by Helen Martin
The commercial space just up from Copy and Print that has for years served Helensville as a butcher’s shop has been beautifully refurbished and re-opened as The Kombuchery, with a venue for making kombucha at the back of the building and a tap room for serving it to customers at the front, where it can be sampled, drunk by the glass or taken home in bottles. For those not familiar with kombucha, it is a delicious, organic, preservative-free fermented
herbal tea, served cold. Records of its origins are diverse, but in one account it was invented in 220BC for the Chinese Emperor Qinshi Huangdi and named “The Tea of Immortality.”Co-owners of The Kombuchery Rene Schliebs and Liv McGregor don’t claim to be selling us everlasting life, but they can vouch for its health-giving properties.
Rene, a nutritionist and medical herbalist and Liv, whose background is in marketing and sales, have been interested in the health benefits of “all things fermented” for some years, including brewing kombucha for family and friends. “Fermented foods support the proliferation of good bacteria throughout the digestive system and that in turn supports immunity and good brain health” Rene explains.
After the pair decided to pool their complementary skills and make a commercial venture of their passion for kombucha, their progress from back yard to main street in just a few months has been nothing short of meteoric. Liv had the essential ingredient, the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (ie the SCOBY, aka the mushroom) to start the fermentation process, Rene provided garage space for their commercial kitchen and they soon found a ready market for their product, branded Mama’s Brew Shop. With Rene coming up with the recipes and Liv taking care of marketing, they secured their first wholesale customer in January this year. Within a short time, they were selling to around 50 bars and restaurants (while there are a few kombucha brands in New Zealand, Mama’s Brew is the only one sold in the bar/restaurant/cafe setting as an alternative to alcohol) and, after early on extending the garage to cope with making larger quantities of kombucha, they realised they needed even more space and so The Kombuchery was born.
Each batch of kombucha is brewed on sitein 1000-litre barrels. Currently there are two flavours: ‘The Warrior’ is a ‘sturdy little number’ flavoured with lemongrass, ginger, thyme and turmeric; ‘Love’ is a soothing brew flavoured with lavender, rosehip, hibiscus and vanilla. The Kombuchery also sells Eighthirty coffee, cakes and slices made by Janice who runs Food For Thought a few doors up the road and pies from I love Pies in Matakana.
Locally there has been a lot of interest in the venture, and many see it as a sign of things to come. “Helensville has a diverse population and there are a lot of young families moving here because they don’t want to be in the middle of Auckland,” says Liv. “Hopefully, having this beautiful space for good coffee and kombucha will be the start of something for the town.”
Photo Credit: Stellanova Photography