(over-dramatised only a little)
It started unportentously enough. Deb from WAPF asked me if I still had the water kefir grains she had given me last year, as hers had died.
I checked. Mine had died too. Not that there was anything too ominous in that; I (unlike the conscientious Deb) can be a bit crap at looking after live ferments, and I had certainly neglected my water kefir.
It wasn't until Deb started contacting other locals, and finding theirs had died too, that things started to look a little bad.
Then I read Kaitaia smallfarmer and fermenter Rebecca's blog. Yes, her water kefir had also died, and she was looking for more. (Turned out she had already been in touch with Deb.)
Deb, Rebecca, and others were soon busy getting in touch with all their fermenting contacts throughout the country, but it seemed there was no healthy water kefir to be had here at all. Water kefir was extinct in New Zealand!
So Rebecca ordered some from the very knowledgeable Dom in Australia. It was quite expensive, and it took a while to arrive - but she finally has it and is growing it carefully in the hopes of soon having enough to distribute.
Why did everyone's water kefir die? Well, Deb and Rebecca have been researching how best to look after it, and it turns out to be pretty high maintenance - the diva of live ferments. If it doesn't get the service and attention it demands, it sulks mightily and eventually turns up its precious little toes and expires.
When there's enough water kefir to go around again, I'm going to have another go at keeping it. I'm a little nervous about it though ...