Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Day out at School

We have just spent a very stimulating day at St Lawrence primary school in Rowhedge.

It is Community week at St Lawrence school and we as a local business had been invited to talk to the children this Thursday. We had planned a walk through of our production line from inception to wrapping and selling, hopefully fitting into the 45 minute slots that had been allocated to us.

It was a little daunting at first, but soon the enthusiasm of the children swept us along and I was honestly quite relieved that there were 3 teachers and assistants with the year 4's or else things might have got a bit out of hand during the scent exploration session, there were rose petals and cotton buddies everywhere. Apparently we were very stimulating, which is a good thing in this day and age of  play stations and X-Boxes.

Anne heard one little youngster ask the teacher at the end of the day, "Are we going to make soup now?".

So maybe we weren't quite as brilliant at getting our message across, as we thought.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Purple Herbal

The swirled, almost indigo hue of Purple Herbal complements the deep, musky, but still sweetly herbaceous scent of the Clary Sage.

The recipe for this soap begins with an inky purple infusion of alkanet root, which takes a few weeks to fully give up its colour to the olive oil in which it is steeped.

Careful measurement and trials help us to make natural plant colours with varying degrees of intensity.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Calendula petals

We started to cultivate an allotment plot this year. We grew Marigolds as companion plants with our vegetables, now they have been cut and hung to dry. Their colour is so much stronger than the petals we have used before. Anne wants to make a strong citrus soap with grapefruit and sweet orange, calendula petals will feature too.

Update 12 April 2012, we have made this now, Lou Lou's Belated Birthday Bubbles

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Colchester Farmers Market

Unfortunately we will not be at Colchester Farmers Market tomorrow 3rd June,  this is not due to any fault of our own. 


We would like to apologise to our customers, that we can not be there this month, but En-Form (the local funded organisation that runs the Colchester Farmers Market) have asked us not to attend tomorrow.

The market is being held in Culver square and they told us that they have run out of space.

So you will be able to get your vegetables and meat at the market, but will have to trundle down to your super market and buy a detergent based soap, containing multiple chemicals, which has travelled miles, because they do not regard soap in the same category as the other stall holders' products.

I would have thought that soap (hygiene, washing your hands) is very much a complementary product with food.

You can contact en-form (Rowly Castiglione) via email or by phone on 01206 367776

New Hemp Bar - Quinti Scential, inspired by Katherin

Here is an image of our new Hemp Bar fresh out of the mold.

It it contains hemp oil instead of Shea butter, and has three strong colours deep burgundy, alkanet indigo with touches of pure creamy white.

We went a bit wild with the fragrances and mixed the deep base tones of Patchouli and Clarey Sage which is countered with a zingy citrus Sweet Orange,  this was rounded off with touch of Lavender and a little Geranium rose. 5 Scents in all and one of our most complex in terms of fragrances, but they have been carefully chosen to compliment each other.

We call it Quiti Scential

Friday, 20 May 2011

Shea Butter and Latex sensitivity

Thank you Katherin

We owe Katherin Flett a big thank you for recently pointing out that people who suffer from latex sensitivity may also be sensitive to Shea Butter. We met Kathrin last Saturday and Otley College's Big Day Out in Suffolk, she spent some time perussing all of our current range and eventually asked if we made one which did not contain Shea Butter, we showed her our Hemp Bar, which contains Hemp Oil as a natural moisturiser instead of Shea Butter. She walked away smiling and eager to try her new Basil, Black Peper and Lavender scented soap.

We are often asked questions by customers who have skin conditions, so this inspired me to do a little research about this topic for this article.

So where does Latex and Shea Butter come from ?

Latex is produced from the sap of the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis) a tropical plant, orginally from South America, although most production is now in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia. It is a  member of Euphorbiales order. There are many plants that produce a white sap when cut, Dandelions  (Taraxacum officinale) is a common example in the UK, the Rusian Dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz) has been used to produce rubber.

Shea Butter
Shea Butter is produced from the nut of the Karite Tree (Butyrospermum parkii).
Mature Karite Tree
It is member of the Ebenales order, grows naturally in the African savanna zone from Senegal to Ethiopia. The tree produces a nut which is about the size of a plum.
Karite nuts

Cross Allergens
People who allergic to Latex may also be allergic to certain foods. This is most likely because of the similarity between the latex proteins to proteins found in the food. The most common of these foods for latex suffers are banana, avocado, chestnut, kiwi, although there are others (see end of article for link to the full list).

I could only find anecdotal evidence (but quite a lot) indicating that people with Latex sensitivity may also have a reaction from Shea Butter. This is probably a similar cross reaction as in the foods, since the two plants Karite and Rubber tree are not closely related.

Not everybody who has a latex allergy gets a reaction to Shea butter.

Other Nuts
The Karite nut is considered to be a tree nut by the FDA (USA Food & Drug Administration). So if you are allergic to tree nuts such as cashews, almonds, pecans and walnuts among others, this might include Shea Butter too.

The peanut is actually a legume.  However, some children do have an allergy to both peanuts and tree nuts, best to check with your doctor.

It is worth pointing out that if you have a sensitivity to something and unsure, then it is always best to check with your doctor or do a patch test on your arm, before using anything in any sensitive part of your body.

Don't forget the vanilla fragrance.
I also noted, that Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) is also a member of the Ebenales order (like the Karite tree), and is the source of Gum Benjamin. This is used in perfumery and incense, since it provides an economical alternative to vanilla oil, Styrax benzoin can also be an allergen.

So what do you need to look out for on the labels.
The cosmetic industry have defined a standard list of names of ingredients. Known as the INCI list (International Nomenclature for the Cosmestic Industry).

Shea Butter has the INCI name Butyrospermum parkii

You might also come across other names for the same plant. The official name for the karite tree is actually Vitellaria paradoxa (and this is what you will see in wikipedia),  you may also see Butyrospermum paradoxa . There is also a change in the Order which this plant is a member some documents will use Enenales others will use Ericales. This is due to new new schemes for naming and classifying plants as methods improve for classification, we can now use genome mapping which was unavailable until recently.

Why use Shea Butter in the first place ?
It is a vegetable oil, composed of five principal fatty acids, oleic 46%, stearic 41%, palmitic 4%, linoleic 7% and arachidic 1%, so it can be used in soap making. Variations in percentile values exist depending on region, these figures are average values. The high oleic content (also in Olive Oil) produces a soft oil.

It has 10 Phenolic compounds which known to have antioxidant properties. The phenolic profile is similar to that of green tea, and the total phenolic content of shea butter is comparable to virgin olive oil.

Shea butter contains high levels of UV-B absorbing triterpene esters, including cinnamic acid, tocopherols (vitamin E), and phytosterols.

It acts as a natural moisturiser, it contains a high percentage of un-saponifiables, (they do not form part of the soap making process and remain in the finished product), such as phytosterols (campesterol, stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol , and alpha-spinosterol) and triterpenes (cinnamic acid esters, alpha- and beta-amyrin, parkeol, buytospermol, and lupeol), and hydrocarbons such as karitene (1, 2).

Allantoin, another unsaponifiable compound, is responsible for the anti-inflammatory and healing effect on the skin.

It has been used as a skin salve in Africa and applied to the naval of new born children. It is a natural skin conditioning and emollient, it's high content of oleic fatty acid means it is soft and therefore also used in cosmetic creams. It is good to cook with and for soap making, the EU have accepted it as a Cocoa Butter Equivilent (CBE) and is an ingredient of some chocolate as a substitute for cocoa butter.

What do Colne Soap Makers produce ?

We produce two types of soap bars at the moment.

Colne Bar contains Shea Butter
Hemp Bar contains Hemp Oil

Further Reading

Independent Newspaper


  • Sekaf Ghana Ltd Manufacturers faq 
  • Shea Butter village Blog

PROTA (Plant Resource of Tropical Africa) Database Entry

Scientific papers

A good Source of Plant Relationships
Jack Campin's, A Related Plant List shows the relationship between plants, but also lists their common alleric characteristics, his article was was written with inspirational help from Marion Bowles, an allergy dietitian based in Edinburgh.

Support Group website

American Association of Family Physician Articles about Latex allergies

Forum Articles

Discussion about Latex allergies with a couple of people mentioning Shea Butter reactions too.
A good response to a forum thread correcting some urban myths that developed during the discussion.
One persons view explaining connections between Shea Butter and Latex allergies.

Shea Butter Production

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Un - Scented Soap

Dave's Non-Scents Soap

The ultimate in simplicity in our Natural Soap range contains no-scents no colours at all.

In his own words :

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Goats Milk Soap - we kid you not

Goatsmilk soap was a challenge. The qualities of the milk that give the extra creamy lather complicate the soap-making. There is a very rapid generation of heat from the fats and proteins in the milk, so you have to work quickly and keep checking the temperature of the lye mixture.

If you get past this stage without incident, the soap mixture can still become unstable during the super-heating process that happens naturally once it has been poured into the wooden mould. If this happens, some of the oils that should remain in the soap are driven off, seeping out through the bottom of the mould and the soap is ruined, with gaping holes left in it. Not very appealing.

So the perfect method took three attempts to evolve and we still make this very special soap only in small batches, just 12 bars at a time, as it is easier to control the heat this way.

The smell of the finished soap is amazing and worth all the effort. The milk gives the soap its nutty caramel colour and sweet, warm scent, slightly reminiscent of toffee and the kitchen after baking.

To complete the fragrancing of Just Kiddin, Sweet Orange essential oil is added, plus a swirl of golden calendula petals within and on the top. One of my favourites, there's a bar of it in the shower at the moment.


Monday, 28 February 2011

Ebb Tide - A Salty Sea Soap

I wanted to make a salty sailor's soap that smelt of the coast and when the seaweed hit the hot soap in the pan, the whole room smelt of the sea and I knew this could be done.

So this soap is kind of tidal,  with a slightly minty green Spirulina base topped with a creamy white layer,  with natural sea salt and speckled with Bladderwrack seaweed.

As for the fragrance, it's a combination of the seaweed and a mix of essential oils, including  Peppermint and Rosemary, which is also known as 'Mist of the Sea'.  Lovely stuff to use when you'd rather be on a yacht than in the shower.

After all this work, we had a distinctive but still anonymous soap. Then late one night moored between East Mersea and Brightlingsea, and after rowing us back to shore against the ebbing tide,  Noel and Belinda came up with the name.

Mermaids like this soap too.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Grubby Gardener

We developed our Grubby Gardener soap because very dirty hands also need moisturising. We include Shea Butter in this soap, however we also use over a litre of olive oil in our recipe for a soap loaf that cuts into 30 bars. We do our cutting by hand and it's one of the nicest parts of the making process, with the smell of the freshly made soap in the room and the neat rows of bars accumulating one by one on the rack.

GG is a very cleansing bar with finely ground madder root and tea tree oil, known for anti-bacterial and deodorising properties. The scent of this bar is given extra depth with a blend of sweet orange and cedarwood essential oils. These fruity and woody scents are a very good foil for the slightly astringent, but clean-smelling tea tree.

This is one of our best-selling soaps, but don't leave it in the shed to use at the garden tap, as a customer's friend did. The mice clearly liked Grubby Gardener too, as the many tiny teethmarks demonstrated. (I will add here that our soap must not be eaten)

You might also want to try one of the soaps with exfoliating coffee grounds - Devilish Dark and Spice Macchiato.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Rosy Soap range

Rose Petal Top

Our Rose Soaps are some of the first soaps that we developed, however they have proved to be a very popular family of soaps, based on Rosy theme.

Geranium Rose is the base fragrancy, however our bars gain much of their appeal and aroma from the rose petals and buds which are incorporated.

Rosy Swirl

The gentle swirls of pink Rose Madder power gives a natural soft rose colour to the white of the natural soap. We roll the freshly made round bars in a bed of rose petals, to enhance the colours and fragrances.

These Rosy Swirls have just been cut and are now ready for decorating.
The round bars are also very popular with our retailers who have made gift sets and hampers included  our Rosy Swirls.

Rose Petal Top
Rose petals are pressed liberally onto the crisp white rose scented soap loaves after they have been removed from the mould, but before cutting into individual bars.

Cutting with the petals, produces random grooves on the surface of the cut as some petals are dragged down through the soap with the blade. This was unforeseen but quite attractive visually, making every bar slightly different. 

Rosebud Layer
Rose Buds are inserted into the top of the layered loaf, making delightful gifts.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

How to make Lavender Soap - Colne Soap Makers

Make your Own Soap at Home

This is something we filmed over nine months ago, when we were developing our soap, it;'s been edited so it condenses "How to make Soap", in less than 10 minutes. For some reason I didn't release it at the time, and didn't even include a recipe, durh!

I just found it again, here it is, I will find a good starter recipe in the next couple of days, so you could make your own soap at home. I hope you find it interesting. It's a typical BBC Blue Peter, "How you could do it home with fruit juice moulds", but I hope you find it interesting. (BTW, We don't quite do it like this any more, and have purpose built moulds, but you'll get the gist).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Moroccan Moon - with Coffee

Honey and benzoine give this tan specimen a rich nutty caramel fragrance. A sprinkling of dried coffee provides two dark layers and soft exfoliating characteristics to the soap.

It has been poured in three layers and scalloped on the top surface. It also combines a tube of pure Colne Bar, to make a moon affect, set above a Moroccan landscape (with a little bit of imagination and squinting you might see it too).

Probably our most adventurous, when we made it, incorporating several techniques and combinations. I had to work fast during the final stages, as it was prone to set quickly.

Moroccan Moon has evolved into several soaps in their own right. 

Spice Machiato, takes the Coffee theme a little further and combined with a coffee brew, it  makes a masculine bar. The embedded dried ground coffee, provides the base colouring and embedded lightly through out, gives a definite ex-foliating quality to the bar.

Customers have expressed surprised exclamations, and have come back to tell us, "That coffee thing, you know it actually works!"

Well we hoped it would. (I'll let you into a secret, it wasn't all guess work).

Maldon Mudlark, is rich dark brown and combines cinnamon and coffee to make this an extremely fragrant bar to use, good for working hands but being based on Colne Bar is moisturising too.

An invigorating bar to use at the end of your day.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Wrapped Soap

Current Stock

You can now see our current stock in the gadget on the top right column. It tracks our batches directly so it is up to date, if you can't make it to one of the Farmers Markets or local outlets, then you can always email your order to

Wrapped Soap for Sale

The photograph above shows our soap wrapped ready for sale in one of our soap boxes.

The waxed paper protects the soap after curing, but it still allows the colour to show through slightly.