What is water kefir? Forage & Ferment has brewed up the probiotic-rich (and award-winning) drink


Clevedon’s queen of fermentation has brewed a natural, low-sugar beverage that packs a probiotic punch — and won the Drink category at the Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards of 2020.

Words: Cari Johnson

There’s a peculiar beauty to cabbage gently gurgling away in a probiotic-rich brine. While fermentation may make some people squirm, Kelli Walker finds the burbling and babbling to be a lovely thing.

“Fermented foods are, in my opinion, the future,” says Kelli, owner of Forage & Ferment (see NZ Life & Leisure May/June 2019). “It’s about looking back to see how we’ve done things in the past and how we can make them relevant today — bringing some of these ancient wellness elixirs back into the spotlight.”

That’s why Kelli recently launched Wild Kefir — a crisp, soda-like beverage — as another nutrient-dense offering from her Auckland fermentary. The naturally fizzy drink, called water kefir, is lighter and more probiotic-dense than kombucha.

Kelli Walker in the Clevedon fermentary.

Water kefir is also a bit trickier to produce commercially. “Living beverages, and even more so water kefir, can be tricky to upscale, maintain consistency and minimize alcohol content. It’s been a journey to master all the variables, but it was worth it,” says Kelli.

The magic starts with a simple concoction of lemon, ginger, organic dates and organic sugar, which feeds a culture of bacteria and yeast. After the initial brew, the drink is flavoured with roots, shoots and berries in a second ferment.

The result is a low-sugar drink with a light, refreshing flavour. “We like to refer to it as a probiotic powerhouse loaded with billions of gut-loving bacteria. The more ferments in your diet, the more diversity you acquire in your gut,” says Kelli.

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Judges, not privy to Wild Kefir’s microbial profile, found the beverage pleasantly tasting and refreshing, noting its light effervescence. Forage & Ferment’s Ginger Root flavour was named champion of this year’s drinks category.

She started the business by trialing jars of her homegrown ferments at the Clevedon Village Farmers’ Market in 2017.

For stockists, see forageandferment.co.nz

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NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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