Megan May From Little Bird Unbakery Chats Health, Food, & Her New Range Of Smoothies

Last week we headed over to Little Bird to try out their new range of superfood coffees and superfood smoothies. The Unbakeries quickly found success after the first one in Kingsland opened with queues streaming out the door! In order to meet the growing demand for plant-based wholefoods, they decided to open a second one in Ponsonby, which quickly earned an award for being one of the top 10 Auckland cafes of 2012 by Metro, only 6 weeks after opening. Since then, they’ve branched out even further opening another little takeaway spot on Customs Street.

Afterwards I got a chance to talk to the mastermind behind Little Bird Megan May, about these new super healthy drinks. She let me in on how she goes about creating these masterpieces and what her favourites are.

You’ve introduced so many super smoothies! Which would you recommend for a first timer as a gateway smoothie and why?

I wanted to create a smoothie menu that not only tasted amazing, but made you feel incredible too. Like everything at little bird it was about introducing people to new ingredients that they wouldn’t otherwise have heard of, or thought of putting in a smoothie – like basil, foraged wild greens, cauliflower or cordyceps to name a few. The idea is to introduce them to these incredible superfoods and their benefits, while showcasing how delicious the smoothies can still be!

For a first time superfood smoothie I would recommend the Cacao Superfoods. It’s a great one because it’s incredibly satisfying and tastes just like a delicious thick chocolate milk, but has plenty of hidden superfoods. If you wanted to be a little more adventurous and try something green, the Creamy Wild Weeds is a great place to start. It’s incredibly creamy and delicious, while cleansing at the same time – even kids love it!

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What’s your personal favourite? Do you have a go to depending on the time of day or how you are feeling?

Gosh, they’re all favourites depending on what mood I’m in, or what I feel like I need that day. The great thing about our new menu is you can pick a smoothie based on a need, rather than solely on flavour. If you’ve had a big night and feel as though you need a little cleansing and liver loving the Detoxifying Green or Creamy Wild Weeds are perfect, or if you’ve got a bit of a sore tummy and need an immunity boost, the Turmeric Citrus Colada or Berries & Fairies would be my picks.

One smoothie I do have every single day though is the Detoxifying Green. Its important to eat and drink lots of naturally cleansing foods each day to help our bodies deal with the excessive amount of toxins in our everyday environment, and so I’ve created this smoothie using grapefruit, lemon, kale, fennel, parsley, coriander, ginger, turmeric and chlorella – it really is a one stop detoxifying smoothie aimed at helping your body’s detoxifying pathways.

If I’ve had a busy day and need an afternoon pick me up, I’ll opt for the Mocha Protein Rejuvenate, which has an abundance of natural wholefoods protein (rather than protein powder) and cordyecyps, which is a mushroom known for its ability to increase energy and stamina.

summer-st-little-bird-unbakerie-foodHow did you go about coming up with the recipe for your superfood coffee? Is it just a matter of replacing the ingredients with healthy alternatives? Can you discuss in further detail about some of the ingredients you have introduced and their health benefits?

It was a really amazing experience creating the superfoods coffee menu. Learning what flavour combinations worked, and what didn’t, and how we could use superfoods to balance out some of the more undesirable effects of coffee. I’m really sensitive to caffeine like a lot of people, so I wanted to create a menu that played on the benefits of coffee and try and mitigate some of the downsides.

For example, the Turmeric Latte pairs the acidity of coffee which has an inflammatory effect on the body, with turmeric and almond milk which both have alkalising and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as bee pollen for an immunity boost. While the fat black contains medium chain fatty acids from coconut oil and coconut butter, in order to help your body processes the caffeine differently, creating a more sustainable energy release into the body, reducing the stress on your adrenal system, while giving your liver a little love too.

Did you hit any challenges during the process of creating the new menu?

The biggest challenge when creating the menus was the editing and fine tweaking. Ideas are easy to have, but crafting them down into a cohesive collection that customers connect with is probably the hardest thing and causes the most delays. Especially when you’re adding in new ingredients and ideas, you just don’t know if people will be into it, and first impressions are so important so you really want to get it right.

And how long did it take to build these new menus?

This menu took a lot longer than we had planned, probably around 4-5 months from the initial stages. It’s always a balance between my crazy ideas and the realities of implementing them in the café practically, as well as how customers will connect with it.

Will you be introducing the superfood coffees to your Britomart Store?

We plan to have a few options available at our Britomart store next year, and will look to add more – the space down there is very small though, so it will depend on what we can fit on the bench.

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I’ve gone to a couple places touting that they’re vegan/gluten-free/dairy-free/refined cane sugar-free/soy free style places. But I still end up somehow getting a full sugar fudge slice. Can you promise me that’s not the case with anything at Little Bird? What are some main alternatives you use for commonly used ingredients such as sugar and standard flour?

Definitely not at little bird! We don’t use any heavily refined sugars, nor does any flour ever come through our doors. It’s frustrating for us to see that happening way too often, it takes away from the healthy eating movement when things you think are healthy fresh wholefoods at a wholefoods café are actually made using tinned coconut cream or packeted nut milk. We make almost everything from scratch – we crack open fresh coconuts ourselves to make our own cultured coconut yoghurt, and cold-press our own nut milks from fresh organic nuts. So you know exactly what’s in it – no additives, preservatives, added sugars or any other nasties. As consumers we need to demand real, organic wholefoods by asking questions, and never making assumptions.

When it comes to flours, we use a wide range of nuts as well as coconut and things like sprouted buckwheat or millet – all packed with an abundance of nutrition, instead of the nutrition stripped white flour you get in regular baking.

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For sweetness we use a lot of different things such as maple syrup, dates, dried fruit, raw honey and coconut nectar. No matter whether you are using natural sweeteners, or refined sugars, I don’t think there is any one sweet thing that you can say is super healthy except for whole natural fruit, and so it’s something you shouldn’t be having every day. Different sweeteners have different properties, so I think a variety of natural sweeteners is best. Focus on having small amounts of good quality sweet treats that also have a lot of nutrition in them rather than empty calories, so you feel nourished and satisfied.

You came onto the scene like a rocket with your Unbakeries. Are you planning on opening more, maybe outside Auckland?

Anything and anywhere is possible in the long run… It feels like we have been operating at rocket speed for the past several years, and now that I have a family, I’m slowing things down to more of a run rather than a sprint. At this stage we have been in serious talks about one potential new location as we move out of our original Kingsland store, but no concrete plans just yet…

Exciting! Thanks so much for the chat. Time for a Mocha Protein Rejuvenate, I reckon.


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