Honey Mama’s Aims to Sweeten Your Life – Sans Sugar, of Course

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“I wanted to create a sublime experience of eating where the texture of the food is simple and pure — something that makes your body feel good after eating it.”

STORY BY CHAD WALSH
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF HONEY MAMA’S

Christy Goldsby says she’s never been much of a sweets person — not when she helped run Blue Gardenia, her family’s now-shuttered Mississippi Avenue bakery, and not today.

That’s not the stance you’d expect someone to take as she heads a growing company that produces cacao and honey nectar–sweetened snacks. But Christy’s Honey Mama’s Cacao-Nectar Bars aren’t your normal sweets, either. They’re vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and, with the exception of the cacao that’s roasted into some of her 3-ounce bars, raw, as well.

They’re also made with ingredients that are direct-trade, non-GMO, and organic, all the way down to the honey Christy sources from her friend Matt Mickelberry, who harvests honey for her and others from his apiary in nearby Troutdale.

Today, Christy says, Honey Mama’s packages and sells a half million bars each year. But, she admits, it almost didn’t happen.

After Blue Gardenia cloased five or six years ago, Christy bounced around between jobs, working as a photographer, as a manager at Pok Pok, and as the full-time mother to her and her husband’s two children.

But a few years back, she dipped her toes in the healing-foods world after a close friend was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. As an act of empathy, Christy fermented foods for her friend and made prototypes of what would eventually become the first Honey Mama’s honey bars. And as an act of sympathy, Christy, too, ate what she made for her friend.

And then something funny happened. Christy liked what she made. Those primordial bars may have been sweetened, but they weren’t overly sweet.

After spending four years of R&D trying to come up with treats that would be healthy for digestion and work against inflammation, Christy launched Honey Mama’s in 2012 at the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. At first, she worked solo; then, her operation expanded to three employees. Today, Honey Mama’s employs 28 people, and the operation is preparing to move into a new manufactory in North Portland.

“I love the idea of getting back into the food community and bridging the love of eating to eating healthy foods,” says the self-described “treat-maker.” “I wanted to create a sublime experience of eating where the texture of the food is simple and pure — something that makes your body feel good after eating it.”

Just don’t call it a chocolate candy bar, though. Some of her treats include roasted cacao, but they’re not tempered to have the snap of traditional chocolate. Rather, Christy considers her treats to be more like brownies or truffles.

As such, you won’t find Honey Mama’s Bars in the chocolate aisle. Because each bar is made with mostly live ingredients, you’ll find them in your market’s refrigeration section. In fact, if you let your bars get just a touch warmer than room temperature, they’ll start to soften, thanks to natural ingredients like coconut oil, rose petals, lavender oil, and coffee beans.

Today, you can find Honey Mama’s treats in groceries and food co-ops throughout Oregon, California, and Washington. They’re also available in intermountain west states like Wyoming and Nevada, and can be found as far away as New York City.

And, of course, you can always find and place orders for Honey Mama’s “body-loving” treats on its website, honeymamas.com.

Chad Walsh is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. He contributes to — and sometimes pinch-hits as editor at — Eater PDX and writes for other publications, like Edible Portland.

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