Kimberly Lanski, Buddha’s Brew, Austin, TX, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

In 2000, a friend shared some he was making. He had gallon jars brewing all over his kitchen. He would fill wine bottles with the stuff and share it with us at a local macrobiotic restaurant! I was a long time meditator and it just resonated with me – energizing and yet relaxing and super healthy – just like meditation!

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

Someone was selling kombucha at a local farmer’s market in 2005 and I felt really strongly that this would be a perfect business for me! He quit selling and I took over his spot. Everything took off quickly from there.

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

Fairment’s Raw Chai is great! Fairment is from Germany, they stayed with us in our Airbnb at KBI!

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

I was living very austerely meditating for 20+ years with a spiritual group. Just making enough to get by. Before that I delivered mail for the Post Office for 12 years! Majored in Biology at a University.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change” -Buddha

 

Jessi Hoeft, Ensign Beverage, Hastings, NE, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

I brewed my first batch of kombucha the summer I graduated high school in 1995. A friend’s aunt who was living in Colorado gave us a culture and said the drink she was making was helping her with all kinds of things including better complexion, weight loss, and less heart burn. We did not call it kombucha back then. We called it the weird mushroom drink under the sink. We had no idea how to care for it correctly. We would put a SCOBY in a sugary tea, wait for a bit of time then dip our ladle into it to pull off a few ounces to drink each day…holding our nose because it was soooo vinegary and acidic. After lots of education and many, many, many experimental batches we have learned to make a smooth, low sugar, low acid, non-alcoholic kombucha…and I don’t have to hold my nose any more when drinking it.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

While selling soap at the Nashville farmers market I had a friend who was making kombucha and selling it at the market and in small shops around town. We would often trade handmade soap for home-crafted kombucha. At one point we both had our products in Whole Foods and we reconnected. We chatted about what was happening in the kombucha market. Finally, the demand was growing for this healthy beverage option. At that time my husband and I were moving to Hastings, Nebraska with plans to start up a brewery. We saw a chance to produce both beer and kombucha. We have a tap room in Downtown Hastings and sell across the state of Nebraska. We are happy to bring this healthy beverage option to the middle of the map!!

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

Over the years I have tasted many different brands. On a quick trip to Colorado in 2015 I found the Rowdy Mermaid tap room. That was a game changer. It was a smooth kombucha without a lot of ginger or juice added to cover up the acids. That set the bar for us. I have recently told that story to Jamba, Founder of Rowdy Mermaid. He smiled and gave me a hug. Let me tell ya, that felt good 🙂

I should mention on that same trip, I found the Happy Leaf tap room. So delicious!! And in CANS! I knew right then and there that canning would be the sustainable way to package Ensign Beverage products.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

This brewery thing is full time now for myself and my husband, Nathan. We have 10 employees on staff as well. Growing the brands here in Nebraska and the region keeps us all on our toes. But, I have also had a wild career path from teaching to touring with national bands. Ask me about it sometime, I will tell you a story or two!

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

It might not be your cup of tea, but you won’t know until you try it!!

 

 

 

Mike Durighello, Whalebird Kombucha, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

My friend Carson introduced me to kombucha in 2006 while I was at UC Santa Cruz. He was an amazing water man and had just taken me out to surf. Back at the car he pulled out a few bottles of GT’s Kombucha. I was like ‘kombooka what?!’ He said ‘just drink it’ and so I did in the hopes it would make me a better surfer. The first sip was the worst thing I’d ever tasted, but I stomached it with a smile. The second time we went surfing he brought out a different flavor, Mystic Mango by GT’s, and I was hooked. What I later realized is that my body had never had a fermented food before which was why I was so shocked after that initial sip. Weeks later I had developed quite an expensive appetite of drinking two kombuchas a day which at the time GT’s was priced at $5 each. I would bring a bottle into the library with me and it had this amazing effect on my study habits. With coffee I felt wired and scattered, but with kombucha I had this even keel, sustained energy that put me in the zone. Not only that but it curbed my appetite which allowed me to study for hours on end without having to run and grab a snack. Little did I know, but those library memories would spark my own kombucha company 6 years later. And by the way, it didn’t make me a better surfer.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

I have a hard time being told what to do and after being fired from a few jobs for insubordination I realized that I needed a different path where I was in control of my own destiny. In 2012 my friend Alex moved in with me and said ‘Hey lets start a juicing business’ and I realized this was my opportunity. I worked evenings so while he was at work during the day I was learning how to start a juicing business. In my research I discovered that juicing required a ton of overhead (equipment and fruit) and I thought back to those library days and said to myself ‘why not kombucha?’ We learned how to make kombucha from this Russian guy on YouTube which at the time was one of the few ‘how to’s’ on kombucha. That was our baseline knowledge and after 1.5 years of customizing our fermentation and flavoring style we sold our first keg of kombucha to a local vegan cafe in the Spring of 2013.

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

I think Fine Feathers makes some of the best kombucha on the market. My two favorite flavors of theirs are the Jasmine Peony and Lemon Cayenne. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for GT’s Mystic Mango and Guava Goddess.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

Prior to kombucha I was in the restaurant biz as a server and bartender. Just before I went full time with Whalebird in 2015 I was working in business development for a local tech company. When I’m not at the brewery I spend my time trail running, mountain biking, and spear fishing.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

Life is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Jordi Dalmau, Kombutxa, Mataró, Barcelona, Spain

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

When I was 13 years old I was diagnosed with Gilbert’s Syndrome. It is not a disease but it means that your liver has some trouble detoxing some toxins. As I was getting older I had frequent headaches, always felt tired, long digestions, and so on, but I thought it was normal. Finally a nutritionist give me some dietary guidelines, and I improved quite a lot. In the end, he recommend I eat a bigger variety of fermented food, even kombucha. I had never heard about it. I did not find it in any herbalist. Finally, I got a scoby online and I did it myself. As soon I drank the first glass of kombucha I had the feeling of taking off a 20 kg backpack. Since then I have not taken any more drugs: I feel always full of energy and if I ever have any headache again I just need to drink more kombucha!

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

I was so happy with the benefits on my health of the kombucha I was preparing in my kitchen that I could not stop giving it to all of my friends. At first they were surprised, but later they were enlightened with the new beverage. I had my own office of engineering, but I decided to change my life and start a kombucha brewery to share with everybody what changed my life. Three years later the company is growing and I am totally focused on the miracle of fermentation.

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

My favourite one is GTs Cucumber Mint Lime

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

Now I am a fermentist, but my background is engineering and architecture. Also I am a father of two, it is a great experience!

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

Do… or do not. There is no try (Master Yoda)

 

 

Alex Ingalls, Pilot Kombucha, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

I was working at Whole Foods and was really hungover and supposed to be doing a demo and one of my co-workers recommended it as a hangover cure. I grabbed a bottle of GT Dave’s Cherry Chia (for calories because I was too nauseated to eat) and I was hooked. I went home that night and googled how to make it myself.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

I started my own company because all my friends and family kept drinking my home brews, I figured I may as well make some money off of them!

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

I’m obsessed with Soma’s Pear Fennel Jun.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

I’ve been working in the food industry since I was in college and have done it all – from short order cook to distribution to barista. My parents were very concerned about my job-hopping but I knew eventually I’d want to start a food-related business of my own, I just had no idea what it would be.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

Do what makes you feel good!

 

Bryan Deane Bertsch, Deane’s Kombucha, Hopkins, MN, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

My wife brought kombucha home from the local Co-Op in 2006. It was love at first taste – especially how it made me feel and the fact that it was a “living” beverage. Then I found out how much she was spending on it. A friend suggested I make my own and so it began.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

When we launched in 2009 there were virtually zero local craft kombucha brewers in our market. I saw all the shelf space Whole Foods and the Co-Ops were giving it, was convinced it was going to grow exponentially, and was getting incredible feedback from friends who were drinking my home brew. Plus I figured the price point it was selling for was too much and surely I could sell for less than that. At the end of the day, Deane’s was the most expensive bottle on the shelf!

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

Nessalla in Madison, WI makes great kombucha They shared one of their Hop blends that I loved!

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

Virtually every job I’ve had has prepared me to run a small kombucha business. Babysitter, paper boy, dish washer, server, bartender, door-to-door sales, media sales, food equipment sales, mortgage brokering, office manager, warehouse manager. And raising a family of 5.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

“The further one goes, the less one knows.”

 

Becca Schepps, Mortal Kombucha, Boulder, CO, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

I first started drinking kombucha when I lived in NYC in 2008. They carried it at the corner bodega and I was looking for low sugar, flavorful alternatives. I think my first kombucha was actually a GTs with Chia Seeds. It reminded me of that Orbitz drink made by Clearly Canadian that had balls of gelatin suspended in juice. As a kid I was in awe of those bottles and loved the idea of chewing and drinking simultaneously.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

Mortal Kombucha began as a place to pour my creative energy. I wanted to make something super healthy that had a wry sense of humor and was ridiculously approachable. Mortal is the culmination of the things I believe in: Healthy doesn’t have to be serious, flavor makes life interesting, bubbles make everything better and don’t eat too much sugar, but a little bit is a-okay (i’m type 1 diabetic – so I take that last one pretty seriously).

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

I love that seasonal flavor that Health-Ade makes for the holidays. It’s like drinking Christmas with a bunch of ginger on top.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

My other life is working as a Creative Director in the advertising industry.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

I’m currently following this motto: “Make stuff. Eat fruits. Cry a little. Be a rainbow.”

Heidi Vorrasi, RocBucha, Rochester, NY, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

I discovered kombucha while travelling to the West Coast. We were in a small town in Utah and it was on tap even in the gas station! We drank it on and off for years after that and started to brew once we were settled and wanted to experiment with more flavors.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

After home-brewing, we ran out and tried some of the local kombucha. I was unimpressed with what was available at the time (but now there are many good local ‘booch options), and thought I could do better. I wanted my community to experience good, local kombucha. It should be delicious!

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

I’m a big fan of buying local, and my favorite other kombucha to drink is Laxshmi by fellow local brew mistress, Catt at Happy Gut Sanctuary.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

While I was a former non-profit executive, my favorite time over the past 10+ years has been spent raising my three awesome kids together with my husband, John.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

Although my kids roll their eyes when I say it (and my dad cheers): The difficult we do today, the impossible we do tomorrow. Today’s challenges are building blocks for what we can only imagine to accomplish in the future.

 

 

Gabrielle Pope, Claire Rivard, Dominic Rivard, Solas Kombucha, New Ross, NS, Canada

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

I (Gabrielle) was first introduced to kombucha in Vancouver around 2001, and played the role of the weird fermentation girl until this day.

Dominic and I (as his marketing manager) were attending a hard cider conference in Chicago. We purchased some kombucha to give our bodies a break from endless cider sampling. Dominic was amazed, and hooked.

I was thrilled to give Clare her first SCOBY, despite the horror her daughters experienced when they saw it. Clare quickly became a very talented and enthusiast brewer.

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

Clare and Dominic were the ones who had Herculean drive to turn a restored barn into a stunning brewery that we wasted no time filling up with equipment and start brewing. I was desperately looking for a more creative and fulfilling career, was still obsessed with kombucha, and jumped on as partner immediately. I guess in some ways we all just thought, we have experience from all over, we love kombucha, we could realistically do this, we are all creative, and wouldn’t that be awesome?

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

I doubt our palates can agree.

Gabrielle: RISE’s Rose & Schizandra (fellow Canadians too!)
Dominic: Health-Ade’s Blood Orange, Carrot, and Ginger
Clare: Seven Acres Strawberry Vanilla (our super local friends!)

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

Dominic: International Winemaker and Consultant, Fruit Wine and Cider Owner
Gabrielle: Writer, Managing/Marketing Cideries, Produce Manager, Perpetual Student
Clare: Insurance Broker

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

We couldn’t agree because we are vehemently opposed to being cheesy. 

Clare: Luck is great, but most of life is hard work. – Iain Duncan Smith
Gabrielle: “Confidence is 10 percent hard work and 90 percent delusion.” – Tina Fey
Dominic: Just Do It – Nike

 

Rich Awn, MOMBUCHA, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Q: When did you first discover kombucha?

My mom! She started brewing in our home in New Jersey some time in the late 90’s and forced it on my siblings and I. We hated it. Then she got better at brewing and we realized we weren’t getting sick as much as we used to. Kombucha went from being this thing we would do anything to avoid to something we’d do anything to get our hands on!

Q: Why did you start your own kombucha company?

I started Mombucha as an art project in 2009. I’d been brewing on my own since 2005 and became increasingly more obsessed with it over the years, geeking out on tea blends and trying out different kinds of sugars. A friend asked if I’d like to participate in a local event called “The Greenpoint Food Market” in November of 2009 and it was there Mombucha held its public debut. The name is derived from “mom’s Kombucha” after the brew my mother had introduced to our family. From 2009-2013 I was brewing out of my Brooklyn apartment mostly for friends, tinkering with different flavors, and working on the brand more as a hobby than a business. At one point, I was brewing so much that I’d converted the entire kitchen into a “fermentorium” by dropping shower curtains all around it and jamming all the closets with brewing supplies and full bottles for conditioning. Mombucha has always been a passionate demonstration of what I think a yummy, authentic Kombucha should be. It wasn’t until May of 2013 that I found a space (outside my apartment) suitable for brewing and had the courage to focus solely on developing Mombucha full time. Having a limited customer base, it was necessary to figure out a way to be resourceful to cover the high costs of operating in New York City which is how Magick City came about. Magick City is the certified shared kitchen and community arts venue where Mombucha is brewed. We share our kitchen with 13+ food startups including caterers, beverage makers, confectioners, bakers, and food scientists, all of us sharing resources, inspiration, and incidental mentorship. Our “tasting room” has become well known as a place to catch an intimate gathering around food, music, art, dance, meditation, and film.

Q: What is your favorite flavor of kombucha? 

There’s a place in Berkley, CA called “The Cultured Pickle Shop” where some really experienced fermenters are churning out some of the liveliest, most delicious flavors of Kombucha I’ve ever tried. Their beet and fennel flavors were the inspiration for my Gingerbeet and Gingerfennel brews.

Q: What is your former/current other life or career?

I think I’ve worked pretty much every job imaginable: school custodian, movie theater concessions, grounds keeper, dishwasher, audio engineer, stand-up comedian, chairlift operator, receptionist, data entry, art handler, fashion photography production coordinator, landscaper, waiter, bartender, line cook, pizza dough flipper, restaurant owner, real estate agent, advertising account executive, and finally “professional Kombucha brewer.” As disparate as all these jobs are, they each uniquely contributed something to the role I’m playing now.

Q: What is a saying that you live by?

Do what thou wilt.