Kombucha. If you have never heard of this beverage, then you are neither a foodie nor a health-conscious consumer.
Kombucha is fermented tea that started as a fad but has since morphed into a full-blown trend.
This detoxifying, tangy drink has jumped from convenience stores in developed markets to Nairobi gyms and supermarkets, and entrepreneurs are making it locally.
Booch is one of the companies behind raw kombucha in Kenya. Eoin Flinn, the founder and CEO of Booch in Nairobi, says the tea is fermented via a SCOBY, which basically means a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. He uses oolong tea that comes from a selection of farms in Kenya.
Oolong tea comes from the same plant as black or green tea but it is processed differently and is less bitter.
“After purchasing this tea in its loose-leaf form, we sweeten it with cane sugar. The sugar helps in the fermentation process,” says Eoin.
The tea is then flavoured with strawberry, ginger, blueberry or raspberry and sold in stores such as Zucchini, Healthy U, gyms and restaurants.
“Kombucha is quite popular in other regions of the world and my wife and I were consumers of the drink before coming to Kenya. We wanted to continue having it when we came here and this was why we decided to start making it ourselves,” says Eoin.
With a career background in manufacturing and having worked in China and the US, Eoin and his wife Meghan started Booch two years ago as a side project while doing consultancy jobs in Nairobi. They are now looking to expand their production to include craft beer.
I tasted their strawberry flavoured Booch which was mildly fizzy and also very refreshing.
“Don’t be surprised if you feel a little rush after enjoying this drink. Having gone through a natural fermentation process, it does have a little alcohol although it is less than 0.5 percent,” Eoin says.
Acquiring the necessary certifications and approvals from the government took a while since kombucha is not a familiar drink in Kenya.
“The officials weren’t sure about how to test it. However, we are part of the Kombucha Brewers Association and together with other producers we created a standard that should be followed by all brewers and submitted it to the relevant body in government,” he explains.
He ferments kombucha in two stages.
“First, we take the oolong tea and add the SCOBY live culture with cane sugar and yeast which fuels the fermentation process then it becomes raw kombucha after 10 days,” Eoin explains.
The storage jars with the tea are sealed with a cotton cloth that allows oxygen to flow in and out of the jar, aiding the fermentation process.
The second stage takes two days. He adds fresh ginger, fresh strawberries, blueberries or raspberries to the fermented tea in a sealed container so the flavours can infuse.
“This makes the kombucha mildly carbonated which is a result of fermentation,” says Eoin.
The final product is packaged in 250ml bottle.
Kombucha is known for its health benefits, which include; immune boosting, detoxifying and it has probiotics.
When buying kombucha, Eoin advises that you buy it weekly because the longer it stays, the more it ferments and gets bitter.
“Kombucha should be kept refrigerated at all times at a constant temperature to hold the fermentation process,” says Eoin.
Alternative methods of holding the fermentation process are pasteurising which we don’t do because it will interfere with the probiotics and will reduce the health benefits by around 70 percent,” he said