When I first started brewing my own kombucha, the last thing I thought I'd be doing is selling it.
For as long as I could boil water (according to my mom that's somewhere around the age of 5) and put things together like a witches brew, I always had a thing for tea mixes. This practice continued over the years and got better with time. A hot cup of tea always kept me going during university and it's become the norm even today. "Concoctions" as my brother would say with a look of complete amusement and revulsion on his face all at the same time while I would sip away on my hibiscus, orange blossom and ginger tea. Now I make my herbal tea mixes and love to share them with everyone.
I am not sure why fermentation and mixing things together has always been fascinating to me.
Growing up with me must have been interesting to say the least. My mother would leave me to my childhood antics but my brother would always question "Why?!" when he would find bottles of 'things' fermenting. I am not sure why fermentation and mixing things together has always been fascinating to me. Even today, I can sometimes be found intently watching active fermentation bubbles of kombucha or inspecting my krauts and listening out for the 'blip-blub' through the bowl-and-water-seal of my kimchee doing its thing.
Kombucha brings together my love of tea and fermentation.
I'd never heard of kombucha before 2015 when a family friend showed up to a barbeque with a couple bottles in tow and in fact my uncles and aunt were brewing tibicos, or water kefir at the time and it all sounded rather weird but fascinating, so I gave it a go. For me it was an interesting experience of savoury, sour and fruity all at the same time - amazing and wonderful. I started to notice it more in cafés and health food shops and so I started to buy it. As a heavy consumer of kombucha I looked into brewing my own to save money and also to be able to experiment.
In 2018 I decided to brew my own kombucha rather than spending loads on commercial brands. I did all the reading, bought myself a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts) from Happy Kombucha, a 5 litre Mortier Pilon kombucha vessel and away I was. Over time with trying different teas, tweaking ingredients here and there I started to prefer my homebrew especially because I controlled everything and knew exactly what was going into it. Much like knowing exactly what's in my own home cooked meal.
I started to share my homebrewed kombucha with friends and when they started telling me it was so good they'd pay me for it, I thought, "okay sure, why not".
A lot of it was trial and error but finally I'd perfected my green tea kombucha. The kombucha SCOBYs started to multiply and I went from a single 5 litre vessel to eventually 3 x 8 litre Kilner vessels to giant 15 litre glass jars. I started to share my homebrewed kombucha with friends and when they started telling me it was so good they'd pay me for it, I thought, "okay sure, why not". I loved hearing their feedback and their thoughts about my kombucha in comparison to commercial brands.
Towards the end of 2018 I met a young woman called Catherine (Cat for short) who, as I found out later, also brewed her own kombucha. We became business partners and started to sell our homebrew for some extra cash here and there to raise money for bigger and better things. Unfortunately life got in the way and Cat decided to duck out. In 2019, I went ahead as the sole owner of Kombucha Shack.
Homebrewing and commercial brewing is a completely different ball game.
I quickly realised with all the paperwork, making things official and all the reading I was doing; that homebrewing and commercial brewing was a completely different ball game. Having to contend with alcohol levels, fizziness, pH, sugar, temperature, maintaining a balance with the yeasts and bacteria in my kombucha culture etc. that it wasn't going to be all that straight forward.
I attended the first European kombucha summit that was held in Berlin where I met brewers from all over the world as far as Canada, some were new commercial brewers who were in the same boat as me and other brewers who had already been in the industry for years. Much like sharing a SCOBY with friends and family it was great to be able to learn directly from other brewers. Now you'd think that because there's market competition, that giving away secrets would be like your neighbour's grandma giving you the recipe to her amazing cheesecake with missing ingredients so yours would never turn out like hers. This was not the case at all. All brewers were invited to bring bottled samples of their kombucha for the bar at the summit and if there was one thing that tasting all that different kombucha taught us, was that no kombucha was the same. No SCOBY was the same and so even if I used the very same ingredients, my brew would be different to theirs.
I took COVID-19 as a sign to take some time out to really address how I wanted to shape my life and how brewing kombucha would fit into it.
This year was supposed to be the year I really got stuck into this business of mine, but then we've globally experienced something quite unprecedented. I quickly started to panic about how I was going to make things work during lockdown. I took COVID-19 as a sign to take some time out to really address how I wanted to shape my life and how brewing kombucha would fit into it. with all this sudden free time on my hands, I took the opportunity to teach myself a few things and I've redesigned the company logo and rebranded the labels to be brighter and more eye catching, oh yeah and the booch comes in amber bottles now. The logo is still based on the original design but now looks more like the Chinese character for tea. I really wanted the colours and design to denote the tea, flavour, SCOBY and bubbles and I hope this comes across somewhat. I have also discontinued some flavours I previously had in production (sorry about that) and have introduced new ones which were under development last year. The new flavours are slowly becoming available for sale on the website and soon to be available at small outlets locally. We're not doing any markets just yet but we hope to be able to see you all again soon.