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Rediscovering an old ingredient: water caltrop reimagined

A drink in which a chocolate manufactory, a small-scale brewing team and a graphic designer share a passion for admiring Lake Tisza. The small-scale beer called Fekete Kincs (black treasure—free translation) is not only special because of its messaging label, but it is also worth tasting because of its distinctive ingredient! We asked graphic designer Réka Neszmélyi about the details of the project.

SIMA brewing is the result of a small collaboration between family and friends; the three-person brewing team mainly produces limited, one-off or periodical small-scale beer specialties. In addition to promoting quality alcohol consumption and small-scale beer culture, they often seek to connect with gastronomy and initiate collaborations with creative partners. This is how the joint project of SIMA Brewing and Egy csepp Tisza-tó chocolate manufactory, the beer called Fekete Kincs, unique in its raw material was created, the label of which was illustrated by graphic designer Réka Neszmélyi.

One of Réka’s undisguised passions is Lake Tisza, which has served as a source of inspiration in her previous works. She says she has been visiting the countryside for years and it was clear for the first time that it meant much more to her than just a destination. “I find it amazing that with a man-made power plant, nature can create such a miracle. Two years ago, with the help of friends, we built a small houseboat with a cabin, with which we try to explore the area as much as possible. The more we are on the lake, the clearer it seems that we need to take care of and protect it because it has suddenly become the target of domestic tourism,” the graphic designer said. Although she did not grow up here and still knows little about the area, it is important for her to be able to participate as a graphic designer in projects that can help change attitudes. “I have a great desire not to see graphical interfaces as an empty marketing tool, but to find a solution in which it is possible to convey information of public interest,” she emphasized.

Driven by this thought, Réka approached István Szabó, the creator of the Egy csepp Tisza-tó artisanal chocolate manufactory in Abádszalók, with the suggestion that she would like to take part in rethinking the packaging of the products. “I think it’s exciting to see artisanal chocolate, which is one of the most iconic local products in the area, as a message board,” Réka said.I trusted in his openness so that we can work together to come up with packaging graphics that communicate through the product, and we can send a message to those who come here while they also enjoy the chocolate. It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to articulate local themes and expand them in later communication on such a light surface as the packaging of chocolate,” she added.

However, the chocolates in Abádszalók are not only special because of the transmission of messages: István has long been able to show the fruit of the traditionally used water caltrop in the form of chocolate. The plant is, in fact, one of the protected and exclusively licensed plant species on Lake Tisza: its habitat has now been reduced, and although it annoys the traffic on the water, it is still a very important and iconic plant of the lake. Inspired by the characteristic ingredient, in addition to the chocolates, István is openly looking for new ways in which the water caltrop can provide an additional gastronomic experience: he also had a great desire to make his own beer using it. This is how the SIMA brewing team joined the story, who have been big lovers of the area for years, so after a few months their first beer was made: the Fekete Kincs. When the need arose for the graphic world of chocolates to appear on the identity of the beer, Réka was very happy to design the label.

Just as the highlighting of the natural specialties of Lake Tisza was an important aspect in the packaging of chocolates, in the case of the beer, an iconic bird of the region, the black-crowned night heron, came to the fore. “Birds are careful animals, often hiding in the reeds or at the base of trees waiting for prey. They teach travelers that it is worth being present in silence and invisibility. I believe the future of the lake lies in silence and attention. We need quiet places and there are fewer and fewer of them in the world, so why shouldn’t the area be famous for having the opportunity here to listen and stay a little in the background. The black-crowned night heron is one such bird. It sits motionless, watching the water with a stiff gaze, much could be learned from it. Of course, this is a beer label, so I didn’t want to take it too seriously, but I wanted to use a bird as the main element, which is very common in the area and everyone who visits can admire and learn about its characterful nature,” Réka explained.

The name of the drink refers to its raw material: “Fekete” (black), because the water caltrop was added to a night-black beer, which is one of the protected and licensed treasures, or “Kincs”, of Lake Tisza. “As far as we know, no one in the world has made beer with water caltrop yet. This protected aquatic plant today was a very common food plant before the regulation of our rivers. It was necessary to go back to these traditions and rethink the possibilities of using it today. The basis of the Fekete Kincs is a black beer filled with chocolate malt, in which the flavors of the water caltrop with walnuts, chestnuts, cloves, almonds and the more fruity hopping form an excellent harmony,” said Réka.

Photos: Balázs Máté

Réka Neszmélyi | Behance | Instagram
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