So, What Exactly Is Kombucha, and Why Is It So Darn Trendy?
Unless you've never been to a grocery store, you've most definitely seen vibrantly packaged glass bottles of Health-Ade kombucha roaming the specialty beverage aisles.
And while Health-Ade, among other kombucha brands, appears to be everywhere, do you really even know what it is? It's made of actual bacteria, which could easily turn people away, yet it's an increasingly popular product.
So, what exactly is kombucha, and why is it so darn trendy? In honor of National Kombucha Day on Wed., Jan. 15, we chatted with Health-Ade's co-founder and CEO, Daina Trout, who shared everything we need to know about the healthy phenomenon.
Sweety High: Please break down exactly what kombucha is and why it's beneficial.
Daina Trout: Kombucha is fermented tea that's naturally rich in probiotics and healthy acids. It's made by adding a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to sweetened brewed green and/or black tea and letting the mixture ferment. Many brands try to hasten this natural process, but Health-Ade is proud to do this the traditional, real-food way.
Kombucha is a traditionally fermented food, not a supplement or prescription. Think of it more as a bubbly delicious drink that's better for you than soda, because it's way less in sugar and full of stuff than makes you feel good, versus full of stuff that weighs you down.
SH: What can you say to people who are weirded out by the idea that they're drinking bacteria?
DT: Did you know there are more bacteria in your gut than there are stars in the milky way? Your microbiome drives so much about your health, and drinking and eating real foods supports the health of your microbiome. Kombucha is a part of that, and there's nothing scary about it. Think of it like a bag of carrots—alive, full of good stuff and tastes delicious.
SH: What are some misconceptions about kombucha?
DT: There is a misconception that it tastes bad, or that it's only for the health freaks. Kombucha tastes deliciously refreshing and is great if you're looking for a way to step out of soda and into something that's better for you and makes you feel good.
SH: How can kombucha be used aside from just drinking it out of a bottle?
DT: Kombucha can be used in many creative ways. It can be used as a household cleaner, a facial toner, and an ingredient in mocktails and baked goods!
SH: How does Health-Ade's kombucha differ from other brands on the market?
DT: Health-Ade is different from other brands for a few reasons:
- Health-Ade is the commercially brewed kombucha that is fermented in glass to prevent plastic leaching.
- Health-Ade brews in super small batches (2.5 gallon glass jars) to ensure the highest quality kombucha around.
- We flavor only with juice from organic produce and high-quality extracts from superfoods.
- Health-Ade is certified organic, raw, non-GMO, gluten-free and kosher (except for grape vibes).
SH: Co-founding a kombucha line seems like a pretty complicated process. What was that experience like and how did you even choose to go that route?
DT: In 2005, I was in school for nutritional biology and I was super into food, whether I was cooking it or feeding it to others. I got very into fermentation and was constantly growing stuff in my apartment. When I was at Tufts for grad school, I wasn't just learning how to make kombucha, but learning how feeling good and eating well is all connected. I didn't know it then but this would some day become my identity.
Around 2012, my boyfriend, best friend and I were working corporate jobs, all feeling like we were just a number without a purpose. We all felt that we had an itch around the time that we wanted to start our own business. We brainstormed a few ideas: apps, clothes, food—but nothing really stuck. I had always been interested in fermented foods and began experimenting with kombucha so much that I could barely give it away or drink it quick enough.
Justin, Vanessa and I then got a last-minute opportunity from a friend to sell at the Brentwood Farmers' Market. It started in two weeks and we didn't think about it, we immediately said yes. On March 25, 2012, we set up 60 bottles of kombucha with taped-on labels and sold out within an hour.
From that moment on, we couldn't make enough kombucha to satisfy the demand. We thought this was just going to be a short term project but that summer held a different story. We realized we were the best tasting, highest quality kombucha that anyone could buy.
SH: How did Health-Ade reach such enormous success? What were the most difficult and least difficult parts of seeing it all come to fruition?
DT: I think the key thing is getting back on that horse. So whatever you call that: hustle, grit, resilience, but it's getting back on that horse when you fall off. Even in the farmers' market days, I remember one brand in particular that started right around the same time as us. They had a great product, great branding and great packaging—the whole thing felt really spot on.
Then, by the end of the farmers' market, they quit and we quit our full-time jobs to grow Health-Ade. I don't think it had to do with having the right product, I think it was that they gave up and we didn't, we kept going. We kept pushing. We kept getting better. We kept forcing ourselves to evolve. I think that's the key to success—it's that hustle, that grit to get better and that relentless drive and tenacity.
One difficult part of seeing this come to fruition is that you have to grow as a leader and as a team so much faster than normal. The company demands a better employee four times faster than usual, so you're constantly pushing each member, including yourself, to get better at everything. It feels like you're building a plane, fixing a plane, and flying a plane at its max speed all at the same time. The easiest part? Nothing is easy about this.
SH: Is there anything else you'd like consumers to know about the product?
DT: On January 15th, while supplies last, Health-Ade is giving away one free case of kombucha with promo code FREEBOOCH, limit one per customer. If you're not able to snag a free case, Health-Ade is offering 15% off with promo code BOOCHDAY15 through January 15th. These deals are only redeemable on www.health-ade.com.
Speaking of kombucha, the hilarious kombucha girl is just one of THESE viral TikToks we couldn't get enough of in 2019!