By Dana Jean Costantino
Over the last several years we have seen the interest in, and demand for, healthful drinks climb to new heights. Whether it be kombucha, matcha, juice cleanses, herbal teas and tonics, bone broth, or flavored waters, people are turning, in great numbers, to using these drinks as key parts of their diets and health routines.
These drinks are sometimes used for meal replacement, and other times used as add-ons. For this WestView News issue, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Ana Bautista, the founder of MABÏ. Mabï, also known as mauby, maubi, and maví (in different countries) is a non-alcoholic brew made from tree bark and other natural and herbal ingredients including anise. Here, we learn about Ana’s journey to starting the company and how she wants to have an impact on this ever-expanding part of the health and wellness world.
When did you start MABÏ and do you have any partners?
MABÏ has been an on-going solo project since 2019. I started creating recipes then, and continued testing with herbs, flowers, and different sweeteners through 2020. Last year I came up with three different versions I was finally happy with, started gathering more feedback on the flavor profiles, and then got the samples tested for proper acidity and pH levels, and all the legal paperwork. We officially launched in 2021!
What was the motivation to start the brand?
Back in 2019 I noticed a trend of non-alcoholic bars popping up in NYC. I was curious, and also trying to understand how a lot of these places were justifying charging $14-16 for a “mocktail.” As I continued my research I learned that they were working with a lot of professional mixologists who would combine all these botanicals, and I started talking about this with my best friend. We both immediately thought, “Oh my God, you know what would be an amazing mix for these? Maví!” So I went on a journey to find maví, because I started craving that nostalgic flavor. I grew up drinking maví in the Dominican Republic, where I was raised. And I have this memory of drinking it under the mango tree at my childhood home with family and friends on a typical hot Sunday on the island! I didn’t find the drink in NYC. But I found one store where they sell the mauby bark, got super excited, bought the bark, and followed a recipe to make traditional mauby drink. It was awful! Ha-ha. But I figured I could make my own version since I had bought enough mauby bark, and that’s when I started experimenting with different herbs, flowers, and ingredients. My first batches had very interesting flavors.
That got me thinking about introducing a new drink inspired by traditional mauby drink for various reasons: one of them is its cultural richness and health benefits. Traditional maví has been present in the Caribbean Islands for a long time but missing a spotlight in bigger spaces. It’s a super refreshing drink and folk remedy used by the Taínos (indigenous people from the Caribbean) to treat ailments and cool off the body. In the mid-19th century a fermented version was developed by the slaves in the Caribbean as a substitute for the alcoholic beverages consumed by the colonizers, since alcohol wasn’t easy to export back then. In the present, traditional maví is consumed by adults and children all over the Caribbean.
I also wanted to turn a traditional drink into a healthier, more elevated and complex version. Traditional maví drinks are made with tons of sugar, which blocks the benefits of the bark (it tends to help with cholesterol, hypertension, and digestion). Diabetes runs in my family, so one of the best substitutes I found was monk fruit sweetener, which is natural, calorie-free, filled with antioxidants, and safe for diabetics. We use fresh lemons, ginger and mint, and herbal blends that create a harmonious balance of pleasant bitterness and sweetness, as well as earthy, floral, and thirst-quenching flavors for your palate.
Lastly, being born in NYC, raised in the DR by a half-Chinese mom and a Dominican father, I wanted to represent a mix of cultures in each bottle and make that part of MABÏ’s DNA. So we incorporate ingredients from different parts of the world, like the mauby bark from the Caribbean, the green tea, hibiscus flowers and monk fruit from Asia, and rooibos from South Africa.
What do you enjoy most about owning a company?
What I like most about owning a company/brand is that I get my hands involved in everything. I’m constantly encountering challenges, learning as I go, and building something from scratch on my own. It’s a lot of responsibility and I’m constantly questioning myself: am I taking the right steps, am I missing something, what’s the right or wrong approach to xyz? And the numbers! Omg, the numbers! At the same time, it’s very exciting because I don’t know many people in the food and bev industry, and have been slowly learning about it. So, everything is fresh info, with new maps to navigate. I have been asking myself for years, “What’s my passion? How do I find that?” And this is the closest I’ve gotten to answering those questions. It’s very gratifying when I get positive feedback on the drinks, when I get to share the origin of this beverage, the benefits and cleanliness of the ingredients, and being able to keep a tradition alive (with my own twist). It’s shown me the importance of sharing and enhancing one’s heritage. This company is literally my baby!
Do you believe that mabï is a helpful part of a health and wellness routine and mindful lifestyle? Why?
Absolutely. Traditional mauby drink originated with the Taínos, and was consumed not only to cool off the body but also as a folk remedy. Research has shown that the mauby bark helps to reduce cholesterol, balance digestion, and is good for arthritis, diabetes, and lowering blood pressure. That’s just from the main ingredient: mauby bark. Each bottle of MABÏ is filled with natural ingredients only. We use cinnamon, cloves, and anise seeds (anise is considered a super herb: a unique plant that works to benefit the human body and has a long history of traditional use in many cultures). These ingredients are filled with antioxidants. Monk fruit sweetener, considered a superfood, is also filled with antioxidants. It was used in ancient medicine and is natural and completely safe for diabetics. We use only fresh ginger, mint, and lemons; and all the other herbs we use, such as green tea, rooibos, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, etc., have positive benefits. Mabï is a super refreshing plant-based drink, with very unique flavors, no calories, and no sugar.
Where can people find MABÏ? Are there upcoming plans for the company’s growth?
We’re a very young brand and the product is made in small batches, so at the moment you can place orders online at drinkmabi.com or reach out via Instagram (@drinkmabi) for delivery options in Brooklyn. We’re slowly breaking into the wholesale world and have our products at Manny’s Juice Bar and Grill and Muz Muz CBD Shop & Cafe. We’re currently reaching out to more local businesses to place our beverages in different shops, delis, yoga studios, and, eventually, supermarkets.
Where are the ingredients sourced from?
We get our spices from a local NYC spice store that provides a consistent sustainable supply of raw materials. They look into farming techniques to ensure there is minimal impact to supply clients like me. They claim to focus on good agricultural practices, resource conservation, safety, education, and the wellbeing of their farmers all over the world.