for positive and sustainable change.”

Every ingredient we use in Ombar chocolate is natural and sustainably sourced, for a delicious and ethical chocolate experience. Find out more on What’s Ombar all about?

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With spring in full swing it’s the perfect time to tuck into our fresh, fruity, berry flavour Ombars. Organic berries and raw chocolate make a heavenly combo. But apart from their delicious taste, what are the benefits of eating berries and why do we put them in our chocolate bars? 

Full of Nutrients

It’s fairly common knowledge that eating more plants of all kinds can help reduce our risk of several health issues. But berries in particular pack a powerful nutritional punch! In four of our chocolate flavours you’ll find organic raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, blueberries and acai berries, all of which are a great source of fibre and are high in vitamin C and A1. In fact, one portion of strawberries (roughly 8 berries) provides more vitamin C than an orange!2

Vitamin C is important because it’s necessary for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of our bodies, from skin and teeth right down to our bones. And the body can’t produce vitamin C itself, or even store it in the body, so it’s important that we get a good dose of vitamin C from our food3.

Vitamin A is important because it helps maintain our eye sight and immune system. It also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs to function properly4. So yeah, it’s pretty much vital!

Full of Antioxidants

The berries we use in our fruit-flavoured Ombars are also full of antioxidants. That beautiful blue-red colour of goji berries, blueberries, acai berries, strawberries and raspberries is a sign of the natural antioxidants present in the fruits6. And in particular, acai berries, goji berries and blueberries are some of the most antioxidant-rich plant-based foods available!5

Antioxidants are important because they neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. What does that mean? Well, if these free radicals are not neutralised by antioxidants in the body, they can damage cells and lead to several diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart disease7. In other words, eating more berries is definitely a good idea. So of course we’ve added them to our chocolate!

In Our Chocolate

At Ombar we like to pack in the plant-based goodness to achieve the most nourishing chocolate bar possible. So we use organic berries in the form of whole, dried fruits and freeze-dried berry powders to flavour some of our chocolate bars.

Freeze-drying is a process that removes the moisture from food while preserving its nutritional value8. By using freeze-dried berry powder, we can create chocolate that has the perfect texture and flavour, while keeping the nutrients of the berries intact.

Want to try our berry-flavoured chocolate bars? You can find them at your local health food shop, or shop online here to order direct from our factory.

Interested in which vitamins and minerals can be found in the berries we add to our chocolate? Check out the list below…

Raspberries9:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Folate (B9)
  • Vitamin E
  • Iron, Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Copper
Strawberries10:
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Folate (B9)
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin E

 

Goji Berries11:
  • Vitamin C
  • Iron,
  • Vitamin A
  • Zinc

 

 

 

Blueberries11 and Acai Berries 12:
  • Vitamin K
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Calcium,
  • Fibre,
  • Chromium,
  • Zinc
  • Iron,
  • Copper,
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus

 

References:
  1. (2018). The Total-Body Benefits of Berries. [online] Available at: http://www.eatingwell.com/article/9567/the-total-body-benefits-of-berries/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  2. (2018). Strawberries 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries#section3 [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  3. C, V. (2018). Vitamin C: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [online] Medlineplus.gov. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  4. od.nih.gov. (2018). Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin A. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  5. Axe. (2018). These Foods, Herb, Spices & Oils are Absolutely Bursting with Antioxidants. [online] Available at: https://draxe.com/top-10-high-antioxidant-foods/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  6. WebMD Boots. (2018). Goji berries: Health benefits and side effects. [online] Available at: https://www.webmd.boots.com/healthy-eating/guide/goji-berries [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  7. (2018). 5 Impressive Health Benefits of Acai Berries. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-acai-berries [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  8. Lachner, D. (2018). Freeze Dried Food Nutritional Information. [online] LIVESTRONG.COM. Available at: https://www.livestrong.com/article/343417-freeze-dried-food-nutritional-information/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  9. LD, M. and University of Illinois-Chicago, S. (2018). Raspberries: Health benefits, nutrition, dietary tips, and risks. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018.php [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  10. (2018). 8 Healthy Facts About the Goji Berry. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/goji-berry-facts#takeaway [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  11. Axe. (2018). Top 7 Health Benefits of Blueberries + Blueberry Nutrition - Dr. Axe. [online] Available at: https://draxe.com/health-benefits-blueberries/ [Accessed 9 May 2018].
  12. (2018). 5 Impressive Health Benefits of Acai Berries. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-acai-berries#section4 [Accessed 9 May 2018].
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Short answer: yes!

Chocolate is not just chocolate. The ingredients and their quality can vary hugely, and while some chocolate on the market is undoubtedly ‘junk’ food, some can indeed be a healthy treat.

Here are five criteria to look for to make sure you’re getting the healthiest chocolate.

  1. Pure, whole food ingredients

A good-quality chocolate should contain a small list of natural ingredients. Cacao (or cocoa, if it’s not raw) should be among the first on the list. Other ingredients could include cocoa butter, coconut, unrefined sugar such as coconut sugar, fruit powders and vanilla pods. Avoid additives such as artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, flavourings and ‘E’ numbers as these have no nutritional benefit – and some may even have harmful effects. We make sure that only the finest natural, unrefined ingredients are used in Ombars.

  1. Raw

Perhaps the greatest health-boosting property of cacao is its content of flavanols. Research suggests these powerful compounds can have antioxidant benefits for the heart, skin, brain and immune system.

Yet the roasting process used to make standard chocolate can destroy these compounds. When making raw chocolate, like Ombar, the beans are left to dry naturally in the sun and not roasted, preserving as many nutrients as possible.

  1. Organic

By choosing organic, you’re avoiding artificial and potentially harmful chemicals such as pesticides. Just another way you’re getting the purest possible chocolate with more goodness.

  1. Dairy-free / plant-based

Plant-based diets are associated with a multitude of health benefits, including helping to maintain a healthy weight, for the heart, and for living well into old age. The great news is that you can stay plant-based with your chocolate too: all Ombars are 100% vegan!

  1. Ethical

To create a truly healthy chocolate bar, it needs to be healthy for the people who make it too. At Ombar, we work closely with everyone in our supply chain – from growers to exporters – to make sure everyone is compensated fairly.

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Okay, hands up. We still don't have an Ombar Easter egg available. There's just not enough hours in the day! But with Easter just around the corner we wanted to show you a way to make your Ombar chocolate look a bit more festive.

So we’ve put together this simple guide for a homemade Ombar Easter basket, made from a recycled cardboard box. A lovely activity for a little moment of calm, and a great gift with a personal touch!

What you'll need:

  • Basket template available here
  • An Ombar (of course!) - either a 35g bar or a bag of Ombar Buttons
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard box (we used a cereal box)
  • Sticky tape (any kind will do)
  • Paint/ coloured pens to decorate
  • An extra Ombar to eat while you're making your basket, obviously

We’ve made two versions of the basket: one for our 35g Ombars and one for our Ombar Buttons. Step 1 is to choose the correct template for the chocolate you would like to make a basket for.

For the 35g Ombar Basket:
  • When you cut out the template you will have one cross-shaped piece, 3 strip pieces and a longer strip which will be the handle.

 

 

 

 

For the Ombar Buttons Basket:
  • When you cut out the template you will have one cross-shaped piece and 3 strip pieces, one of which will be the handle.
  • Note: skip step 7 when you make this basket.

 

 

 

 

How to Make an Ombar Easter Basket

Ombar Buttons Basket - YouTube

1. First, cut out the pieces from your basket template.

2. Place the cut outs onto your cardboard and trace around them.

3. Cut out the shapes you've just drawn on your cardboard.

4. This is the most fun bit: paint or decorate your shapes however you want!

5. Taking the cross-shaped piece, fold the flaps in as per the red lines marked on the template.

6. Using one of the strip pieces begin to weave it in and out of the now vertical strips extending from one side of the cross. Fold the strip when you reach the end of one side and then continue to weave it in and out of the vertical strips extending from another side of the cross. Continue until you have woven the strip all the way around. Secure on the inside with a little tape to help.



7. Using another strip, weave it in and out of the vertical strips extending from one side of the cross, on top of the other strip you've just finished weaving, and in the opposite order so that the weave alternates. Continue until you have woven the strip all the way around. Secure on the inside with a little tape to help.



8. Repeat step 6 using the third strip.

9. The vertical ends of the cross piece will still be sticking out the top of the basket. Fold these down over the top horizontal strip in alternating directions.



10. Secure the flaps, that are folded into the inside of the basket, down with tape.

11. Tape either end of your handle piece to the inside of your basket.

12. Et Voila! Your own Ombar Easter basket perfect for gifting and Easter Egg hunts!

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In our last blog ‘The History of Chocolate: The Later Years’ we explored how chocolate changed from being a healthy, nourishing drink to a sweet confection in the early 1900s.

With Daniel Peter’s innovative addition of milk to the mix, chocolate became more sweet and creamy. It also brought the cost of chocolate down, helping it to become a mass market product rather than an expensive treat.

While sales of milk chocolate boomed around the world, perhaps no-one noticed that the once-prized central ingredient of all chocolate, cacao, had taken a back-seat in favour of chocolate recipes consisting mainly of milk and sugar.

If we think back to the famous milk chocolate brands we grew up with, did we ever wonder what that chocolate was made of and where it came from?

But this has all changed in recent years; pictures of cacao pods, farmers and their beans now feature everywhere in the chocolate world. Cacao is regaining recognition and becoming the hero ingredient of chocolate once again.

So how did all this come about?

READING THE LABELS

Today people are becoming a lot more interested in what’s in their food and where it’s come from, and brands are responding by being more transparent about their supply chains and how their products are made. Which is great news!


 

EMBRACING THE DARK SIDE

With new discoveries about the health benefits in cacao, dark chocolate is receiving a healthy image and consequently sales of dark chocolate have soared, growing a whopping 96% in the UK between 2006 and 20081! All these new discoveries champion the cacao part of chocolate rather than milk and sugar.

 

CACAO AND FAIR TRADE

Whether you agree or not with how Fair Trade works, the certification has done loads to raise awareness of where cacao originates and who’s growing it. Fair Trade brands frequently feature pictures of farmers and cacao in their marketing. And revelations about child slavery in West African cacao plantations have led to mainstream global brands signing up to the programme, bringing even greater awareness to the origins of chocolate’s primary ingredient.

See below about Ombar and fair trade.
RAW FOOD MOVEMENT

Back in the early 2000’s the raw food movement (where you eat only raw food; i.e. nothing cooked) was gaining steam. Superfoods, juices and cleanses were all the rage but there was something vital missing – chocolate! As human beings cannot survive for very long without chocolate, the raw foodists swiftly set about making their own creations using raw (unroasted) cacao. 

Although all health food shops now sell cacao nibs, it was a revelation at the time that the raw materials that all chocolate was made from could be obtained and new, healthier chocolate creations made.

By the way, that’s exactly what we did when starting Ombar, along with a number of other start-ups across the land. And of course, from the beginning, cacao was and is the hero ingredient.

ARTISAN CHOCOLATE

As well as budding raw food chocolatiers, many small, artisanal chocolate companies have emerged over the last 10 years. Often bean-to-bar (which means processing right from the cacao bean stage through to the finished chocolate bar), the cacao beans are front and centre of what they do. These brands will also prize the origin and flavour notes of the cacao they’re sourcing.

Did you know Ombar is a nib-to-bar chocolate? Which is almost the same as bean-to-bar, except that we get our friends in Ecuador to break the cacao beans into pieces (nibs) and remove their husks. They’re much better at doing that than we are.

Recognising cacao in chocolate is a wonderful development bringing us closer to this amazing food and where it came from. It’s not quite the sacred reverence the ancient civilisations had for cacao (see our earlier blog), but this newfound respect not only improves the lives of people in the growing countries, it leads to better chocolate!

 

A NOTE ABOUT OMBAR AND FAIR TRADE

We want Ombar to be the best chocolate in the world and that means on every level – from ethical sourcing through to outrageously good flavour. All our cacao is organic and purchased directly from co-operatives in Ecuador. 

We form long-term partnerships with co-operatives and have traceability right back to the family farms where the cacao trees grow. The prices we pay are always considerably higher than market rates and every co-operative we work with has signed up to fair trade programs.

But we want to take it further. So that’s why we’re working toward Fair For Life accreditation – a program that delves much deeper into the supply chain than most fair trade programs and one we think will provide the most benefit to our partners in Ecuador. We’re aiming to achieve Fair For Life accreditation before Summer 2018.

 

References:

1) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2241393/Dark-chocolate-sales-soar-thanks-to-healthy-image.html

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Mother's Day is here and it's our turn to look after our mums and show them just how much we love them. So we've put together the ultimate, healthy-yet-delicious breakfast-in-bed recipe to help you treat your mum. Packed full of fresh fruit and organic, raw cacao this breakfast combination is sure to help start your mum's day with a smile. 

Chocolate and Banana Power Smoothie with Chocolate Fruit Salad 

 

Raw Chocolate and Banana Power Smoothie 


We love this smoothie because it combines the superfood goodness of raw cacao with that all-important Omega-3 from the chia seeds and magnesium from the almonds and pumpkin seeds. Now that's a smoothie with a healthy dose of natural goodness! With all these important nutrients included, this smoothie is sure to boost your mum's morning.  

 

 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ½ bananas (or 3 mini bananas like we used!) 
  • 1 ½ cups of almond milk 
  • 1 35g bar of Coco Mylk Ombar chocolate   
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds 
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp almond butter 
  • 1 pitted Medjool date 
  • 1 bag of Coco Mylk Ombar Buttons  
Instructions: 

1. First, break up your chocolate into chunks, place in a heatproof bowl and place over a pot of simmering (but not boiling) water. Stir and watch the chocolate gently melt. This is our favourite bit, getting to watch the chocolate slowly melt. Yum! Be careful not to overheat it or you'll damage its raw nutritional goodness.


2. Put the bananas, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, Medjool dates anic and almond butter into a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.

3. Add your melted Ombar chocolate and almond milk and blend.

4. Pour into a glass then chop some Ombar Buttons to drop in as chocolate chips!

5. This recipe makes enough for two glasses, so both you and your mum can enjoy together. After all, you've got to keep the chef fueled, too!  

Chocolate Fruit Salad 

What's better than waking up to a bowl of fresh fruit? Well, waking up to a bowl of fresh fruit with melted organic chocolate, of course! We love this recipe as it makes a classic fruit salad that much more indulgent, with chocolate drizzled over the top and a pot of molten chocolate to dip your fruit into. Yes, please! 

Ingredients:  

  • 2 x 70g Coco Mylk Ombar chocolate bars
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp almonds
  • 2 kiwis 
  • 1 punnet of strawberries 
  • 1 banana (or 2 mini bananas as we used) 
  • 3 mandarin oranges
Instructions:

1. First, break up your chocolate into chunks, place in a heatproof bowl and place over a pot of simmering (but not boiling) water. Stir the chocolate as it melts. 

2. Chop all the fruit into bite size chunks and place in a bowl.

3. Once the chocolate has melted drizzle some of it over the fruit. Pour the rest of it into a small dish to dip the fruit pieces in. 

 

And there we have it ... a simple, yet delicious and nutritious Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed recipe so you can start your mum's day the right way!  

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If you’ve read our previous posts, then you know that cacao has many potential health benefits. But did you know it could be particularly good for the brain and cognitive function (meaning mental processes such as memory, learning, reasoning and attention)?

In a recent article in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, Italian researchers reviewed several studies focusing on the more immediate effects of cacao – as in, what happens just after consuming it. Although some of the studies showed no benefits, others found that cacao could improve working memory, reaction times, attention, visual information processing (how fast people processed and reacted to something they saw) and tasks such as subtraction.1,2

As well as these immediate effects, cacao could have longer-term protective benefits for the brain and memory, even into old age. In one study on 90 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (a condition that can lead to dementia), consuming high-flavanol cacao for eight weeks seemed to improve their cognitive function3. And in animal studies cacao has been found to help prevent changes in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease4. So, cacao could help us ward off memory problems as we get older too.

So, what is cacao actually doing to help the brain?

It’s the flavanols in cacao that are thought to have the most powerful action. (To read more about flavanols – what they are and what they do – see our previous post here.) It’s been found that cacao flavanols can get into the brain and accumulate in areas responsible for learning and memory6. And when they get there, they could help the brain in several ways:

1. Protection. Cacao flavanols have been found to trigger production of proteins that protect nerve cells in the brain4. 2. Helping to grow your brain!

As well as those protective proteins, flavanols seem to increase levels of a complex-sounding substance called ‘brain-derived neurotropic factor’5. This is a protein that stimulates growth of nerves in the brain and the connections between them, and helps to repair nerves after they've been damaged.

3. Boosting blood circulation to the brain.

Consuming high-flavanol cacao seems to improve blood flow in the brain by helping dilate the blood vessels2. It may even encourage the growth of new blood vessels6. This could have immediate benefits for cognitive processes such as attention and focus, but could also help longer term by improving delivery of nutrients to the brain.

4. Reducing insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is when the body’s cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Because high blood sugar can have a damaging effect on the nerves – including in the brain – it’s thought that insulin resistance can be a factor in brain ageing and problems such as dementia. Studies have suggested cacao can improve sensitivity to insulin7, so it could be helping in this way too.

5. Anti-inflammatory action. Last but not least, cacao flavanols may help long-term cognitive function by having an anti-inflammatory effect2. It’s thought that inflammation plays a role in problems such as cognitive impairment or dementia, and so anything that helps bring down or control inflammation could be beneficial for the brain and keeping our memory sharp.
    Why raw is best

    All cacao, cocoa and high-cocoa chocolate may have benefits for the brain. But because it’s specifically the flavanols in cacao that are thought to be responsible for its brain-boosting and brain-protecting action, raw cacao or raw chocolate could have an advantage, as the gentle low-temperature production process used in manufacturing raw chocolate helps to preserve the maximum content of flavanols.  

     

     

    References

    1. Socci V et al. Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids. Front Nutr. 2017 May 16;4:19.
    2. Lamport DJ et al. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on cerebral perfusion in healthy older adults during conscious resting state: a placebo controlled, crossover, acute trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Sep;232(17):3227-34.
    3. Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) study. Hypertension. 2012 Sep;60(3):794-801.
    4. Williams RJ, Spencer JP. Flavonoids, cognition, and dementia: actions, mechanisms, and potential therapeutic utility for Alzheimer disease. Free Radic Biol Med. 2012 Jan 1;52(1):35-45.
    5. Neshatdoust S et al. High-flavonoid intake induces cognitive improvements linked to changes in serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor: Two randomised, controlled trials. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2016 Oct 27;4(1):81-93.
    6. Sokolov AN et al. Chocolate and the brain: neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Dec;37(10 Pt 2):2445-53.
    7. Mastroiacovo D et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study--a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):538-48.
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