By Dhiya Bisyarah
All about that good gut feeling.
The global beverage market is worth a booming US$1.86 trillion by 2024. Beverage powerhouses like Starbucks, Coca Cola and bubble teas took the world by storm. In the last three years, Kombucha, the fermented sweetened tea drink has piqued the interest of health-enthusiasts worldwide. Previously misunderstood to be complicated and nasty smelling, consumer preferences have developed because of its noted health benefits and level of care into making it. Now more than ever, it has evolved to be artisanal, an influential player and even Instagrammable. What is it about fermented tea that makes it so palatable? Jun Kombucha and Elixr Inc spill it to Millionaireasia.
Every Kombucha will turn out different because of the way if it’s brewed according to various environments and temperatures. The basic process involves a double fermentation process whereby a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is placed in a sweetened tea mixture. This is left to ferment at room temperature for an average of two weeks.
Each fermentation batch would require a cover to prevent contamination. If left open to air, mold and fruit flies can feed on the sugars present in young ferments. As such, hygiene is a top priority. For Elixr Inc, it has catapulted them to upgrade their home business to a licensed facility just to ensure premium quality controls.
“Every step of the way is extra paranoia. Extra effort in everything. Some people will put a piece of cloth to cover the batches. But it might stretch out a bit and the holes can get bigger, letting fruit flies to penetrate through,’’ Director of Elixir Inc Victor Seit said.
Some of the measures Elixr Inc has taken is moving into an Singapore Food Agency (SFA) kitchen, frequent pest control and layering a few pieces of cloths on each batch to ensure maximum hygiene. Jun Kombucha’s co-founder Andre Lim understands the apprehension from the market about sanitation. An avid brewer and sous-chef-in-making who is familiar with food safety, he ensures every batch he makes is carefully taken care of.
“The best way to determine its safety from a brewer perspective is from the pH levels. As long as it reaches a level of 4.2 and below, it is deemed safe to drink. Every single drink Jun brews is pH tested,’’ reassured Andre. Jun Kombucha also created their own BOOCH shelf, a vertically integrated shelving system that allows easy monitoring of kombucha at a glance. This allows him to ascertain how much shade, air and ventilation is needed for proper brewing.
Taste is just as important as hygiene. Elixr Inc prides itself in being more experimental with their Kombucha flavours, mainly incorporating Asian flavours like lychee, calamansi, and sour plum. For Chinese New Year, they had a ginger and orange flavour for a more healthconscious crowd. Once, they even had coffee kombucha.
“When we present new flavours, we always try to put more depth into it. Our more popular flavours are Lychee Mint, Mango Vanilla Basil and Calamansi Sour Plum. We don’t want it to be just one fruit. We want more dimension. We played around with a lot of herbs before settling with basil. There is a lot of trial and error to get these robust flavours,’’ Carmen Lum, CEO of Elixr Inc explained.
Jun Kombucha uses whole pressed fruit juice. No concentrate, artificial colouring or preservatives. Consumers can easily identify the ingredients in the beverage. His favourite drink is Grape Hibiscus.
“We sourced Adora grapes from Australia to commit to the freshest tasting ingredients. I am very particular about it not tasting powdery,’’ Andre explained. He shares that “certain ingredients help the beverage become even more aromatic.’’ His other picks are the Pomegranate Rose which “ferments really well’’ among all the other flavours. “You can taste the ripeness of the Pomegranate at Week 1 of fermentation and a subtle rose at the back.’’
For Jun Kombucha, their drinks are positioned to be an alternative to wine. Cheese platters, food platters or tapas – they all pair just as nicely.
These pro-gut beverages are presumed to help alleviate gut issues. These include irritable bowel syndromes, bloating and acid refluxes. Constipation is also a common reason why people drink Kombucha. Besides the usage of fresh fruit, florals, spices and herbs, Kombucha also has minimal fizz, well-suited for those who prefer non-carbonated drinks. Both Jun Kombucha and Elixr Inc do not add chemicals nor sweeteners to make them taste good.
“There could be a market where people do not like fizzy beverages because it feels like some sort of abrasion on the throat. Our product is non-fizzy, aids digestion, tastes good and it’s really an all-in-one,’’ Andre shared. Spurred by superficial online information regarding health problems and advice, Elixir Inc has partnered with AMiLi to offer science-backed advice for customers. AmiLi is Southeast Asia’s gut microbiome bank.
“We want to do the homework for consumers so you don’t have to read ten pages on Google,’’ said Carmen. Other purported health benefits include improved immunity, lowered cholesterol, reduced inflammation and an energy boost, although not backed by science.
Yet one thing is for sure: it might just be your next cup of tea.