Flavours, people and business in Southeast Asia

Yesterday I returned from 8 days in Southeast Asia as a participant of the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative a programme run by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. The purpose of the trip was to better understand the food and beverage sector in Malaysia and Singapore, build networks and relationships and to explore export opportunities for Libertine Blends.

Pink Bike
The crew and my pink bike – the fastest way to get around Penang.
Travelling with other NZ Food and Beverage entrepreneurs was a privilege, as was networking at the Food Connections events organised by NZTE. Having the opportunity to explore such a colourful heritage and mix of cultures, with first-hand experience of the purchasing options, tastes of consumers in-region and spices grown was inspiring and educational.
tea and taste testing
Pu-erh tea and Chloe (of Chia Drinks) and I exploring street flavours.
The organic artesian food and beverage scene is building in Southeast Asia. Grocery aisles and specialist stores are filled with international brands showcasing the finest and most beautifully presented products from around the globe. With our reputation for excellent quality produce, a pristine environment and high production standards I observed that NZ is well represented and well thought of as a premium food producer.
One of the most engaging people I met running an artesian food business was Amy Zheng, founder of Amazin' Graze Granola based in Kuala Lumpur. The fast growth of her business was an inspiration, as was the creative combinations of traditional and local flavours in her products, such as Salted Gula Melaka Granola – Gula Melaka is a type of sugar made from the sap of flower buds from the coconut tree and it is delicious. 

Herbs and Spices
Amy Zheng and fresh lemongrass tea in KL.

Reflecting on the combinations of flavours Amy uses in her granola and my Southeast Asian travels I’ve asked myself which flavours we can use at Libertine to create something special. I’d like to share my five favourite Malaysian herbs and spices:
  • Roselle - also known as Hibiscus - has a delicious tart taste, is an antioxidant and gives a beautiful dark red colour when infused.
  • Cascara – the coffee cherry is served as a tea in Malaysia. Caffeinated, it has a sweet, fruity taste and was a delightful discovery.
  • Lemongrass – refreshing, clean tasting and already used in our Kapow blend, this will be a go-to herb for blends to come.
  • Coconut – lends itself to sweet or savoury flavours and is an absolute crowd pleaser. The challenge is to get a full flavoured infusion without the use of flavourings.
  • Star Anise – charming with a star-like shape, it is beautifully fragrant and the flavour is similar to aniseed and liquorice.
Watch this space to see how these herbs and spices play a part in shaping future blends, and let us know what you'd like to see blended into the Libertine range in the comments below.

Spice gardens
The fascinating spice gardens in Penang.

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