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.