Guest interview: Krisanga Cowen of Vivapura! »
I have a history of awesome vegan roommates (see: Vegan Myths Debunked creators Jonathan and Ivory). My new roommate here in Patagonia, Ariz. is the awesome Krisanga Cowen. Krisanga (far right) took a break from grinding sprouted raw nut butters and making coconuts delicious to tell Vegansaurus readers about how much he loves promoting a health-conscious, plant-based lifestyle through Vivapura, the vegan superfoods company he co-owns here in Patagonia. Here’s the skinny on this fit and loving veg guy and his approach to incorporating superfoods in a plant-source diet! Hope you enjoy!
Vegansaurus: How did you get into veganism?
Krisanga Cowen: My best friend since kindergarten Todd got me into the Smiths. At 16, we dyed our hair blonde to look like Morrissey and kind of idolized him. In 1985 Smiths came out with “Meat is Murder.” That song opened our eyes to what actually goes on in this country and factory farming and how animals are mutilated. We went vegan overnight. Later, I read John Robbins’ Diet For a New America, and I actually went to vegan restaurants, which I’d never done before. I studied with yogini Kali Ray for seven years on and off, taking classes [and] workshops, [being] among other teachers, and really admired her way of eating plant-source-only, mostly live, all-organic foods for health and yoga.
How did your previous business, Cocopura, which sold only coconut products, become Vivapura, which sells an extensive line of superfoods?
I had one product in four different sizes: coconut oil. My quest for developing more products was moving to Patagonia in 2007, renting a 6,000-square-foot warehouse. I met Chris Whitcoe, and he and I were both master’s students. I had connections for superfoods. I had just built a commercial kitchen for coconut products and I started selling gogi berries and Incan berries and nori sheets and Monukka raisins, basically out the back door. I mainly sold to guests and people working at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. That’s how Vivapura was born.
When did Vivapura officially take off?
We formed Vivapura in September 2008, and got into Whole Foods and other stores in 2010, in addition to our online and in-store sales. The idea behind Vivapura was to create raw vegan products that haven’t been seen or available on the marketplace—unique, hand-crafted products like coconut crème that’s stone-ground, our chaparrel coconut oil, our soaked and dehydrated nut butters…. Sourcing products that are heirloom varieties that are unique to different regions of the world. Styrian pumpkin seeds are only grown in Austria in that region, and heirloom variety of pumpkin seeds that are robust and GMO-free and high in zinc and protein and chlorophyll. Our products were designed to be eco-friendly, vegan, non-GMO, and delicious. We hope Vegansaurus readers will enjoy them!
Is most of the Vivapura team vegan or vegetarian?
We support local people and give them a voice inside our company…we open a space for people to transform. A lot of people become vegetarian or vegan after working with us; we accept the mainstreamers and teach them about gogi berries and how to eat vegan and feel great on superfoods. We expose people to ways not to need processed foods, in a healthy, supportive environment where your voice matters and is taken into account for decisions the company makes. That really impacts an individual. They shift, grow, expand and become more open and expressive. Naturally, that often leads to vegetarianism or veganism.
Guest post: Raw adventures in kelp noodle desserts »
On Saturday, as I was chilling on my eco-friendly bed meditating for peace and waiting for my girlfriend to wake up so that I could tell her about my plans to become a six-figure woman, I had a radical insight about a sea vegetable—a divinely inspired culinary insight. I leaped out of bed, trying not to wake up the hotness still dozing beside me, and knew what I had to do. There was a seaweed that had been inappropriately neglected in the raw dessert world, and it just so happened to be sitting in my fridge! Ladies and bois and grrls and men and trannies, I now introduce you to: RAW KELP NOODLES IN DESSERTS!
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before: raw kelp noodles have practically no flavor after you soak them, have a super-awesome texture and there’s like three calories for a big bowl. They soak up sauces (check out the wonderful Heather Pace‘s delish-looking recipes for savory raw vegan kelp noodles) and keep their form in both hot and cold dishes. Imagine eating raw cacao-coated kelp noodles, oozing with flavor but still light and low on the glycemic index. Yes!
Here’s my first attempt at using raw kelp in desserts. Spirulina genius/partner extraordinaire Courtney Pool enjoyed them, too. I hope others start experimenting with the concept of kelp in dessert!
Raw Cacao Kelp Noodles
Soak kelp noodles for a while; 20 minutes is good, or you can do longer if you’d like them to be a bit plumper. Melt the cacao paste (with a dehydrator, or on the stove with low heat, or in the sun…), then add a bit of cold water and immediately stir frantically until it becomes a mousse. Check out Vegansaurus’ chocolate chantilly recipe for directions on achieving this texture. Add in stevia to taste and a dash of sea salt. Then, toss in the kelp noodles and coat evenly. Chill in the fridge. Add a sprinkle of coconut as garnish, or perhaps some other topping you’d like. Enjoy!
This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post, a slightly different version of which originally appeared here. Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Spiritual Hipsteria. Thanks, Sarah!
Raw vegan food from Vivapura rocks! »
Unless you’ve been living in a fantasyland that involves subsisting on only defrosted leftovers from SF Vegan Bakesales (hey, I don’t judge!), you probably know we vegans can benefit greatly from supplementing our deep-fried vegan Twinkie intake with some raw greens now and then.
Whether or not you fall into the camp that refrains from cooking their food, if you enjoy yummies that taste amazing and are still healthful for you, I highly recommend checking out the excitingly awesome products from the brand-new raw vegan superfoods company Vivapura, located super-close to the Tree of Life raw vegan retreat center in Patagonia, Ariz., which is a tiny town (pop. 1,000) 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border where approximately one in 10 residents is a raw food vegan.
Since I live just up the road from Vivapura (I’m currently living and working at working at the Tree of Life), I recently had a chance to drop by the Vivapura warehouse factory and sample a bunch of their stuff. According to Vivapura’s website, superfoods are “plant-based foods that boast extraordinary energizing and healing properties due to their abundance and density of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, and other vital nutrients.” From the stuff I tried, I have to say I can’t feel a noticeable change in my body, but either way, Vivapura’s stuff tastes amazing. Their superfood products range from raw regulars like cacao nibs, cocounut flakes, gogi berries etc. to more obscure items like wild-harvested spirulina crunchies (spirulina is a protein-packed algae that tastes way better than it should) and several proprietary blends of upscale, nutella-like coconut chocolate crème spread. All of their products are organically grown, ethically sourced and sold at really reasonable prices! (Note: Vivapura does sell a few bee-derived products, which I avoid of course, but everything else is animal-product-free.)
As of right now, Vivapura is only available to SF Bay Area folks through ordering directly from the company’s website or the Tree of Life Culture of Life Store. The good news is Director of Retail Sales Erika Rier assures me Vivapura has laid the groundwork to get their loveliness into Rainbow Grocery, and other local Bay Area independent organic stores really soon. If you want Vivapura products sooner rather than later (which, trust me, you do!) Rier says to request them from your independent local organic retailer.