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Having a keen interest in superfoods, I do love finding new recipes that I can incorporate them into my daily life. Amongst my hundreds of cookbooks, the fabulous Hemsley sisters have an Acai Berry Breakfast Bowl recipe. I always wanted to try it but it uses freeze-dried acai dried powder which doesn’t sound that inspiring…until now! That’s all because of the wonderful Nicholas and Marilena Thomadaki who have brought this incredible product to Ibiza – Organic Acai in a 100% pure pulp form with the added bonus of super energising guarana extract.
The purple ‘wonder berry’ is deemed one of the most potent superfoods on earth as it contains 42 times more antioxidants than found in fresh blueberries and even more nutrients than spirulina. Due to the wonderfully nutrient rich soil of the Brazilian Amazon – Acai contains an exceptional concentration of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, omegas and digestive fibre. As well as the obvious nutritional benefits, Acai is known to help aid weight loss too, it has anti aging properties, improves digestion, boosts energy levels, supports the immune system, increases muscle mass regeneration and can lead to clearer, more beautiful skin. It really has a list that ticks all the boxes and I’m all over it!
I had the joy of spending time with the inspirational Nico and Marilena at their gorgeous home in St Mateu. On arrival I was greeted by their four excited Jack Russell’s – two of which were heavily pregnant, so immediately I am very happy indeed.
We discussed their incredible life changing journey and their discovery of the power of acai and superfoods. Nico and Marilena’s philosophy is simple– to take responsibility for what we ingest, to understand of the need to take care of the gut in order to maintain a truly healthy existence. And since their health has improved dramatically, they realised that this was fast becoming their new passion – to make people aware of the importance of eating healthy and the associated benefits it can bring to your life.
We all sat together (dogs included) eating an Acai breakfast bowl recipe that Nico very kindly whipped up – I was actually astonished by how delicious it was.
It has a wonderfully deep rich berry flavour with a velvety mouth feel, rather like a thick blended smoothie. It was topped with chopped apple, banana, fabulous crunchy buckwheat granola (homemade by Marilena’s expert hands) and then sprinkled with added powerhouse super foods’ chia seeds and 100% raw cacao. I have to say it was a real taste sensation – almost unbelievable that it can be so ridiculously good for you.
Nico and Marilena are one of the most vibrant and inspirational couples that I have had the pleasure of meeting, they exude a passion for what they do and have a genuine energy that I found infectious and totally uplifting. I now have a freezer full of Acai pouches that I am loving experimenting with and I have already been back to play with the newly born puppies – oh happy days! Here are the questions I asked this delightful couple…
One of the pivotal reasons for seeking this powerful superfood was after Marilena suffered severe illness after IVF treatment – which left you on the verge of developing cancer. How did you hear about the incredible health benefits of Acai?
“A friend of Marilena’s in America first mentioned the power of Acai approximately 10 years ago, but it was very hard to find in Australia and the truth is that I was very dubious of it and thought it was just another marketing ploy to sell a new product on the market. Almost 5 years later Acai started to be served at juice and smoothie bars when Marilena tried it a fruit shop…and fell in love with it.”
What is unique about the production of your organic Acai?
“We work with co-operatives and farmers from all over the Amazon Rainforest. This ensures that our Acai is of the highest quality because we deal direct with the natives who have been harvesting Acai in the most fertile areas. It also ensures that we don’t get affected by poor harvests which tends to happen when you rely on harvesting in only one location in the jungle. Further to this, Acai needs to be frozen (or consumed) within 24 hours to ensure it doesn’t spoil and lose its antioxidant capacity. To ensure this happens our Acai follows a 3-step process from being handpicked in the jungle to being placed on the boats on the riverbanks before making their way down to our facilities. Of course, our Acai is certified organic which ensures there are no nasty additives or preservatives added between the picking and the freezing.”
What were the main challenges in this project that you faced and how were they overcome?
“We had a few challenges. The first being was that we had to inform the public about this new product, some of whom have never heard of Acai or even what a ‘superfood’ is. Another challenge, more of a personal one, was believing whether or not the public would actually take to this new product on a large enough scale to make this project become successful. This was overcome with trust which has now led us to a new challenge – informing as many people as possible, tourist or local that Acai is finally here.”
How has this incredible journey had a fundamental effect on your lives?
“It’s the first time in our lives where we are working on a project that doesn’t actually feel like work because we love what we do. This way, all activities associated in our project are new and fun, leaving us feeling blessed each day that we get to meet new people, new venues and new surroundings in Ibiza. It’s also so comforting that we are offering a new product to people where 99% of the response after they taste it for the first time is incredible.”
“I have been travelling to Ibiza since 2004. I was 22 years old and visited the island 4 times in my first European summer as I loved it so much. I continued to visit the island approximately every two years and in 2012, Marilena and I decided that we needed a change from living the every day life in Australia. I guess we simply followed our heart and both chose Ibiza. The more we live here, the more we realise why our hearts wanted us to settle here…you can’t defy the law of attraction.”
Sustainability and fair-trade practices are very close to your hearts. What gave you the incredible idea to use the waste (the inedible seeds of the berry) to make jewelry? What else makes your product sustainable?
“We cannot claim the idea of the jewellery using the seeds, this idea came direct from the locals – but we are huge on sustainability though. We also give our seeds to other locals who can use them for fuel fire as opposed to cutting more trees. It is very important to note that the more Acai we sell, the more chance we give hope to the Amazon (the lungs of the planet). By protecting the source of Acai we are saving trees from being cut down for cattle and soy farming.”
Your campaign ‘Ibiza Helps the Amazon’ sees 10% of profits of all Organic Acai sold on the island this summer going back to farmers and families that harvest the berries. The welfare of the farmers is obviously of great importance to you…?
“Absolutely. It’s simple…without the farmers who climb the palm trees, some of which are 25m high, we wouldn’t be here right now. The well being of the farmers, their families and their community in general is of utmost importance to us and we actively work to ensure that it only improves as time progresses. We’re aiming to raise enough money to build a school structure for the children of the locals who work with us.”
I am a new Acai convert and cannot wait to see the benefits – what feedback have you received from people that use your wonderful product?
“One of our dear friends on the island visits us most mornings for his daily fix of Organic Acai. He is 68 years old and up until a few months ago drank alcohol every day for the last 10 years. When he first started eating Organic Acai he didn’t think it had a delicious taste and it took Marilena’s persistence to make him continue eating it. After approximately one month he realised that he loved the taste of it, his sense of smell had increased, his energy levels were the highest he can remember them to be and his skin had become more vibrant. This was great for us as one of the many benefits Acai has is that it improves hydration in the skin. He has also increased his appetite which you might think “oh no…I want to lose weight!” – however Acai does aid in weight loss but it is more of a weight balancer. During these 10 years of excessive alcohol he consumed very little food as he never had an appetite, which led to a case of malnutrition and him weighing only 45 kgs. His daily intake of Organic Acai has increased his appetite because it has flushed his body of unwanted toxins and his body is now craving the nutrients of other foods it needs which he has introduced into his diet and single handedly improved his life. Now his diet consists of superfoods and organic fruits and vegetables and he proudly tells people that he now weighs 48kgs and feels much, much younger!!”
Being the island of hedonism there is a definite movement towards healthy eating – do you think it is here to stay?
“Yes we do. People all over the world are getting to know what is happening to our food before it arrives on our plate. From the spraying of herbicides and pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, to modification and patenting of seeds to the severe abuse of animals in factory farms. The truth is becoming more apparent which will naturally unfold into a change towards healthy eating and not just here in Ibiza.”
How would you feel if mixologists on the island used Acai in their cocktails? Would this go against the grain of your principles…?
“Marilena and I don’t drink alcohol, so for obvious reasons we don’t promote mixing Acai with alcohol. However we do live in Ibiza and clever mixologists on the island will and already have started to create Acai cocktails. We are creating recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails using Organic Acai so we can offer a truly energising drink whilst partying in Ibiza.”
Where can the fine people of Ibiza purchase your product?
“People visiting the island can enjoy Organic Acai bowls, juices and smoothies at beach bars, hotels, cafes, restaurants and juice bars all over. Some of the more popular venues include Destino, Blue Marlin, El Chiringuito (Es Cavallet), Es Vive Hotel, Sa Trinxa, Nassau Beach Club, The Beach House Coco Beach and Don’t Panic It’s Organic. Locals who want to incorporate Organic Acai into their daily diet and prefer to buy packs to take home and make their own creations can purchase at most organic supermarkets. The serious converts who want to stock up their freezer can contact us direct to buy whole cartons and receive a significant discount.”
What are your aspirations for 2106?
“Before we enter 2016 we want to end the 2015 season with all of our clients thanking us for a beautiful product and great service. We then plan to leverage off this for 2016 by entering other markets on the peninsula and other parts of Europe. Throughout this time we will continue to create awareness of healthy eating, conscious consuming and a positive mindset to all of those who discover Organic Acai.”
You feed your darling dogs (who I am in love with) Acai – could there be a possible pet food venture in the future?
“Ha ha. Our dogs do eat Acai and they absolutely love it. Just this past weekend we had a stall serving Organic Acai at a food festival in Amsterdam and one of the patrons who visited our store also had her dog with her. We couldn’t help but notice him placing his nose on the table as close as he could to samples of Acai. Marilena offered her a sample for her dog but she was confident that he wouldn’t like it as he was “a fussy eater”…he ate three of them!!! For now, we haven’t even thought of the possibility but who knows??”
Is it fair to say that Ibiza has magic like nowhere else?
“Of course. It has a beautiful flow that if you can become one with allows you to embrace life with a happy and conscious heart. The complexity and amount of synchronicities you can experience on this island are exactly that – magic!”
What other superfoods are you both a fan of?
“We are big fans of chaga, pine pollen and mumijo which aren’t your typical superfoods but nonetheless have amazing properties and are of the strongest food supplements known to man. We were introduced to these and others, shortly after moving to Ibiza.”
Finally, what message would you give anyone that is dubious about the power of this astonishing superfood?
“If you don’t believe that Acai is as amazing as what we say it is, then ask the strong, fit, lean, muscular Brazilians who have been consuming this wonderful berry for hundreds of years and still have the same gratitude for it until this day. Can I also mention that with Acai and any other superfood you are proposing to incorporate into your diet, it is important to note that your digestive system needs to be intact to ensure that your body actually extracts the goodness from what you eat. Making sure you have a good balance of good bacteria in your gut is paramount before spending loads of time and money on any superfood. That said, eating Organic Acai on a daily basis will definitely leave you feeling more energised, improve digestion and help detoxify the body as it contains incredibly high amounts of antioxidants, which are crucial for good health.”
It’s also worth knowing that Nico and Marilena offer private catering with their wonderful product…a perfect remedy for those who have over indulged or simply to compliment a detox treatment/retreat programme. Check out their website below and please support these amazing people…