A woman breaking new grounds

By Josefa Steven Maiava ,

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Aurora Elisaia-Vaai

Aurora Elisaia-Vaai (Photo: Misiona Simo)

A top intellectual from Si’usega is living proof that Samoan women can do anything.

In an industry dominated by men all over the world, Aurora Elisaia-Vaai, is training to become the first fully qualified female Brew Master in Samoa. When she achieves this, she could possibly become the only woman in the job in the Pacific region. 

The 33-year-old mother, who works for Taula Beverages Co. Ltd, is excited about the challenge.

 “It’s exciting but also scary in a way because there’s a lot to be expected of you especially being a woman,” she told the Samoa Observer yesterday. “It’s exciting because it’s somewhere females have never gone before here in Samoa.”

But the role is not something the daughter of Vaosa Epa and Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia, who is a Scientist by profession, had always wanted. 

Asked how it all started, she said it came about as a result of a happy coincidence meeting with the Chairman of the Ah Liki Investment Group, Taimalie Charlie Westerlund, almost two years ago.

“It all started when I used to teach at N.U.S,” she said. “I think it was by chance getting a job here because Taimalie Charlie was looking for someone who had a background in Science.

“I used to tutor his son so then he asked me if I was interested in coming over to the Brewery, and I said ‘actually I don’t even drink beer, I drink spirits’.”

Reluctant at first, she initially accepted the offer from Taimalie. 

And the rest as they say is history.

At the Taula factory, days can be long.

“So we start the day at five in the morning,” she says. “We start of our first mash in and it usually finishes around 5:30am. In-between, I take samples and do a lot of paper work.

“The paperwork is really just to track the ingredients we’re using, making sure that we actually know how much is being made and how much we need to order.

“Everything has to be shipped in because we are so far away from everyone.” 

 “It’s a long day working in the brewery industry; sometimes I’m here by 5am and home by 8pm.”

The production sometimes goes seven days a week.

Although she’s happy working at Taula breweries, Mrs. Vaái said that she never saw herself in a brewery industry until that fateful meeting with Taimalie.

 “If someone told me a few years back that this was what I was going to do in the future, I would’ve had a good laugh because I never saw myself here at Taula,” she said.

 “So if he had never approached me I probably wouldn’t have ended up in Taula, or even in the brewery industry.”

Working at Taula has not only been a great experience for Mrs. Vaái, but it has also been an excellent opportunity for her to get some practical work done.

“It’s been great because it’s the most practical Science I’ve had, it’s very hands on,” she said.

“I thought you just have to come and mix up a couple of things but you really have to have a firm understanding of Physics and Chemistry.

 “It has also made use of my bio background as well because you have to be able to coax the best out of your ingredients.

“Rather than just being theoretical about it, it’s being practical because I’m also learning about plumbing, electrical properties, and engineering.”  

“So it’s been a lot of practical, and then there’s also a lot of reading.”

Mrs. Vaai says her role kind of makes you feel like you’re half magician and half mad scientist.

“Because you have to get the best of your malt, yeast and temperatures.

Looking at the future, Mrs. Vaai said she is working hard to ensure Taula becomes Samoa’s favourite beer.

“In Germany and Europe, the beers are really tasty, I’ve come across fruit beers and I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “They have it for breakfast even, I’m not advocating for breakfast but you can have a really good tasty product.”  

For beer lovers, that is certainly something to look forward to.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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