Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that has been consumed for thousands of years. It assists in maintaining healthy bacteria levels in the digestive tract. You may have heard about its relationship to “gut health”, but did you know it can also strengthen your immune system and help you fight off illnesses?
I first heard about kombucha through a friend, and I have loved it ever since! (It can be an acquired taste, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t love it right away). But why, I often asked myself, is this seemingly epic beverage so uncommon where I lived, and not widely available? I quickly learned that you needed to know where to look – health food stores and markets were usually my only options. Every time I visited a big city with a Whole Foods Market I would stock up. Nevertheless I was bummed that the drink isle of every grocery store had a wide range of sodas, a few flavoured waters, and that was about it.
Meanwhile, nearby in Southwestern Ontario Shannon Kamins was asking herself how she could ward off the effects of celiac disease with fermented foods, and she did what I hadn’t found the courage to do, she made her own kombucha. After about 2 years of making it for herself, friends and family started to ask her if they could buy it. Finally, she decided to open “Booch” with her business partner Shawn Slade. The rest is history! Ask me now where I can buy it, and I’ll tell you all over the place!
Today I am so excited to welcome Shannon to the blog. She shares parts of her inspirational journey to starting Booch, and some useful tips to kickstart making your own kombucha from home.
Shannon, thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom and allow us the chance to get to know you (and Booch) more!
S | Thanks so much for having me.
Tell us a little bit about your health journey, before learning about kombucha.
S | I have always been interested in health, but my “health journey” started while I was in University. At the time I was on the low fat train, and although I ate pretty healthy, I was really bloated. Every night I would go to bed with a pregnant looking belly and sharp pains. I knew something didn’t add up.
I spoke with doctors who told me I had IBS, which is usually what they tell you when they don’t know whats wrong (digestive problems are really a deep, deep issue). In my fourth year of University I visited a nutritionist who told me I should get tested for celiac disease, and the results were positive. I have been eating gluten free ever since, however, I’ve learned recently that studies suggest a link between GMO’s and poor gut health! It made me wonder if gluten was the real culprit. I began working at a few organic delivery services and started eating more and more organic food, and learning about where my food is coming from. I took a food security course through Ryerson University, and I learned about the sustainability of our food system, eating in season, eating locally, supporting local farmers, and I began adopting that sort of diet.
My health got better and better, however stomach problems take a long time to fix, so it has been an ongoing effort. Even if I eat an Organic corn chip, I will get bloated, so I’ve learned that some grains are very hard for me to digest.
I like to use the resource: Weston A. Price Foundation to guide some of my current eating habits. I learned to incorporate all different types of fermented food into my diet (sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, etc.) and then Shawn and I began to make kombucha! It was an easy way to add probiotics to my diet and I loved being able to add whatever I wanted to the recipes.
How did you discover kombucha, and how has it made a positive impact on your life?
S | Weston A. Price, as well as through a girl friend who started a probiotic business in Guatemala. My friend taught me a few things and she gave me a book called “The Art of Fermentation,” through which I learned even more. It’s like my fermenting bible.
It has made a positive impact on my life in every single way. Health wise, it has made me feel energized (where before I would be ready for a nap at 9am). On a larger scale it has connected me to the community, which is amazing, and it has allowed me to open a business. We have been able to create local jobs and support local farmers. I would have never thought that through making kombucha for myself, that it would have turned into this. On top of that when I consider how many people need it, and whose bellies are feeling a lot better…it’s just amazing!
Before brewing kombucha became a business for you, what was your brewing routine?
S | I started out with a scoby from a gentleman in London and one gallon containers. Each batch started from scratch.
I would brew quite often and on a weekly basis. Friends were buying it from me early on because they enjoyed the taste and quality. I juiced so many fruits and roots, so there was a lot of good flavour to it. We also has the benefits of a raw juice and kombucha in one.
Were there challenges you faced brewing it from home, and how did you solve them?
S | Yes, fridge space! As soon as kombucha is done fermenting you want it to go into the fridge, and as huge veggie eaters, finding fridge space was a challenge. It became an opportunity though because we realised that we wanted to start a business!
When I first started I had a few other challenges but you learn so much, so quickly. A lot of people over ferment it, but it is still perfectly safe as long as there is no mold growing in it. It will be full of probiotics!
From a business perspective, how did you and Shawn turn your humble brewing operations into a successful company?
S | Booch, the business, was born at the perfect time. I had been passionately brewing kombucha for a long time, I knew how to make it really well, I had the networks in place, and then my job ended. I thought, why not give it a try?
After Shawn and I decided that we wanted to go into business together our first challenge was finding a kitchen space that was affordable. When you’re first starting your venture, you don’t know for sure if people are going to buy your product, so signing on for a space thats affordable is important. We began to sub-rent part of Eat Green Organics where had I worked. They were wonderful because they knew we needed to start small and then grow.
Where do you see Booch in the next 5 years?
S |I’d love to distribute throughout Ontario, and potentially other provinces (I’m from Winnipeg, Manitoba), but moving out of province is a big undertaking.
We want to create local jobs so depending on where we grow we would probably open multiple locations where we can help foster the local economy.
We have a lot of ideas up our sleeves! It will be on tap in many places soon, like at The Root Cellar.
Could you share 5 tips for someone who is thinking about brewing kombucha at home?
S | 1. Find a scoby that is raised organically, through fair trade, and with love (a key ingredient!), 2. Just do it – don’t be afraid of it turning to vinegar (use it as a salad dressing if that happens!), 3. Share it with friends and family, 4. Watch it closely – you will get to know the shape and the colour of a healthy scoby as you go, 5. Try other fermented beverages, too!
Thanks so much, Shannon, for taking the time to share some of your story and wisdom with us! I hope everyone enjoyed reading, and that you’ll try out kombucha soon, if you haven’t yet. Or, maybe you’ll try your hand at making some?! With Shannon’s encouragement, I’m feeling much more capable now. (Booch sells scoby’s at the Covent Garden Market (London, ON) for only $5, to encourage community brewing.) Cheers!