WHO IS LIVING KOKO?
Living Koko is an Australian company producing small-batch food, beverage and body products, made from cacao sourced by independent small plot farmers in Samoa and other Pacific Islands.
Our focus is on creating high quality indulgent and nutritious products, with our range including delicious rich chocolate bars, restorative and calming drinking cacao and teas, festive alcohol-free cacao beer, and luscious skin and body products.
Our products are handmade in Melbourne, Australia, and showcase the versatility and potential of cacao and the incredible power it has to heal and nourish the human body, inside and out. We believe in retaining the purity and goodness of our organic cacao, with our products sustainably and ethically produced and free from preservatives, artificial ingredients, allergens, and animal products.
Established in 2014, Living Koko is owned by husband-and-wife team Glen Reiss and Phoebe Preuss. Phoebe and Glen are supported by a team of dedicated koko-loving staff in the company’s home base in Melbourne, Australia, and a network of independent small-plot cacao farmers in Samoa and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Glen and Phoebe established Living Koko with friend Steve Ward after Glen and Steve were involved in a horrifying attack during a trekking trip in PNG in 2013. Eager to support the PNG locals accompanying them on the trek who were injured and the local village communities who had suffered loss of life and income due to the attack, Living Koko was created to empower their friends in PNG looking to enter the growing lucrative cacao farming industry.
With the cacao industry still marred by unethical practices such as widespread deforestation, price gouging, and slave labour, the premise behind Living Koko was to work directly with small-plot cacao farmers to provide ethical and sustainable export opportunities to Australia, whilst retaining indigenous farming practices and food sovereignty.
As luck would have, it just months before his trip to PNG, Glen had met the perfect person to help push Living Koko further than originally envisioned – his now wife, Phoebe Preuss! Phoebe’s grandfather was a revered pioneer of cacao “koko” farming in Samoa, one of the world’s top producing regions of premium grade koko.
Aside from being one of the country’s growing exports, koko is central to everyday life in Samoa. Drinking cacao – Koko Samoa – is not just the national beverage and a daily ritual for much of the population, but is a critical component of social interactions, ceremonies and business dealings. In many ways it is a conduit to bring people together and share ideas, stories, and emotional and spiritual connection.
Having grown up in Samoa around cacao farms, Phoebe’s technical knowledge and deep personal and spiritual connection to koko enriched the ‘why, what and how’ within the Living Koko team. Phoebe and Glen began developing and cultivating relationships with the country’s koko farmers, with intentions to encourage and empower more people – particularly women – to establish their own small-plot cacao farms.
Ensuring mutual trust, respect, and reverence for indigenous and traditional farming and business practices in Samoa has been the primary focus for Living Koko from day one.
Today, Living Koko works alongside approximately 130 small plot farmers in Samoa and other Pacific Islands, and is the biggest importer of Samoan cacao in Australia. We pay our Pacific Island farmer suppliers above the global per kilogram market rate for their cacao beans – supporting a real living wage.
Our product range of chocolate, drinking cacao, teas, beer, skin care, and raw cacao is produced at our manufacturing space in Melbourne, and is done so in line with sustainable and low-carbon practices.
We focus on employing and championing people from marginalised and minority communities, and pay our staff 15% above the award wage. The beautiful cacao we purchase from our partner farmers arrives from Samoa after being carefully fermented and dried for a number of weeks. Our Melbourne team then roasts the cacao, before grinding it, ready to be turned into chocolate, beer or prepared as drinking koko.
We are dedicated to being a low- and no-waste company, using as much of the cacao bean and fruit as possible. The inedible discarded cacao husks are used to create our teas and body products, and we hand-make and wrap our creations with compostable or recyclable packaging.
For centuries, cacao has brought people of many civilisations together for ceremony, healing, trade, and enjoyment. While cacao is best known in western societies for its production as chocolate, in communities like Samoa and other Pacific Islands, koko is revered and renowned as a central part of daily life – and has been since as early as 700AD.
Koko is used to feed families and villages, as part of spiritual ceremonies, to heal as medicine, as a way of connecting with others, and is a source of income and trade. Modern science now backs up what our ancestors have known for centuries, with cacao’s abundant nutritional properties making it a powerful superfood.
The practice of mindfully consuming cacao through drinking koko and tea, or eating dark chocolate is steeped in tradition and culture, and has extensive benefits for body, mind and soul. It is behind the growing interest in ceremonial cacao in western society. Living Koko works to provide ceremonial grade cacao in ways that are reverent and respectful of traditional practices, backed by education to limit cultural appropriation and misuse.
Central to our business, and the reason we get up every day, is to enrich and benefit communities through cacao and connection, while treading carefully on the earth. We owe our success to the relationships we have with people – from farmers and their villages, other small businesses, local government, community groups and our customers.
As our business and product range expands, so too does our work in sharing the benefits and stories of koko and the people who rely on it for their livelihoods. We actively work to connect our Samoan farmers to the small chocolatier businesses we supply to, expanding this opportunity to the wider public through a burgeoning ecotourism business in Samoa.
Living Koko is not just our name, it is how we exist and move through the world. Cacao has always had an incredible power to fuel, heal, connect, empower and comfort generations of people in many different ways, and the spirit and essence of this ancient bean permeates through the existence of Living Koko and everyone connected to us. We invite you to be part of our story!
Living Koko acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are based on, Narrm (Melbourne); the Wurundjeri and neighbouring Boonwurrung Peoples of the Kulin Nation, Australia. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. Sovereignty was never ceded.
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Unit 59, 56-68 Eucumbene Drive, Ravenhall. VIC. 3023, Australia - Wurundjeri Country
Living Koko - Samoa, Papauta, Apia, Samoa
03 9002 0067