Simon Coley of New Zealand success story Karma Cola is one charming man, who is also helping to make the world a better place. Karma Cola, Gingerella and Lemony Lemonade are stocked in cafes throughout New Zealand and Australia and also at high-end supermarket Waitrose in the UK. All the drinks are made from organic, Fairtrade ingredients.
We caught up with Simon at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, he was in town for a fiftieth birthday celebration, on his way back to New Zealand, after visiting Boma village in Sierra Leone where the cola in Karma Cola is sourced from. We chatted about incredible African style and which alcohol is good to mix with the new sugar-free range of soft drinks from Karma Cola.
On the most stylish man in Boma
'He’s a blind man, that’s the funny thing. He turned up at Boma, the village in the Golden Rainforest, where we get our cola from. All of those villages are beneficiaries of the foundation, so they’re pretty excited about seeing us and we were pretty excited about seeing them. They were fantastically dressed, the women were in these bright print dresses and the men all had fantastic sunglasses and hats. Great looking threads. I’m sitting in the town hall of Boma, looking around and realising that I’m the worst dressed person there. These guys look sharp, they have these beautiful biscuit tin hats, little cylinders, embroidered and these printed fabric shirts. The next day there’s one guy who just looks perfect, he’s standing outside the mosque, he’s so comfortable with himself and he looks sharp. He makes the baskets that people use to separate the husk from the rice when they shake the rice and he makes other baskets that are used to carry cola on people’s heads. He gets raffia from the rainforest and pares it back with a knife into finer strains and uses that to make the baskets. He was just sitting there, smoking a cigarette, doing his thing, letting the world go by.'
'We started making Karma Cola about five years ago, so we’ve been getting cola from there since then. We wanted a relationship that we could support, since then we’ve expanded across eight of these villages in the same district. The difference now is that there are more things that we are involved in happening there, there is a rice huller that we’ve helped fund, two of them now. There’s more infrastructure, there's more kids going to school, especially girls. We’re providing funds for education. Helping rehabilitates forest farms that we left to go wild during the ten-year war.'
On new drinks range Dry
'There are lots of people that want drinks with less sugar in them, and we thought we could just use fake sugar, but we couldn’t use anything chemical-based because everything is organic. We thought why don’t we just come up with some flavours that are fine without sugar, so these ones, ginger and pear, raspberry and lemon, apple and feijoa and lime and cranberry, they don’t have any sugar in them. The great thing about these flavours is they just stand up on their own. I’ve been quite enjoying gin lately and gin with the Drys go quite well. You need that little bit of bitterness for it to work.'