Tell us about what you’re making for us today?
Mmmm, it's one of my favourite drinks to make all year round; a healthy take on the classic hot chocolate. Come rain or shine, I'll make either a hot or chilled version of this energising drink made with powerful, functional, all-natural ingredients. You can make it in several ways, the foundations being a plant-based milk, raw chocolate or raw cacao powder, a little coconut or olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a selection of superfood powders, herbs, spices or tonic herbs (such as maca, ashwagandha, he shou wu, beetroot powder or something more familiar like cinnamon or ginger). Today we had some shop bought vegan chocolate, so we simply melted it down with some coconut milk and added olive oil, he shou wu and a pinch of salt. You could also add tahini or a nut butter to thicken. Today we enjoyed our hot, but you could also pour over or blend with ice for a chilled version.
Where did this recipe come from and what inspired it?
I guess it's inspired by the traditional hot chocolate, but it’s also something I’ve been making for myself for years. When I started eating really healthy and changed a lot of areas of my diet, I was super happy to discover cacao powder and raw chocolate as an alternative to one of my favourite sweet treats. I think somewhere along the way whilst experimenting with tonics and drinks that I would pack with all kinds of powders and herbal ingredients, I discovered using cacao resulted in something that tasted just like the hot chocolate or chocolate milkshakes from my childhood. Cacao is incredibly energising and I often turn to it instead of coffee for a more balanced and nutrient dense caffeine hit. I just love how powerful it is, and so I tend to enjoy a cacao-based drink like this once a week. It’s so easy to make, so delicious and has so many health benefits, from enhanced energy levels and cleansed skin, to elevated moods and improved concentration.
What are you reading right now?
Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. It sounds super woo-woo, but it's basically written by an intuitive healer, and discusses all kinds of approaches to spirituality, exploring religions, ancient teachings and traditions from several cultures, and energy. It’s fascinating. I am super into energy work and healing and believe everything here on earth and beyond is made up of the same energy. We communicate on an energetic level and we give off and absorb energy from other people, nature, situations, feelings and thoughts. I'm currently learning about correlations between illness and energy, and how this manifests physically in the body; it's blowing my mind.
‘Well Being’ is the title of your first book where you talk about connecting the mind, body and soul, through holistic practices, where did this idea come from?
This was genuinely such a natural progression of my own life experiences, daily rituals and wellbeing routines. I was approached to write a book a few years ago based on recipes from my blog, but I had to put this on pause whilst I set up my business Qnola. During this time, I travelled a lot, wrote a lot, learnt a lot and studying and trained in alternative therapies, which too my focus away from jus food and really expanded my knowledge or the human body and mind, spirituality, energy and overall wellbeing is about much more than just a healthy diet and consistency fitness. I just really wanted to share everything I had learnt and all the things that worked for me. With my business in full swing, I wasn't regularly able to update my blog or event my Instagram and I also think both online and social media are so crowded with information and content. a book felt like a much more special project and I really wanted to create something people could keep for a long time and dip in and out of at different stages of their lives; something that wouldn't get read once or scanned, and then forgotten about. It is more of a manual to support readers to live more positively, openly, calmly and healthy, long-term.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Lie in bed for a few moments and adjust to being awake. I think about my day ahead and my schedule and just take a moment to breathe and stretch before getting out of bed. If I'm in the habit of it (it comes and goes), I will meditate for 20 minutes, but if I'm out of the flow which happens quite often, I will down 1-2 glasses of water, tongue scrape and cleanse my face, make a hot drink (herbal tea or a tonic) and start getting ready for whatever the day holds. Usually I'll do a morning workout or yoga before settling down to work, going to the office or heading to meetings, castings or shoots.
How do you like to wind down after a stressful day?
It depends how stressful the day has been and how affected I feel. I tend to absorb stress and hold onto it which manifests physically in my chest, shoulders, neck and/or stomach. If I'm super stressed, ill do yoga or go to the gym or for a run and listen to my music really loud to block out any thoughts. Using exercise to relax has made such a difference to my life, as I no longer feel like its a chore to keep in shape physically, but also a necessity for mental clarity. Other times, I will make time to see a friend, or speak on FaceTime to my parents or my boyfriend who lives in Sweden. This is always so calming. The power of people and connection is so underrated. Support, understanding and input from another persons point of view always helps to calm me down, ground me and bring me back to a more rational, open and accepting frame of mind. Then, there's always watching a series or an old movie if I really just want to switch off from work and fully surrender. Works like a charm.
Do you think you will write another book, and what will it be about?
I would love to write another book, and I already have some ideas. I'd love to share more about the recipes and rituals of other cultures, as I think in the western world our idea of living well and feeling healthy is so short minded. I have also been working on a smaller booklet / zine called Well Being & Other Stories. Its sort of an extension of my website, covering recipes, rituals and interviews from inspiring people from all over the world. I would love to do a few more of those, and also continue to create content for my website.
You’re entirely self-driven and self-taught from seeing first hand how a poor diet can affect your health. Is there anything you would like to learn more about?
Ah, there is SO much. I am one of those people who has this weird kind of hunger for life. I love meeting new people and I am so interested in other peoples lives and how people live, and although I never really loved school , I love to be constantly learning; there’s a difference now though in that I am interested in so many things that I genuinely want to explore more, unlike at school when I didn't feel engaged with most of the topics I was more or less forced into studying. I recently trained in holistic massage, and this made me relay want to learn more about aromatherapy and other energy and massage work and alternative therapies. Reiki has always interested me but I'm not quite ready for that yet. I would also love to study herbalism. and I'd love to spend time doing short courses in the future too; I never even did a business course when I started my business, so there are some basic things I think it could be worth knowing! And I'd love to learn something more hands on and creative, like textiles and pattern making or sewing, and screen-printing. I come from a pretty creative family so there is a strong artistic DIY streak in me.
Could you tell us about a favourite ancient recipe or practice that you’d swear by?
I love qigong and do-in, some techniques i picked up whilst studying Shiatsu. They are really energising movements and stretches aimed to work the meridians of the body, to release tension and enhance energy and movement within the body.
You first lived in Stoke Newington when you moved to London, and the Qnola offices are based in Haggerston. Where is your favourite place to visit in East London?
I love East London, its got such a nice village-y vibe and as a small town girl growing up in the countryside outside Bath, i love anywhere with a small, local feel. It’s hard to choose a favourite place but i love the canal, and i love my local park Clissold. An ideal weekend would be spent browsing the stores along Stoke Newington Church Street, and chilling in the park with friends.
We recently read in an interview that you love to travel, what is the best place you’ve been to? And what made it so special for you?
I love to travel, and it seriously soothes the soul. One of my most memorable trips was a few years ago with my best friend. We spent some time in Cuba and then travelled around Central America. I was super stressed before going, and the entire trip was so eye opening and inspiring. One thing I love most about travelling is the people you meet along the way. we met people who lived with so little, but who were amongst the happiest and most content people I’ve ever met. That was really grounding. I love travelling too as it really brings people together. Unless you're staying the best hotels and eating at the best restaurants, its like people are almost equals. No one knows quite where they are or what they're going to discover. No one has many belongings with them. And everyone is exploring and discovering new things usually on a budget. It is just really like getting back to basics and being present and that’s why I’m so addicted to it. There is always so much to see and learn from other cultures and countries; the experiences are literally endless.
As a business woman, what’s the best advice that you’ve received and what advice would you give?
I have received so much good advice from fellow female entrepreneurs, and also from my friends and family. I think a support system is the most crucial thing when starting your own thing. You need supportive people who get what you're doing, give you advice and won't be pissed if you can't make time for them as much as usual, but who will always be there for you regardless when the going gets tough. My mum always says 'stay in your own day' which really helps to ground me and to stay present, especially when I’m comparing my business to much bigger businesses, for example. She also said quite early on, when I was super stressed, 'it's just granola. No ones gonna die if they don't get their granola'. It sounds brutal, but this kind of mild tough love was just what I needed. When you have your own business, you get so caught up in your own little hustle, that it seems like the be all and end all. Any little thing that goes wrong seems like the end of the world and its especially hard if you are the only person who can sort it. But, remembering that its really so small insignificant in the wide scheme of things is really important keeping grounded, keeping it real, and not letting things get to you too much.
We read in an interview that you began packaging Qnola from your kitchen and sending them out via post, How has the expansion of your business developed in the production line? And the structure of your business as a whole.
Yes, it’s true. I used to spend my evenings and weekends off work baking and packaging Qnola in my kitchen until the early hours. My flatmates and family thought i was crazy. From there, I moved into a commercial kitchen when I started selling to stockists, just for space and storage and also to meet specific regulations. I continued to make it here by hand alone for a year or so before hiring my first employee. Since then, we have expanded and outsourced production to a local factory; where everything is still made by hand in small batches. We have a really great relationship with our manufacturers too, and are always working to improve the products and come up with new recipes. The structure of the business is pretty stream lined now, finally. But it takes a while to get there. I think I definitely learnt the hard way, and in future if I were ever to start something new, I think I would be much more prepared, and would probably seek to work with a manufacturer from the get go. But I wouldn't change any part of the process. The struggles have made all the successes so much more meaningful!
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