Sam Weston, co-owner of Blackball Black Garlic, explains that the production process involves a five-week fermentation period that dramatically alters both the taste and chemical composition of raw garlic. "We don't add anything to it. It's a natural process that happens over the five weeks, and when it comes out the other side, it tastes completely different," Sam said.
The taste of Blackball Black Garlic is difficult to describe, but the pair say it's a real umami tsunami. Umami is one of the five basic tastes along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami means ‘essence of deliciousness’ in Japanese.
“It's the type of thing you just have to try.” Sam says the strike-rate for people liking it is about 95% “which is pretty humbling.”
Blackball Black Garlic is available in jars, infused honey, and a new product coming soon. All products that have been met with rave reviews from customers. Sam and his business partner, Wayne Hanright, have created all their own machinery and process the garlic in their specially designed ovens.
Wayne moved to Blackball from Christchurch 31 years ago, while Sam, who grew up with a family bach in Blackball, moved there from Christchurch around three years ago.
The two came up with the idea for Blackball Black Garlic over a cold beer in one of the town's three pubs.
The location of Blackball Black Garlic on the West Coast is integral to its identity. Sam explains that the relaxed, nature-filled lifestyle on the Coast is perfect for their business.
"I think people like the vibe here," he said. "It's a wee bit different to the rat race and city life, and I think that suits us down to the ground."
“It's a great place for children to grow up with the freedom to be themselves and think.“
However, living on the West Coast does require some resilience, as Wayne jokes, “you have to be able to handle rain.”
Sam adds, “the West Coast’s best kept secret is that it doesn’t rain as much as people think it does. But then at times it can rain for a month straight.
“It’s basically a terrarium climate, so your grass grows so fast you need to mow it twice a week. But saying that all your vegetables grow twice as fast as well.”
Looking to the future, the duo plan to expand their operation by building a full processing plant with ovens and a full factory cycle. They understand that making their product takes time and sometimes they sell out and need to wait for the five-week fermentation process to complete before having more product available.
Sam says beyond black garlic, visitors to Blackball can also enjoy the award-winning Blackball Salami, sample aromatic coffee blends from the Blackball Roastery, walk the Paparoa Track, enjoy great food and beer at one of the three pubs, grab a bargain at the local op shop and enjoy the friendly local hospitality.
Heath Milne, the chief executive of Development West Coast, said he’s tried Blackball Black Garlic and “it’s bloody amazing.”
"Blackball, with a population of less than 300 people, is truly making a name for itself through its artisanal offerings and authentic characters."
Blackball Black Garlic is available online: www.blackballblackgarlic.co.nz
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