By Susan Schenck
A full sized store with products
that are about 90% organic and 93% raw in Cuenca? In the three years I’ve been
here, I never thought I’d see it! No longer does one have to travel to the
Juice Factory in VilcaBamba now that Cuenca now has Tienda Nectar, located
at Benigno Malo 10-42 between Gran Columbia and Mariscal Lamar, on the first
floor, beneath Nectar vegetarian restaurant and tea house.
The store was started by Carl
Nordeng, owner of Oro Blanco and managed by Ken Regan, who recently joined the
company. Among their bestselling products is Oro Blanco (literal meaning: white
gold), extra virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil is the best oil for cooking as it
remains stable and doesn’t go rancid when heated. It’s greater benefit is to
the body and brain, increasing metabolism, lowering risk of diabetes, heart
disease and improving cholesterol levels.
Recent studies show that 1 tbsp taken twice daily improves cognitive function and can even reverse Alzheimer’s. Used on the skin, it’s also a sunscreen. I use it all the time in raw food desserts such as chocolates, ice cream, and pastries. It is a bit more expensive than the oil in the U.S. because that comes from Asia where coconuts are five cents each and labor is $5 a day (as opposed to here, where coconuts are as much as $1.25 each and labor is $17 a day). But the owners of Oro Blanco go to great lengths to make sure the coconuts are all organic, and that the oil is as unprocessed as it gets (using the DME method). “People complain about the cost, but the quality of this oil can’t be beat,” remarks Ken. “The cheaper oils use bleach or chemicals in their processing, but we don’t” To learn more, go to: http://www.naturalnews.com/036156_Coconut_oil_superfood_healing.html#ixzz2eg9FalvT
Another bestseller is a line of colloidal minerals made by Amazona Herbals, a family business in Guayaquil. “We are trying to incorporate more products made by locals,” says Ken. “Unfortunately, many of the superfoods from Vilcabamba cost as much as they do in the U.S. because the producers are used to getting top dollar for exporting them, and don’t want to lose money by selling it to us at lower prices.”
In this store I’ve found raw cacao (chocolate powder and whole bean), maca, spirulina coconut flakes (and don’t worry—the spirulina is local and unscathed by Fukishima), and much more. But what excites me most is the yacon root. For years I’ve had to import that from the U.S. and the carbon footprint trail starts at Peru, where the product is shipped to the U.S., and I then have it mailed to Ecuador! I knew it was ridiculous, but I simply couldn’t find it here, but now I can. Yacon root is a sweetener that keeps the blood sugar stable, is low in calories, and is great for diabetics, weight loss, or weight maintenance. Ken informs me that another great, low glycemic, sweetener they offer is lacuma, which is rich in trace minerals and vitamins and has a butterscotch flavor.
I’ve often heard that “anything can grow in Ecuador,” but Ken admonishes me that this is a myth. “Goji berries are expensive at the store because they come from the Himalayas in India. What skews growing certain things here is the equator factor, which messes up the life cycle. Gojis in the Himalayas are at a high elevation, but also a higher latitude.” He agrees that hemp would likely grow here, and is useful for many things like seeds (high in protein), clothes, and fiber. It’s illegal in the U.S. but could be grown here; it’s just that no one with the capital has had the vision to do it. Hemp could create whole new industries in Ecuador. A long term goal for Oro Blanco and the Tienda is to promote superfood cultivation in Ecuador.
Ken offers free iodine testing to clients and the store sells iodine to those who need it. He envisions offering more tests and education to not only the gringos, but also the locals, since he speaks Spanish fairly well. “Our goal is health education to the masses.
The store also sells probiotics to replenish the gut flora with healthy bacteria. “You can’t absorb supplements without a healthy gut,” Ken notes. They also offer chemical free soaps, deodorants, detergents, and are working on chemical-free, coconut oil based cosmetics. They offer a full line of essential oils made in Ambato, Ecuador and products from The Raw Food World and Longevity Warehouse.
“I’m breaking things into smaller sizes so they are more affordable to try,” states Ken. “For example, the Ancient Minerals magnesium oil was $25, but now a smaller $9 bottle is available.”
“There is a lot of synergy in the building,” says Ken. “We have our Tienda Nectar on the first floor; there’s an organic vegan restaurant on the second (Nectar Café); and there’s Cuenca Holistic Health Center on the third floor. The building also hosts organic markets on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am to 1pm, selling organic veggies, free range chicken and eggs, raw milk.Health is the overall vibe of the building.”
The men are not in this for the money: Most products are on consignment and the markup is a mere 20%. But they feel they are growing at a sustainable level. They are on a mission to educate South America on optimal health. Included in the products are my raw vegan crackers and my raw food book, The Live Food Factor. The company is listed in the Cuenca Guide to Holistic Health.
Susan Schenck, LAc, is the author of Expats in Cuenca: The Magic & The Madness. She is also a raw-food coach, lecturer, and author of the two-time award-winning book, The Live Food Factor, The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet, which has gained a reputation as the encyclopedia of the raw food diet, as well as Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work. Susan also holds raw-food-prep classes in Cuenca and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.