Garry Sommerville got into the hot sauce business in 1989 after receiving a grant from the Tai Tokurau Business Development Board. He planted cayenne peppers in Doubtless Bay, just 15 minutes from Kaitaia, New Zealand's last major town before reaching the Northern peninsula. A couple of years later the first bottles of Kaitaia Fire Chili Pepper Sauce were on sale.
After the success of the original chili pepper sauce, Garry developed Waha Wera (Burnt Mouth) where he milled kiwi, manuka honey and habaneros into his now iconic sauce. At the time, Garry was the first manufacturer to use manuka honey in a food product, winning him an innovation award from the NZ Honey Producers Cooperative in 1997. Of course he started something, and today manuka honey is a well loved ingredient in lots of New Zealand food products.
Approximately 30% of Kaitaia Fire's production is now exported overseas to Australia, The UK, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, China and the Netherlands as well as to The Kiwi Importer here in the USA of course. Kaitaia Fire was one of our earlier products which we've been importing since 2016. Both Sauces have won numerous awards in New Zealand and Internationally, including Waha Wera taking out the gold in the Fiery Foods challenge in Albuquerque.
It's not just the sun drenched bay where the peppers are grown that makes this hot sauce so special. The chilies are picked at the height of their maturity when the color and flavor is at the most intense then they're finely milled and organic sea salt and sealed in barrels with air locks to undergo a fermentation process over several years. It's this slow barrel aging process that releases the volatile oils locked up in the pepper’s cell walls giving the sauce a depth of flavor that cannot be rushed.
There are Kaitaia Fire fans all around the world who are passionate about this sauce (we've seen our fair share of Kaitaia Fire tattoos!). While we're not suggesting that you should get a hot sauce tattoo any time soon, one thing is clear, the natural release of endorphins from eating a quality hot sauce keeps you coming back for more and these sauces, made from beautifully New Zealand grown chilies and milled without coloring, artificial additives or preservatives is something worth getting addicted to.
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