Traditionally the go-to beverage for Vikings, rebels and kings, an ancient drink is being revived, with a sparkling Kiwi twist.
Wanaka-based entrepreneur Chanelle O’Sullivan has recently launched a honey-infused, sparkling mead through her start-up company, Borage + Bee Meadery, with the alcoholic beverage hitting the market last month.
Mead is traditionally a still wine, sweetened with honey and fermented by yeast and can be traced back over 9000 years, making it one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to humanity.
With the help of qualified brewer, scientist and beer-judge Sam White, O’Sullivan added carbonation and reduced the alcohol content to 5%.
“Sam is a problem-solver with years of experience and shedloads of brewing sector knowledge. I couldn’t have asked for better brewing brains!” she says.
She was also careful to choose sustainable packaging as she wanted to make sure she was on the right side of history.
“Environmental impact and regeneration are at the forefront of our mead. This is why we chose cans over bottles, and recycled cardboard and sugarcane pulp can rings over plastic,” she says.
As a keen homebrewer, O’Sullivan’s motivation for creating the product began when she read an article about sparkling mead and realised it was becoming popular in the US. So, she began to experiment with flavour combinations and enlisted the help of four Otago University Food Science undergraduates who are continuing to experiment with flavour and methodology trials in the lab.
Supporting local is also important to her and she has chosen to use only smaller, family-owned apiaries to source her key ingredient, honey, from.
“My goal is to be really transparent. I want to know exactly where my honey comes from and my strict belief was that we would not be using any sulphites or chemical additives. There are no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and certainly nothing that can only identified as a number in a Borage + Bee can. Essentially there is nothing in our mead other than honey, yeast and water, until we start playing with New Zealand grown botanicals, herbs, spices and fruits,” O’Sullivan says.
Borage + Bee is her first venture into the food and beverage industry, but she is previously known for her work creating rural women’s support group Farming Mums NZ in 2013. She also owns and operates a holiday house in Twizel called Highland Escape with her husband and has co-written a children’s travel activity book called Cross Country Kiwis.
“I’m bringing all my knowledge and experience I’ve gathered over the years and channelling it into this opportunity I’ve seen,” she says.