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