The above headline for the online version of an article that appeared in the print edition of Auckland’s Metro Magazine (the original article appeared under the name "The first comprehensive* New Zealand kombucha tasting") certainly caught our attention a couple of weeks ago when it appeared online.
After reading the opening paragraph, they definitely had our attention:
“The first comprehensive* tasting of every bottle of buch in the country, blind-tasted by Metro.
(*One prominent brand wished not to be included in this tasting lest it become associated with inauthentic buch. A couple of others just didn’t reply).”
“So, where did our WabiO kombucha score in the opinion of the esteemed tasters of the lifestyle magazine?” we wanted to know. The answer was a bit sobering.
No, WabiO kombucha did not appear near the bottom of the list – we didn’t appear at all.
But, but, but… Wasn’t this supposed to be the first “comprehensive tasting of EVERY kombucha in New Zealand"? Why was WabiO not included? (And no, we were neither the one refusing inclusion nor did we ignore inquiries by the magazine.)
After closer look at the "comprehensive" list of every kombucha in New Zealand, it started to dawn on us: this list was far from comprehensive and nowhere near the full list of kombucha made in New Zealand.
But let us explain...
Sure, they included multiple flavours from every brewery, but even then, the picture nationwide would likely not be any different. A conservative estimate of flavours per brewery would be around 3-4 (we know of a few breweries only producing 2 or 3 flavours, but the majority produce 5-6 different flavours like us). That would bring the total to something like 100-150 flavours/bottles of kombucha in New Zealand. Pretty impressive, we think. Much more so than 34...
So, the question now would be why this “comprehensive review” is so incomplete?
First off, some of the biggest and most of the oldest kombucha breweries in New Zealand are missing in this review – Rene’s Kombucha being a notable exception. We were about the third or fourth kombucha brewery in New Zealand when we started brewing as WabiO in 2012 (we had been brewing as Earthwise Gourmet for a Farmer's Market stall a couple of years prior to that). The first commercial brewery in New Zealand was Kombucha King, which started about 3 years before then. In the 2 years after we started, a number of breweries, which count now amongst the biggest in the country, started and none of them, except Rene’s Kombucha, was included in this article.
The second thing that jumps out when reading through the list is that it seems strangely Auckland-centered. Sure, Metro is an Auckland magazine – but they said “every bottle of kombucha in New Zealand”, not "in Auckland". There are at least eight breweries in the South Island (four alone here in Christchurch), but only one made it onto the list…
Granted, many kombucha breweries in New Zealand service a small geographic region. But if one were to taste-test all of New Zealand’s kombuchas, it wouldn’t be hard to get them shipped. And obscurity doesn’t seem to be hindrance to making it onto Metro’s list, either. A number of the breweries we had never heard of (which doesn’t mean much, since they likely didn’t exist a little while ago), and a brand we never heard of, called “Baby/Bestie”, is apparently not even available in a bottle but only by the glass in a particular hospitality establishment. In comparison to that, 90% of the breweries in the list below are far, far less obscure and much easier to source directly.
Speaking of obscurity: WabiO won a Cuisine Magazine Artisan Award in 2016 for our “The Headless” Kombucha. So, while we are currently mainly available in Canterbury, we certainly aren’t obscure or hidden too well to be found.
Lack of availability in Auckland can’t really be a true reason, either. The majority of the bigger brands that are missing in the article are available in Auckland. And all of them are produced in the North Island. The missing inclusion of New Zealand’s pioneers, Kombucha King (Napier), was especially puzzling. Although, they just closed their business a couple weeks ago – but Metro couldn’t have known that for their July/August 2019 print edition…
So, what really is it then? Laziness of the editor in researching which kombucha breweries really exist New Zealand? Some sort of corporate article sponsoring that’s not disclosed? We’re clueless and just a tad disappointed.
Articles like this are harmful for a small industry like ours. While it’s great to do comparison tastings (there should be MANY more of these), to proclaim that the selection of barely more than a quarter of New Zealand kombuchas represents “every kombucha in New Zealand” could be seen as either misleading or straight deception. We get it – articles with a title of “Every”, “Best” and such simply sell much better than “some of the best” – but it’s dishonest journalism. If you state that you’re ranking “every kombucha” in New Zealand (with the admitted exception of 3 brands), then you better do your best to actually source EVERY kombucha in New Zealand.
The people missing the most by reading articles like this are the trusting readers. They trust that they’re well informed and might even go out and buy “the best kombucha in New Zealand” (which is a highly subjective manner in any case), while they are unknowingly kept ignorant of more than two thirds of the kombucha produced here.
I encourage you all to read through the list of New Zealand kombucha breweries below and try to seek one out that’s not included in the Metro article. You might find some real gems among them…
New Zealand Kombucha Breweries (as of Sep 2019)
Please shout out if you know of anyone we’ve missed…
Awaken Kombucha (Timaru)
Banjo Brews (Blenheim)
Block 5 (Tauranga)
Born and Raised (Christchurch)
Canterbury Kombucha (Christchurch)
Daily Organics (Matakana)
Everybody's Kombucha (Auckland)
Evolve Kombucha (Auckland)
Good Buzz (Tauranga)
Good Fizz (Auckland)
Happy Belly Ferments (Wairarapa)
Kapowai Brewing Co (Dunedin)
Kate's Kombucha (Masterton)
KB Kombucha (Wellington)
Kombucha Bros / Renegade Ferments (Nelson)
Kombucha City (Auckland)
Lyttel Ninja (Christchurch/Lyttelton)
Mama's Brew Shop (Auckland)
Mama Zing (Northland)
New Leaf Kombucha (Auckland)
Nutrition by Nature (Northland)
Organic Mechanic (Auckland)
Papa's Kombucha (New Plymouth)
Rene's Kombucha (Northland)
Something Big Is Brewing (Hamilton)
The Drink Co Kombucha (Hawke's Bay)
WabiO Kombucha (Christchurch)
Yeah Brew (Dunedin)