For most of us, when we think of ginger beer, what comes to mind is a fizzy drink with a hint of some ginger. Traditionally home-crafted, it comes as no surprise that YaMama Gemmer has changed the narrative.
Established in 2010 by sisters Mosibudi Makgato and Rosemary Padi, YaMama Gemmer is a product that not only adds an expedient element to traditional ceremonies but also provides the nostalgic taste of homemade ginger beer. This drink is prepared using only natural ingredients to keep the South African heritage beverage intact.
YaMama Gemmer is based on a formula that has been passed down through the generations. The name YaMama (which means “mom”) is a chant to the family matriarchs who are renowned for their mouth-watering ginger beer recipes and, on whose shoulders it is incumbent to propagate the method. Mmapula Makgato, the mother of the sisters, is the matriarch in their case.
The idea was taken from her recipe. She was renowned for her delicious ginger beer. Mosibudi remembers that in family ceremonies or celebrations, there would be two or three versions of gemmer available, and people would always ask for the one their mother had made. “That is how we remember it being called, gemmer ya mama (mom’s ginger beer),” she said.
The two sisters were raised in Christian household. Their father was a preacher and because of this, there were always people visiting them. Their mother would always make gemmer for them. This became their go-to-drink for every occasion.
In 2016, Mosibudi and Rosemary left the corporate industry and decided to concentrate fully on their business, with Mosibudi being the face of the brand and Rosemary preferring to be behind the scenes.
YaMama distributes their product to a Spar in Strubens Valley and corporate canteens.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the brand was synonymous with food festivals and markets. When Covid-19 hit, the price of ginger skyrocketed because it was considered an immune booster. Their business took a knock and they could no longer produce 150 – 200 bottles of concentrate a week. They had to produce only 20 bottles of concentrates a week.
After that, they had to make a change and return to making individual ready-to-drink bottles, which were not their primary focus. However, due to Covid-19, the majority of their sales in the previous year were from ready-to-drink bottles.
Mosibudi stated that their future plans include broadening their distribution channels and going international. She explains, “We want to continue to work with a lot of women who make delicious foods that go well together with gemmer so we have a beautiful offering. We have a passion to empower women in our communities.”
YaMama Gemmer is a home-crafted concentrate with an intense ginger flavour, ready for you to just add water and drink. The product offers a concentrate which comes in 2litres and 5litres, a 500ml cordial, and a 500ml ready to drink ginger beer that does not need to be diluted.
Mosibudi’s tips on making the perfect gemmer
We add a natural preservative to our retail product. But you don’t need that if you make it at home. The ginger is boiled along with tartaric acid or cream of tartar during the process. You add the sugar after it has boiled. After adding the sugar, you must wait for it to cool.
You can consume it immediately as is or allow it to ferment to develop the flavour of beer. You may add raisins or pineapples if you’re short on time. Enzymes found in pineapples and raisins speed up the fermentation process. Pineapples can also add a pleasant flavour to it. If you add raisins, don’t put too much sugar in them because the sugar will seep out of them. Beer is produced when the raisins are over-fermented, which removes the sugar. It’s all about how you like it.
Although being a proudly South African brand, YaMama Gemmer is definitely taking the beverage world by storm.