Interview: Changing the World through Chocolate with Malindi Lovegrove, The Chocolate Yogi

Malindi Lovegrove is Cofounder of The Chocolate Yogi, a social enterprise and organic raw chocolate company campaigning to spread awareness of global health.

How did The Chocolate Yogi begin?

My husband Ed and I started The Chocolate Yogi in July 2014. We had just moved back to Australia from the UK and for six months we had not been able to find work. We were coming to the end of our savings and knew we had to do something different. We decided to attend a seminar called The Prosperity Experience because we figured we could use some help with prosperity. The seminar was facilitated by multi-millionaire businessman Jeffrey Slayter. He encouraged us to start a business and when he found out I enjoyed making raw chocolate at home, he suggested we go with that.

We learned from him the importance of asking for what you want, so the day the seminar ended, we made a list of everyone we knew and called and asked them for investment. We got investment that very same day and the next day we both went full time into the business. We had never run a business before and had never worked with chocolate professionally so it was a huge learning curve!

When Ed and I embarked on our journey to launch The Chocolate Yogi we wrote one statement on our whiteboard that summed up what we wanted to do “Chocolate That Changes the World”. It became an intention that we now aim to embody in every aspect of our business.

We were just about to move to a water-access only island at this point in time, so in the first year we ran our chocolate business on the island, moving ingredients and finished product by boat and the community vehicle, a four wheel drive that could handle the bumpy dirt roads.

After a year of sleeping next door to two giant stone grinding machines, it was time to move the business off the island and we built a factory in Hornsby, a suburb surrounded by the Ku-ring-gai National Park in the North West of Sydney. We still produce our chocolate there ourselves with the help of our amazing chocolate assistant Ceren. We also now have a team of amazing small state based distributors who work with us to get our chocolate into stores nationwide.

What inspired you to make raw chocolate?

Originally I started making it at home because I discovered I had a dairy allergy. I was vegetarian at the time and totally addicted to Cadbury Dairy Milk. I found it so hard to stop eating it but I had to because the dairy and the sugar were making me so ill. First of all I tried all the dairy free and raw chocolate I could find but most of them tasted very dark and nothing like the taste I was used to and craved.

So I tried to recreate the milk chocolate taste at home using natural, non-addictive ingredients – raw cacao, lucuma, coconut and coconut sugar – and had some degree of success. At this time I educated myself a lot about nutrition and allergenic foods and applied this knowledge to my chocolate. After we decided to start the business I went to ‘Chocolate School’ and learned professional chocolate making techniques, grinding chocolate from the bean to the bar using stone grinding machines. I realised this was how we would be able to make a chocolate that truly tasted like milk or white chocolate and we decided to make our chocolate the traditional way but using raw, natural ingredients and coconut sugar to keep it healthier and cleaner.

It sounds kind of crazy but it is really true, our chocolate mainly came about through intuition.

Ed and I both meditate and do yoga and breathing practices daily. Most of our ideas and inspiration come through our meditation, we found we just ‘downloaded’ entire recipes! That was how we came up with the chocolate recipes, we just knew exactly what to put in. And then we refined our recipes by doing a lot of research and development and consulting with expert food scientists and chocolate specialists to get them perfect. We still always work to improve our chocolate, as we are perfectionists and want our chocolate to blow people’s minds.

How do you infuse your bars with good energy?

In yoga it is believed that it is not just the content of the food but the state of mind of the person who is preparing it that matters. Now, we are not perfect by any means but we do ensure that we meditate every day so that our minds are more peaceful and just to ensure that the chocolate has a beautiful energy, we chant over it in Sanskrit as we add the coconut sugar. The ancient chant we use has been chanted over food for millennia and puts out an intention that this food will bring people together and that there will be peace in our world.

Why organic?

Not long ago there was no such thing as organic food, there was just ‘food’. Then big business introduced the use of chemicals to control pests, fertilise etc. so they could produce more food more cheaply. There was also the introduction of GMOs. Now there is food (organic) and there is food that has added chemicals, is GMO etc.. Over the years some of these chemicals have been shown to have adverse effects on people. I am guessing that something that kills insects is probably not great for humans and the effects of GMO foods are unknown, so to be on the safe side, we prefer to eat and use organic food in our products. Cacao is one of the most highly sprayed products in the world, so it is particularly important that you make sure your chocolate is organic.

Why vegan?

As I mentioned above, my husband and I are both allergic to dairy, which is what started us on this journey. However, since we started our business, through our involvement with the Sydney Vegan Club, we learned more about the impact of consumption of animal products on the environment, on the animals and on our health. After educating ourselves and inspiring ourselves through watching documentaries such as Cowspiracy and Forks over Knives, we took a conscious decision to go from being dairy free vegetarians to vegans. Obviously, it wasn’t a huge jump for us in terms of our diet but in terms of our mindset something had really shifted.

We really became activists, and decided we wanted to spread the word about the impact that widespread animal agriculture is having on our world.

We changed our chocolate packaging to reflect this, spreading the word in a joyful, fun and inspiring way and we decided to start supporting charities who protect our animals and environment with a fixed amount from every bar. We did this rather than a percentage of profit because as a start-up, we didn’t have any profit! We figured, we will put aside this much from every bar and then find a way to somehow run our business on the rest. And we managed it. We have raised almost $10,000 for Sea Shepherd in the last 6 months.

We decided to support Sea Shepherd after watching a documentary called How to Change the World about the origins of both Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd. We were inspired by their integrity and direct action approach, and decided that we would like to support them in some way.

We are all creating our future world with our choices every day. By reducing or eliminating animal products from our diet we can make a huge impact on the environment – saving rainforests, the oceans and eliminating the risk of climate change.

We believe that if businesses transition from becoming about making profit to sharing profit, the whole world will change. Our hope is that we will all realise that happiness comes from sharing and bringing joy to as many beings as possible, and that that is also how we will save our world.

How does bean to bar work?

Unlike the majority of raw chocolate, which is made from raw cacao powder and other ingredients mixed together, our chocolate is made from raw cacao nibs (hulled cacao beans) and other raw ingredients such as coconut, coconut sugar and lucuma, which are ground together in a stone grinder over a couple of days. This is a technically complex artisanal process which requires exact ratios of ingredients and ingredients have to be added at certain times at a certain speed for optimum results. The time, speed and ratios of ingredients add up to make the chocolate’s texture and flavours, a bit like making a fine wine.

How does this create a better quality chocolate?

Cacao is very acidic so it is important that the chocolate is given time to release these acids and become mellow in flavour, especially when it is raw, otherwise it can have a very acidic flavour profile. It is also important for the texture of the chocolate that is has the correct time grinding, refining and conching – a process where each particle of chocolate is completely covered with cacao butter to ensure correct mouth feel.

What makes your chocolate healthier than conventional options?

There are several things that make our chocolate a healthier option:

  1. It is organic. Non organic cacao is a highly sprayed crop and should be avoided where possible.
  2. It is raw. Raw cacao has 10 times more antioxidants than regular cocoa and is the highest source of antioxidants than you can find in the world.
  3. It is vegan. Dairy can block the absorption of nutrients including the antioxidants mentioned above. It is also one of the most allergenic foods in the world, with a vast majority of people unaware that they have a sensitivity to it. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 75% of the world’s population are lactose intolerant.
  4. We do not use refined sugar. We use coconut sugar which is low GI – 35 compared to regular sugar which is around 60. This means that it doesn’t cause the massive spikes and troughs in blood sugar levels and is non addictive. It is still a sugar, however and we recommend people still eat our chocolate in moderation as a small part of a wholefoods, plant-based diet.

Are your ingredients fairtrade and sustainably grown and harvested?

We are so proud of our amazing ingredients. All of our coconut ingredients come from a social enterprise called Kokonut Pacific. They not only sustainably farm their coconut under fairtrade conditions but they actively do projects with the communities they work with that make a real difference to their quality of life and economic wellbeing.

Our hope is that every person realise their ability to make a difference.

Our certified organic criollo cacao comes from Peru and is grown under fairtrade, sustainable conditions certified by the controlled union and ACO Fair trade.

Is your packaging recyclable?

Our cardboard boxes are made from 100% recycled cardboard and vegetable based inks. We are about to transition to compostable packaging for our bars and are currently shelf life testing them at the moment which takes 12 months.