In this blog post, I'll hopefully be able to give you a little insight into how Cocabana came to life! But before I do that, let’s start at the beginning...
For the last 10 years, I’ve been a professional Rugby Player doing what I love to be honest, even though the winter weather does get to you. I’ve lived and breathed the sport from my early days at school. However, I’ve always known that at some point, age sneaks upon us all and it's going to have to come to an end. I can’t be throwing an egg and running around a field for the rest of my life eh!
Because of this, I’ve dabbled in other things alongside training such as accounting and running fitness boot camps in the hope of finding a career that would sustain life after I retire. But I’ve never really found another passion or discovered anything that fulfilled my creativity... Until now.
Legend Bar - Coconut No.17
2019 saw the birth of a very different but important obsession... my love for coconuts! This was the starting point that led to the inception of Cocabana. I wanted to create something worthwhile and special that would not only benefit our planet but also the inhabitants on it, including the non-human ones.
Captain Coconuts - Coconut No.20
It all started in Bali. My partner and I embarked on our first holiday together in May, little did we know how this would be the start of an amazing journey, not just another holiday. Neither of us had visited the island before, but we’d had so many recommendations and heard such good things about it, we packed our bags and set off for a three and a half week adventure!
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang - 'Gates of Heaven'
After a 10 hour flight from Dubai, we finally arrived… It was around 11pm local time when we finally arrived. Blinded by the darkness, we tucked ourselves in at our little Airbnb, zipped up the mosquito net and tried our best to sleep and contain our excitement before beginning our first day in Bali together.
Our first glimpse of daylight in Bali was a stunning sunrise over a gorgeous pool outside our room… it felt like paradise straight away. We took in the picturesque views, embraced the slow way of life and shared conversations with the kindest people we’ve ever met.
But out of everything, the main thing that struck us was the incredible food. It was all so fresh, fragrant and colourful! We had huge portions of fruit and veg that we’d never seen or heard of before, let alone passed by in the aisles of Waitrose!
Shelter Cafe - Coconut No.1!
Coconuts were everywhere, and I mean literally everywhere! Having never tried them before, my love for coconuts became a running joke. I was addicted to drinking the water out of fresh young coconuts and it very quickly became part of my daily routine! They were massive and we consumed a whole coconut at least once a day!
Way too excited about coconuts...
The Balinese are very resourceful, we would have freshly made smoothie bowls served in handcrafted bowls made from the coconut shells. I know this sounds ‘airy-fairy’ but in a strange way, I felt even more connected to the food when I ate from the coconut bowls. There was something special about eating local produce from something so natural. (I’m pretty sure I have pictures of most of the coconuts we drank… I’ll add them at the end of the blog for you as well as some other shots of the trip to give you a vibe of the place!)
The Ubud Village Hotel - Coconut No.12
We travelled around a lot in Bali, both coastal and up in the hills. After spending five days in Ubud staying in an eco-lodge in the middle of a rice paddy, we set off for the Gili Air. It took roughly a three-hour boat trip to get there.. and it was absolutely worth it! The island was quiet and a little rough around the edges, but it was perfect. Out of everywhere, we visited, this was by far our favourite place on the planet. Most of our days involved riding our rented bikes exploring the island, snorkelling, yoga and of course… eating more coconuts!
Just before we jumped on the boat to Gili Air - Coconut No.???
We were sat in a café called Aura Bowls having more smoothies from coconuts when an idea of leaving all this behind when we returned to London sparked an idea. We were sitting here in paradise and I wanted the feeling to last forever. I wanted to be able to recreate it back home, but how? Would I truly be able to remind myself of this moment back in the UK on a cold damp day? That’s when it hit me...
Aura Bowls - One of the best smoothie bowls we had. Served out of a run down little shack!! Amazing.
I had declared myself quite the smoothie connoisseur whilst we were travelling due to the sheer volume of bowls I consumed!! My favourite combination had a base of coconut milk, banana and cacao... and that’s exactly where the name came from! Co-ca-bana - coconut, cacao, banana!
We had the most magical time and returned home with such special memories and a million (well perhaps a slight exaggeration) of photos. But I couldn’t get the word ‘Cocabana’ out of my head. I knew that I had this dream and some serious work to do! I spent three intense months glued to my laptop researching, spitballing ideas and somehow managed to miraculously bring Cocabana to life. I discovered that I could create something beautiful using shells that would otherwise have been left to rot or burnt like charcoal. So not only avoiding coconut materials that go to waste, but supporting the small, family-run businesses in Vietnam that would be able to carve everything by hand by artisans!
On the 1st of October 2019, I launched the brand, nervously, with no idea how it was to be received. I could not have been more pleasantly surprised! I started with 100% natural handcrafted Coconut bowls, reclaimed wooden spoons and bamboo straws. All three products completely connect to the Coconut obsession we had experienced in Bali!
It still feels so surreal even saying that!
It’s been a massive learning curve but three months in, I can finally say I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Project ‘bring the Bali experience to life’ is certainly underway. But not only that, anyone that has been travelling or has tried fresh young coconuts, will no doubt be taken back to their own experience when they use a coconut bowl or drink from a bamboo straw. You really do feel more connected to the food. Not only that, but the actual process of caring for the products helps to remind you of that natural connection with nature.
We've received some incredible feedback so far but there is one review from a customer that has really stood out. I’d really like to share it with you because she describes what the experience means to her in such a great way. Here it is:
‘A love letter to the Original coconut bowl:
I am writing to wax lyrical about my Original coconut bowl which I bought from your stall in The Boiler House in Brick Lane last Saturday. The lovely lady I spoke to, who said she was the mother of the founder, was most helpful, very knowledgeable and said she thought she didn't need one of these bowls until she started using one and now she can't do without it - I really agree! I love using my bowl for hot food, cold food, fruit, anything I like. I like the small size which is helpful for portion control, I like the dark colour which feels makes me feel like I'm using a freshly picked coconut, I like feeling all the different bumps and ridges, I like the uniqueness of the texture. I initially groaned when I read that the care instructions advised to wash straight after eating, not to air dry, not to soak and to immediately dry after washing - everything I don't do with my normal bowls. However I have now come to really enjoy and appreciate my ritual of carefully drying my bowl, it's nice and slow, calming and relaxing and I really admire and appreciate how nice it looks and how well made it is once it's clean and dry. I have yet to hydrate it with coconut oil but look forward to doing that when the time comes, I expect it will gleam and shine! I bought the fork and spoon too, which I love carrying around in my reusable small cotton bag as part of my zero waste kit on the move! I like to buy street vendor food and request for it to be put in my metal lunch container and then happily chomp away with my Cocabana spoon, forgoing the need for disposable cutlery, and then it is just put away in my container when I'm done, and I wash up both when I get home = no waste, no plastic, win win! My bowl has reminded me of the importance of slowing down, of valuing your possessions and caring for them properly, and they will take care of you. It also reminds me that you don't need much in life - simplicity, sustainability and minimalism really are the best values we can live by. Thank you for diverting these beautiful shells away from incineration and landfill and repurposing and upcycling them into a new lease of life.’
I couldn’t have put it better myself! Now that I am home, the act of eating from a coconut bowl reminds me of that ‘paradise’ moment time and time again. It's amazing how a sensation can take you back to such a vivid memory. I feel like that review really emphasises the many benefits of using nature's gifts, rather than stripping them away. What better way to start your day than with a bowl of amazing cereal, granola, porridge or smoothie in a wonderful natural coconut shell.
That is my dream for Cocabana. To educate my audience on how to be more present and mindful and not being afraid to take the time to care about themselves and the planet we all share.
I know that 2020 is going to bring even more challenges and tough graft but I’m ready for it! It’s going to be a busy year and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve got up my sleeve so keep your eyes peeled!! For those of you that have read this far, thank you! Here are the pictures for you to enjoy!
Thank you again and stay coconuts!
Legend Bar - Coconut No.17
Mowie's Sunset - Coconut No. 24
Content with life right here... - Coconut No. 22
Balibola - Seminyak
Balinese dancing - Ubud. (Cultured)
Speaks for itself here....
Potato Head Beach club - must visit in Seminyak!
Taman Tirtagangga - A former Royal palace. Big fish!