Monday, 2/21, was World Kombucha Day and we thought what better time to share a conversation from our brewer and founder on kombucha!
Picture this: It’s 2002, grocery store isles don’t even have a kombucha section and the closest thing to a health drink is a Diet Coke.. The word kombucha has hardly touched the lips of a fraction of Americans. Well this is the year our brewer purchased his first scoby and, fun fact, the very same scoby is used in the production of Hooch Booch today! Let’s get into the convo:
Anna (Hooch Booch founder): What inspired you to start brewing kombucha?
Steve (Brewer): Ah that's a great question! This was way back in the day before anyone knew what kombucha was. My biggest inspirations were that it was touted to be healthy and that it had so many attributes that are said to be healing. I was working at an organic market in Vail valley. We were very focused on raw food and healing and trying to recreate the food pyramid with fermented and raw foods at the top. All my beliefs and studies about herbs led me to this next thing - kombucha. I started in my house with mason jars – in a way bootlegging it, almost speakeasy-like! Customers were coming into the store quite literally spilling their guts, sharing with me various restrictive diets they were told to be on. I would almost always say, “Well, I'm starting to brew this kombucha…”. At the time, it was very medicinal and strong with various teas and herbs. After a few weeks of drinking it, people would come back into the store sharing things like, “Wow, my candida is gone” or, “Hey, my digestion is working well” … I didn’t really know what would happen. I had just heard it was healthy.
Anna: What was making it so medicinal?
Steve: We would ferment it quite thoroughly, it is not so much the probiotics as it is what the probiotics are doing. They are yielding the organic acid profile that you get. Depending on what you are fermenting it with, it yields a higher acid profile. For instance with the black tea, I was getting a way higher organic acid profile. When you get a real cider-y flavor you get a more acidic profile which gives you more medicinal qualities. Black tea has a more nutritious profile for the culture to utilize. The caffeine in black tea is also much more available, I found the scoby really likes that. And the way we were fermenting it was another thing. We were doing it in small batches, shallower with more surface area for the scoby to breathe.
Anna: Why are fermented foods good for you?
Steve: I really think it is the acidic quality. I think most people shoot for the probiotics and they are really just along for the ride. It is really what they have done. Like you don’t eat cabbage because it's medicinal, but you eat kimchi because it is. It is the whole assimilation in the digestive process. The same thing our bellies are doing – trying to ferment and use acids to break down our foods. It's also the enzyme qualities, these are what are delivering the nutrients to our bodies. Many people now are trying to supplement their bodies with enzymes as a way to make up for what our bodies are lacking to break down foods. When you have a good living profile of acids and enzymes together I think you are getting a great 1-2 punch that is happening by nature. Kombucha is constantly proliferating, creating more top tier enzymes. Rather than a capsule that has X amount of enzymes when encapsulated, kombucha keeps creating bacteria.
Anna: So you think raw food and drinks are better than a supplement?
Steve: I think so. I have noticed in myself and working with people, that a strong raw kombucha over 2 weeks has impacted more than years of supplements. Their ailments are going away as they are drinking the kombucha. Living foods resonate more with your body – You know what they say, “Living foods for the living body!” It is 100% the answer for me. When you eat an apple you don’t eat it off the tree necessarily like a squirrel does. You get the apple that was picked then brought to a store then you buy it and eat it. Kombucha is like still on the tree, you are getting the highest vibrational quality of the food you can get for enzymes and bacteria.
Anna: How much kombucha do you drink a day?
Steve: Ah! Haha some days not much. Some days A LOT.
Anna: Like how much is a lot?
Steve: I think a lot would be like, jeez, maybe half a gallon to a gallon. Which is a lot. Sometimes people ask me, “How much is too much?” That really depends on you. If your body is not used to it and you drink a gallon of kombucha you are going to have some pretty extreme effects.
Anna: Question on specifically Hard Kombucha. We get asked a lot – Are you sure the alcohol is not killing the kombucha in there? Can you explain why it's not?
Steve: Ah that's a good question. If there is any competition going on with the champagne yeast and the scoby, kombucha is going to win at everything because of its symbiosis. It is starving out other yeast and organisms just like it does in our bodies. There is really not a lot of competition. Kombucha itself already produces alcohol and is quite tolerant, probably even higher than what we are producing for you all. It's a nice unicorn, much better than a rum and soda pop. You are getting a clean organic alcohol and a clean organic kombucha. It's the best of both worlds.
Anna: This has me thinking one other thing -shelf stability on kombucha and your thoughts on this? We have been posed with some push back on this topic. How come other products are shelf stable? What are your two cents on this?
Steve: Lets see. A lot of it is needing to stay in a cold environment and the people don’t want to be responsible for it being cold all of the time. Shelf stability has definitely become an issue and some of the brands that are shelf stable are probably pasteurizing their final products in the cans or bottles, but then we run into the product not being raw and giving you the benefits you want.
Anna: Then what is the point of drinking it if it’s pasteurized? Are you essentially drinking plain tea?
Steve: Yes, right. Why put kombucha in it? I agree. I have had pasteurized kombucha products and I feel like they start to give too much acidity, they don't balance each other out. They start to give me heartburn whether that's regular kombucha or hard kombucha. We are really pioneering the industry at this point, we are pushing the new envelope. We have been selling raw kombucha all over the world, there is no reason we can’t do the same with hard booch. We have to change their point of view. If you want the next best products, this is it. They have to be distributed correctly, sometimes you have to teach an old dog new tricks and here is where we are finding ourselves. We are the new dogs.