Kombucha brewery puts environment first

2019-10-22 06:00
Saru Nhira, Alex Glenday and Lovemore Nhira at Brew Kombucha’s premises at Montebello Design Studios in Newlands. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

Saru Nhira, Alex Glenday and Lovemore Nhira at Brew Kombucha’s premises at Montebello Design Studios in Newlands. PHOTO: Nettalie Viljoen

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Kombucha – a fermented, low-alcoholic, slightly fizzy, sweetened drink – has been around since 221BC. Yet, it is not a drink often offered to guests at a braai.

Health benefits notwithstanding, the drink usually made from green or black tea, has not become a household name. What might have stood in its way is its reputation for another purported trait: a rather funky taste. However, Newlands resident and owner of Brew Kombucha, Alex Glenday, hopes to change that. The brewing company, the first and thus far only producer of certified organic kombucha in South Africa, was one of more than 30 alcohol-free producers who were showcased at the Mindful Drinking Festival held last weekend at the Kirstenbosch Cottages in Newlands.

Glenday says not all kombuchas are created equal. Just like wine, kombucha can either be of a high standard or plonk. It all depends on the quality of the ingredients used, Glenday says.

“I don’t believe kombucha should taste like vinegar. Just because it’s good for you, doesn’t mean it has to taste bad,” she says.

The self-taught kombucha brewer has been experimenting with various recipes and fermentation processes since 2015.

“My sister, Nicky, and I started experimenting in my mother’s (Biddy) kitchen when I came back from living overseas,” she explains.

Glenday, now 30, had been on the road, so to speak, since the age of 17 when she began to pursue a career as an international model. During a stint in New York, she was introduced to kombucha.

“I fell in love with the taste, but when I returned to South Africa, I couldn’t find a locally produced product that compared well with what I had tasted,” she says.

An entrepreneur at heart, Glenday decided to start making and bottling her own kombucha but with a twist. Instead of green or black tea, she decided to use Rooibos tea.

When space became available at Montebello Design Centre in Newlands in 2015, Glenday went for it. Brewers, Saru Nhira and Lovemore Nhira have been with her from the beginning. “Other ingredients include Rooibos sourced from the Cederberg mountains, tea from a Sri Lankan carbon-neutral farm, cut green sugar from Brazil and indigenous medicinals from South Africa,” she says.

Starting out, she spent many a night brewing and bottling until 23:00. A year later, the business was registered. The end product, which has an alcohol content of less than 1%, contains no pesticides and is packed with antioxidants, natural probiotics, vitamin C and, according to lab testing, 233% of the daily required intake of vitamin B12.

The manufacturing process has been carefully designed to reuse over 90% of its processing water. Minimal wastewater is used to water the employee vegetable garden. “It is at the forefront of our business philosophy. Running an ethical business means being responsible at all points of the process.”

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