MAMA’S THE WORD

For Liv Mc­gre­gor and Rene Sch­liebs, kom­bucha is much more than just a buzz­word ex­changed in trendy whole­food cir­cles.

Dish - - Contents - Story ASH­LEY ROPATI / Pho­tog­ra­phy JACKIE MEIRING

Two moth­ers are bring­ing cul­ture to He­lensville with a new kom­bucha cafe.

If you’ve made the pil­grim­age out west lately and fol­lowed your nose to Com­mer­cial Road, chances are you’ve no­ticed some­thing a lit­tle bit out of the or­di­nary brew­ing. Oc­cu­py­ing what was once an old butch­ery right in the heart of He­lensville’s main drag, is now an or­ganic kom­bucha café and brew­ery, with two trail­blaz­ing brew shop ma­mas firmly at its helm.

The West Auckland sub­urb of He­lensville and kom­bucha are hardly syn­ony­mous, in fact, the two are rarely used in the same sen­tence, but for two pas­sion­ate home­brew­ers, this de­light­fully lit, small town space pro­vided the per­fect launch pad for an in­spired new busi­ness ven­ture.

“We’ve had a few locals peer in the win­dow ask­ing ‘what’s this go­ing to be?’ and we say ‘it’s The Kom­buch­ery and they say ‘oh, another butcher…’ and off they go,” laughs co-owner and one half of the Mama’s Brew Shop duo, Liv Mc­gre­gor.

Both Liv and her nu­tri­tion­ist busi­ness part­ner, Rene Sch­liebs, ad­mit their jour­ney from home­brew­ers to proud lo­cal busi­ness own­ers be­gan in a per­fectly or­ganic, “weird kom­bucha-re­lated kind of way.”

“We've al­ways had kom­bucha at home and thought it would be cool to be able to find a grown-up ver­sion when you're out for lunch or out at night.”

“Rene and her kids, and my hus­band and my kids, were at a play­ground and some­how they got talk­ing about kom­bucha,” says Liv. “Rene men­tioned she needed a new scoby, and my hus­band said ‘Oh, you’d love my wife – here’s her num­ber, she’s got a scoby.’ So, Rene got in touch, we swapped scobys and prob­a­bly about a year af­ter that we be­came friends and de­cided that we should prob­a­bly be do­ing this full-time, do­ing this com­mer­cially.”

Af­ter swap­ping scoby (for the unini­ti­ated, scoby is an acro­nym for ‘sym­bi­otic colony of bac­te­ria and yeast’) Liv and Rene be­gan brew­ing out of a small fam­ily garage.

“It has been re­ally ex­cit­ing,” says Liv. “We’ve al­ways had kom­bucha at home and we thought it would be cool to be able to find a re­ally nice, grown-up ver­sion when you’re out for lunch or out at night, a sub­sti­tute for a glass of wine. Some­thing healthy and non-al­co­holic.”

Their first suc­cess­ful en­deav­our, Mama’s Brew Shop, is a beau­ti­ful man­i­fes­ta­tion of this bright idea. Two moth­ers join­ing forces to cre­ate an or­ganic well­ness prod­uct that they’re proud of, and a so­cial entry point for many bur­geon­ing kom­bucha con­verts and non­al­co­holic drinkers. While de­scrib­ing each of their del­i­cately-in­fused brews – the punchier, grun­tier ‘War­rior’ and the del­i­cately in­fused and restora­tive ‘Love’ – both ad­mit choos­ing be­tween the two is a tough choice, a bit like pick­ing a favourite child.

“It was im­por­tant to us to con­cen­trate on a pre­mium prod­uct for that night time space,” says Rene. “I think it’s only just scratch­ing the sur­face here in New Zealand. Over­seas, it’s mas­sive – there’s a mas­sive trend and it’s only just start­ing to fil­ter its way through here.”

Liv and Rene call on a va­ri­ety of nat­u­ral herbs and spices to flavour their Mama’s Brew Shop kom­bucha, avoid­ing ad­di­tives and sweet­en­ers such as ste­via to achieve a de­sired taste, in­stead em­ploy­ing a brew­ing process that is one of pa­tience and pre­ci­sion – as any craft beer brewer will tell you.

“It’s a mat­ter of tast­ing the kom­bucha at a cer­tain time, grab­bing the phone and say­ing ‘Liv, get dressed, let’s do this, it’s on.’”

“Ba­si­cally, kom­bucha is fer­mented tea,” adds Liv. “So you just make up a big batch of

fer­mented tea, brew the tea, add sugar – the bac­te­ria and yeast need sugar to feed. Most of that is con­sumed, so the fi­nal prod­uct is how­ever low in sugar. We flavour our brew with herbs and spices. Rene is a med­i­cal herbal­ist as well as a qual­i­fied nu­tri­tion­ist, so her skills with herbs are pretty amaz­ing, she’s been a big driver for our flavours.

“We small batch flavour ev­ery­thing and the fer­men­ta­tion process takes about five days, then it goes in the fridge.”

The duo say the lo­cal surge in craft beer pop­u­lar­ity has played a key role in driv­ing the way they bot­tle and mar­ket their prod­uct, look­ing to lo­cal brew­ers and busi­nesses, like West Auckland-based craft beer brew­ery Haller­tau, for points of ref­er­ence and sup­port dur­ing the brew­ing process.

“I think hav­ing that level of en­gage­ment is some­thing that the craft brew­ers do re­ally well. It’s been in­cred­i­ble, for us, be­ing able to visit those mi­cro-brew­eries and feel a con­nec­tion to the brand. That’s the mo­ti­va­tion for this place, and we want to pay that back within the North West busi­ness com­mu­nity.” As for what’s next for the ma­mas? “We started the brand with four flavours, but we put them to the side when Love and War­rior ex­celled,” says Rene. “We started at farmer’s mar­kets and craft mar­kets, just test­ing the wa­ters. But we are work­ing on new flavours.”

“As well as putting all our time and en­ergy to­ward this and into our kids, Liv and I are up at 2am in the morn­ing, brew­ing – by hand,” says Rene. “The rest of the year will be re­ally ex­cit­ing for the both of us, once we get the time to ac­tu­ally come up for air, and nut it out.”

“Our kids are pretty awe­some, the four of them are kind of grow­ing up as a big brew shop fam­ily now. They spend a lot of time to­gether and they love each other – it’s very cool,” adds Liv. “There would be very few sales meet­ings that we’ve been to, with­out at least one of them on the hip – es­pe­cially the lit­tle ones.”

“That’s all part of it,” adds Rene, flash­ing a smile. “It’s real – we are Mama’s Brew Shop, that’s what it is.”

“It is what it says… on the la­bel!” adds Liv, a no-fuss mantra that’s every bit as re­fresh­ing as you might imag­ine. To learn more about kom­bucha head to dish.co.nz.

TH­ESE PAGES: The Kom­buch­ery is the new kid on the block for the He­lensville com­mu­nity.

THIS PAGE: The ma­mas are fol­low­ing over­seas trends by of­fer­ing kom­bucha on tap as an al­ter­na­tive to a glass of wine when out and about so­cially.

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