By Julie Lindow
Focus, focus, focus on Moringa! I just drank a Kuli Kuli raspberry, acai, Lion’s Mane mushroom, and most importantly, Moringa dietary supplement shot—it is nourishing my mind right now as I write. It tastes like slightly sweet matcha tea with raspberry and lemon. Yum!
Kuli Kuli is the future of food production. Their drinks, bars, and powders begin with the nutrient-dense green leaves of Moringa trees that are grown organically and sustainably on cooperative farms mostly in Africa. Moringa has many times more nutritional value than kale or dairy products. But there is more! Kuli Kuli’s mission reaches far beyond selling a food product, they want to create a world where everyone has access to nutritious sources of food and malnutrition only exists in history textbooks.
Do you love green shakes but have a hard time keeping your fridge stocked with fresh greens? I am thrilled that Kuli Kuli solved this problem for me. Their nutrient-dense powdered Moringa greens are a delicious addition to shakes, cakes, or savory dishes such as pesto—it is incredibly versatile. See recipes below. Adding this extra boost of nutrition to your daily diet is a natural and effective way to increase your energy, possibly reduce inflammation, and more.
For more information about the many health benefits of Moringa please click here.
I was thrilled to interview Kuli Kuli founder Lisa Curtis at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, California. The Fancy Food Show is one of the largest food product conventions in the western world where thousands of vendors discuss the food industry, network, and seek to expand their distribution. The point of the show is to build relationships, and that is one of the great strengths behind Kuli Kuli, so they are well ahead of the game.
Lisa Curtis joined the Peace Corps after college and was stationed in Niger (pronounced neejeer), Africa. While there, she started to feel the early signs of malnutrition, fatigue. The local women suggested she eat kuli kuli, a peanut snack with Moringa leaves mixed into it. The women were interested in selling Moringa locally and possibly to the United States market. Lisa listened to them and realized that the Moringa tree leaves were a way to provide the world with more nutritious food while also supporting sustainable farming practices, and farmers in low income countries. She also realized that building such a business would fulfill the Peace Corps’ third goal of bringing the work home.
For three years Lisa worked a day job while researching and establishing a business that could import Moringa into the United States. Her dedication paid off, and in 2014, she founded Kuli Kuli as a certified B corporation. Since 2014, she has worked with farmers, business partners, and staff to grow Kuli Kuli into a multi-million dollar social enterprise that sells Moringa products in thousands of stores and supports small Moringa farming communities around the world.
Kuli Kuli works with more than 800 predominantly women-owned cooperative farms in eleven countries. The farmers’ income is often used to afford better education and health care for their children, and thus the income has a long-term impact on the communities. Lisa acknowledged the history of imperialism and exploitation, and the importance of being culturally sensitive to issues that arise when white entrepreneurs from the United States work with communities in lower-income countries. Farmers in other countries want to find dignified opportunities to improve their lives, not handouts or exploitative systems of production.
Lisa explained that the key to building a strong business is not a top-down approach but a collaborative approach. She attributes her success to her ability to nurture relationships with her business partners, farmers, and staff. Indeed, the most successful new food companies seem to focus on building strong collaborative relationships with all producers in the supply chain from farmers to processors to importers and investors, as well as operations and marketing teams.
Kuli Kuli is part of a much larger movement in corporate culture, a shift toward B corporations. The goal of B corporations is to redefine corporate success from simply earning a profit to creating an inclusive and sustainable global economy. Learn more about B corporations.
Kuli Kuli is quickly growing beyond a simple food company and into a movement of like-minded entrepreneurs. For example, Kuli Kuli works closely with their partner Griffith Foods to not only grow Kuli Kuli, but also to develop new products, ideas, and solutions to nourish the world and drive positive change within the food industry. As a certified B corporation, Kuli Kuli has built within their legal structure the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Kuli Kuli’s B company mission includes supporting farmers with fair-trade practices. Also, the Kuli Kuli community is concerned about the limited and usually negative stories that American’s hear about Africa. To counteract these stereotypes, Kuli Kuli works to promote a variety of rich and positive stories about Africa and other countries where the Moringa farms are located.
One such story is about Pierrette, one of the entrepreneurial farmers who supplies Kuli Kuli with Moringa.
Kuli Kuli also helps to alleviate deforestation. This is in contrast to farming practices that cut down trees to grow grains or crops that use a lot of water and deplete the soil. Moringa trees grow using little water and therefore they can be planted in draught areas as a means to address deforestation. Kuli Kuli has planted more than one million Moringa trees to date.
Watch this joyful video to learn more about Kuli Kuli.
If you like the flavor of matcha tea, you will probably like the flavor of Moringa. I recommend adding a teaspoon of Moringa to your shake, cereal, or pesto and slowly increasing as you become familiar with the flavor. For two 8-ounce shakes, I started with one teaspoon. By the end of the week, I increased the amount to two tablespoons and we loved it. A teaspoon is barely detectable by taste buds in meals, so a teaspoon here and there can easily be used as a daily nutritional supplement.
Julie’s Morning Moringa Shake, made with Kuli Kuli Moringa
Lisa was right! I drank this shake every day for two weeks and felt my energy levels increase. The extra nutritional boost of the Moringa is a natural way to gain more stamina—instead of that third cup of coffee.
Add the following ingredients to your blender:
A half cup of milk or planted-based milk of your choice
1 tablespoon Kuli Kuli organic Moringa powder
About 4 heaping tablespoons of organic plain or vanilla yogurt
(I recommend Bellwether Farms Farms vanilla yogurt
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of organic blueberries or blackberries
1 finger of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon of organic agave syrup or to taste
Blend and enjoy!
Julie’s Moringa Pesto, made with Kuli Kuli Moringa
First, roast your pine nuts or walnuts in a frying pan on the stove. It takes three minutes and the fresh roasted nuts will take your pesto to the next level. Add a little dash of olive oil to a cast-iron skillet, toss the nuts around to coat them, and then sprinkle on a little bit of salt. Cook on medium heat and do NOT leave them alone. They will burn if you turn your back. Use your nose. Don’t touch the nuts. Once you smell a nutty aroma, they are done. Let the nuts cool a bit before you add them to the blender.
Add the following ingredients to your blender:
¾ cup of extra virgin organic olive oil
1 tablespoon Kuli Kuli Moringa powder
½ cup of freshly toasted pine nuts or walnuts
4 garlic cloves crushed or sliced (depending on how well your blender will grind them)
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
6 cups of basil leaves, about 3 bunches
1 teaspoon fine-grain salt or to taste
Blend until the mixture is smooth but still has some texture to it.
Here is a tip from my mom. Pour your pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. That way whenever someone is hungry, they can just pop out a cube of pesto and melt it over some pasta!
If you try these recipes and create your own twists on them, please let me know.
Kuli Kuli has many more recipes on their website.
Julie Lindow (aka Jules Lind) is a writer and editor. She is currently working on a series of detective novels set in 1940s San Francisco. Living in and creating a continuum from past to present makes for many a foggy evening walking through time, up and down hills, from libraries, to downtown, to the grand Pacific Ocean. As editor of Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theatres she wishes she were spending more time in San Francisco’s historic movie houses, what is left of them, but there has been a lot of work to do lately.
Julie has written for EatDrinkFilms about the birthplace of outdoor cinemas,, Greek Inspiration: Democracy and Deliciousness in Action at Souvla, a new restaurant in Athens called The Fabrika tou Efrosinos, Orson’s Belly, Secret Horrors at the Castro Theater , Cocktails Recipes, and Stookey’s Club Moderne.
Her writing has been making regular appearances on Medium.