A CHAT WITH HANNAH McMENAMIN
How did Forage + Bloom get its start?
I used to work in hospitality – I was a keen barista, and I found it interesting how you can blend coffees. I was also interested in plants … so I went and studied natural medicine. After four years of full-time study, I ended up with a degree and two diplomas. My goal was to make herbs more accessible to people and create something healthy that fits into hospitality and people’s daily lives. So I designed a tea range to suit a café environment, but with therapeutic qualities … and it’s taken off! F+B has now been going for just over six years. It’s great being in NZ, where so many people are happy to support their local companies.
What do you love about what you do?
I love the creative side. The tea part of the company mostly goes to stock cafés, bars, and restaurants, and I also have a gift box range, which sells in gift stores and online. But I don’t just make the teas – I’m a herbalist, so I also make botanical extracts for skincare ranges and do consulting for product formulation development. I help people who want to create natural products get started … like project management, and that sort of thing. Right now, I’m working with a woman who wants a special formulation to go into all of her spas – a signature tea to serve clients.
I love that creative aspect of my job, just using my knowledge of plants and how they work in the body to help people be healthy, but in a modern way. I’m a production herbalist, so anything I prescribe, I know how to formulate – I specialise in distillations, making extracts, formulating the tea blends … that sort of thing. The tea side of F+B is the bread and butter of the company, though – and it’s great because it reaches a lot of people through being in cafés. I love it that it’s yummy, it’s pretty, and people really love it – and it’s actually good for you!
What’s the ethos of your company?
It’s all about sustainability, organics, living well, and using quality ingredients. The formulations are all designed to be therapeutic, so the product does what it says it does. If I can’t get a herb because the organic supplier doesn’t have it, then the product that needs it will just be out of supply until I can get that ingredient. That’s something I won’t compromise on. A lot of the people I work with are foodies and have a high attention to detail and aesthetics … they share my pride in how things are presented and want to give the customer the best experience – from presentation to flavour.
In terms of sustainability, I designed the range to use herbs that grow in abundance – things like dandelion, nettle, and camomile. They’re not exotic, but they’re amazing at what they do. All of the herbs I use can be grown in New Zealand, but nobody here is currently growing them commercially (apart from the native herbs). So right now, I have to get them in from organic suppliers overseas. It’s definitely on my agenda to find more local growers. So it’s all about using sustainable herbs and not using any additives or flavouring – letting the plants speak for themselves. And we use biodegradable packaging. If I’m going to do business, I want to do it in a way that’s helpful to the planet.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT FORAGE + BLOOM AND HOW TO GET HOLD OF THEIR DELICIOUS TEAS AT FORAGEANDBLOOM.CO.NZ