Fair Pay & Ethical Treatment
We insist that the people who farm the ingredients are being paid fairly, treated ethically and farm in a manner that preserves the planet for future generations.
The ancient Berbers or Amazigh people lived deep in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, defying icy winters and sun-scorched summers in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
And there they still are, today, remaining loyal to their traditions and way of life in some of the most hard-to-reach parts of the African continent. During the dry season, communities band together to dig underground water wells for irrigation. What little crops they grow barely survive. Homes are made from pressed clay, with no glass in the windows. Women and children are left behind in their villages while the men move to the cities to find work, only returning for one or two months of the year. It’s no surprise that women and children make up over eighty percent of the population in these regions—and the responsibility of caring for their families, the crops, animals and the village falls on them.
One thing that thrives in the arid soil of the Atlas Mountains is the argan tree, endemic to Morocco and unique in the world. Known as the “Tree of Life” to the Berbers, they have known and used the argan tree for its many health benefits for centuries.
Traditionally, the women collect the fallen argan fruits, remove the flesh and hand-crack them to extract the kernel using centuries-old techniques. Nowadays, the oil is then cold pressed to the highest standard in a modern, solar-powered processing facility in the village. BioBalance works with a cooperative of 450 Berber women in five villages to provide a 100% certified organic Argan oil, with no additives or preservatives: the product which you now hold in your hands.
The women back in Morocco are being paid Fair Trade prices, and their wages are handed directly to them—not their husbands. But there are more ways of making a difference to the lives of the women and children in the Atlas region.
Natural products, cruelty-free
We believe natural health products should be cruelty free – (no testing on animals), and contain nothing that damages the natural environment.
Chia seeds — these days it is more common than not, to see them in many a pantry. Having taken the natural health world by storm some years ago these tiny, shiny seeds have proven to pack some serious punch in terms of their health benefits, plus they’re so damned easy to incorporate into your diet. Knowing more about where ours come from and the story of the farmer has only sealed the deal for us, we’re in superfood love.
BioBalance Certified Organic Chia Seeds are farmed organically in the ‘Yungas’, land that forms part of a mountainous rainforest extending from Northern Argentina to neighboring Bolivia and Peru. United by friendship and a love for the land, the Blanco and Dadah families began farming together back in 1946. Right from the getgo helping the people of the area was a priority and over time, they have taken on many locals who may have otherwise struggled to find work. As the farms were their ‘life’ at the outset, so it has become for the people they employ; they work where they live and live where they work, celebrating births, deaths and everything in between, as one huge family. This speaks to organic farming methods — head of the farm Roberto explains:
‘When herbicides and genetic engineering were introduced to increase profits, insects and weeds disappeared from the fields and gradually, the people… organic production on the other hand, provides work for many people.’
Roberto forms part of third generation of the Blanco family who farm today and who is passionate about increasing production standards while protecting the environment and engaging their local community. Their chia is produced under rigorous quality control yet because they employ many people, they are able to use ancient methods — such as weeding the crops by hand.
Although it is a more labour intensive way of farming, it is far more sustainable in the long term, Roberto says. The countryside became a ‘profitable desert’ with the introduction of herbicides, pesticides and genetic engineering, but none of these is sustainable he explains:
When GE no longer works, more chemicals are needed to maintain momentum. Big companies made us believe that without these chemicals there would be no agriculture and I admittedly, believed them. Over time I questioned these imposed methods and initiated a change towards organic methods; I got seeds from my parents, bought old machinery and started the producing healthier foods, respecting the environment and taking care of my team of people.’
What & how to use
At BioBalance we refer to our chia seeds as nature’s complete superfood: a nutritional powerhouse for energy, endurance and strength. Chia seeds were used by messengers in ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures who referred to it as ‘oro negro’ or ‘black gold’ — as mega-energy food for sustenance. With complete proteins, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, chia has more omega 3 than flax seeds and it’s readily available with no need to hull or grind the seeds. Added to water, chia seeds create a gel of soluble fibre that supports colon cleansing and digestive health.
BioBalance Certified Organic Chia Seeds are also kosher certified and Non-GMO.
All BioBalance products are GE-free and manufactured to strict New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards.
BioBalance Bee Pollen is ethically sourced from a supplier in Christchurch and comes from beehives in the lower South Island of New Zealand, from the Rakaia River to North Otago. The proliferation of gorse, willow trees, dandelion and white clover in that part of the country combined with a dry temperate climate, provides an ideal environment for bees, in that there is a constant supply of pollen as well as easier conditions for beekeepers to collect pollen.
Our supplier Alastair is a beekeeper alongside wife Jane. He describes working with bees in the way that Kiwis do, as ‘a bit of a passion really’ and an occupation that keeps you on your toes. ‘They’ll certainly let you know when they don’t like something’ he quips, citing 20-30 stings a day as being something they’ve become used to.
Jane explains that (plastic) mesh is used in order to collect the pollen. While metal was once used and still is by some suppliers, Jane and Alastair favour the plastic mesh as it is a gentler mesh which ensures the bees are not harmed during pollen collection. As the bees enter the mesh, some of the pollen they have collected knocks off into a tray which when full, is taken away and frozen at -18 degrees celsius, air dried, cleaned and then frozen again. The reason for this, is that pollen is high in moisture and will go mouldy in a matter of days; it is also favoured by moths, so freezing and drying are both methods of preventing a pest infestation.
It must be said that bee pollen is quite beautiful to behold, especially that from New Zealand. The speckled blend of gold, yellow and orange hues with the odd glint of pea green is down to the wide variety of plant sources here, Alastair explains. Gorse bloom and dandelion yield intensely orange pollen, willow trees yellow and clover, brown. A trawl of beekeeping blogs turned up mentions of pink and purple pollen and sources such as tree fuchsias, tree lucerne and berry bushes being responsible – and it’s a source of lively debate! On the other hand, pollen from outside New Zealand will often be a uniform colour extracted from a single plant crop. The variety of plant sources in the region where Alastair and Jane get pollen from is not only good for colour though; it also ensures that there is plenty of pollen for the bees (which is their primary protein source) meaning no need to add extra food sources such as sugar syrup which some beekeepers need to do — also plenty of pollen means that any pollen extracted does not deprive the bees at all; Jane explains that a lack of pollen for the hive due to excess extraction is risky and bad for bees — she and Alastair have a deep understanding that if they don’’t take care of their bees, their hives will deteriorate and not survive the winter, so their bees’ health is the number one priority.
Bee pollen has a sweet taste and mildly chewy texture so it’s perfect for sprinkling on cereals, as a coating for bliss balls and some even mix it with spreads such as peanut butter. Added to smoothies it gives a mildly sweet flavour. It is advised not to cook it due to its nutrients potentially being lost.
Bee Pollen is nature’s own powerful energy and immune booster.
- Energy, vitality and physical stamina
- Immune function and recovery from illness
- Natural hormonal balance
- Healthy sleep patterns and emotional wellbeing
- Balanced metabolism and weight management
- Highly bioavailable vitamin and mineral nutrition
We source organic products wherever possible, as certified by Asurequality Organic NZ . Pure and naturally sourced materials combined with rigorous testing.
Matcha. This Japanese green tea variety has become uber popular in recent times, its vibrant green hues splashed all over Instagram in the shape of matcha lattes, ice cream and raw treats. There is far more to Matcha than meets the eye, however.
BioBalance Certified Organic Japanese Matcha Powder comes from ‘Ise-cha’ green tea leaves carefully hand-grown on organic estates in the highland valleys of Japan. Their location overlooking the verdant Ise Bay inspired their name, and if that’s not enough, these delicate leaves have a history of over 800 years — quite mindboggling.
Our farmers in Japan are proud of the product they supply and when asked by us, they were super keen to share with us as much as they could, on their journey to becoming organic producers. They explained that they wanted to produce a pure, safe product, but that this does not come easy! A crop’s yield drastically decreases for several years after conversion to organic cultivation, plus they had to deal with the challenge of pest invasion. Added to the the fact that tea leaves can’t be washed, so meticulous attention was necessary. Good old trial and error ensued, the farmers’ belief in the power of nature endured — and so with time, beneficial insects like birds and ladybugs returned to the tea plantations. ‘You can feel the quiet, clean air and the birds singing when you visit the area,’ they explained. The work involved can only be described as a labour of love, as each plantation has essentially its own ecosystem as has been nurtured by these dedicated farmers. Their efforts have eventually born fruit and the tea yield has increased, having regained its power naturally.
It was great to be able to have this exchange with our farmers in Japan to hear about their journey to organic cultivation. Their message to us was simple: ‘We hope that people in New Zealand enjoy our organic matcha.’
The best Matcha is manually harvested, each May, before which from 20 days up to six weeks it is covered in vinyl sheets (it was straw once upon a time) rendering vast green fields entirely black, quite a sight from above. This ancient practice of blocking out the sunlight concentrates the levels of chlorophyll, a green antioxidant pigment which supports your body in eliminating heavy metals and chemicals. The practice of shading the leaves also concentrates the production of L-theanine — an amino acid which not only gives your brew its smooth ‘umami’ flavour. but supports concentration and focus and when combined with Matcha’s modest caffeine content, it may give you a feeling of alert calm.
*Umami, translated literally, is pleasant or delicious taste. It is also known in Japanese as the “fifth taste” alongside sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is the full, complex, intense, full-bodied flavour profile found in matcha thanks to the high amino acid content.
The two leaves at the tip of each new shoot, i.e the greenest and most tender — are the only ones picked. They are steamed to preserve colour and nutrient density, then dried in large cages equipped with heated blowers. Once dry, they are graded, then the laborious and immensely time-consuming task of destemming and deveining happens. The leaves that make it through this rigorous process are called tencha, the quality of which varies widely. After a period of refrigeration, the leaves are ground into a very fine powder known as matcha, using large granite wheels that rotate gently and slowly to avoid scorching. To grind 30 grams takes over an hour, one of the reasons hand-milled matcha costs so much. It is this grinding process from which matcha — literally, “ground tea” gets its name.