Culture Kombucha is entering its fourth year of fermenting tea and giving back to the Ottawa community.
Wentsi Yeung, the founder of the business, said she decided to start brewing her own kombucha after trying it for the first time.
“It was love at first sip, it was something I knew I wanted to share,” she said.
“I tried ginger as a first flavour even though I hate eating ginger. I just thought like ‘well this seems like the most popular one so let’s give it a try,'” Yeung said. “It tasted amazing, I love that bubbly mouth feel, it was refreshing, thirst quenching, I literally thought it was a miracle drink after that sip. I was walking back home and I was feeling really like I had a bit of energy.”
Kombucha is drink made from fermenting tea, water and sugar. Yeung said the carbonated drink contains probiotics and is good for digestive health. Culture Kombucha sells flavours like ginger, raspberry-mint, sour cherry vanilla and elderberry in bottles, and more varied flavours in small kegs.
Yeung said kombucha is still a relatively new drink in Ottawa's food scene and getting people to try it for the first time has been a challenge. The different brewers in eastern Ontario all offer something different depending on what people enjoy. She said the mindset in the brewing community isn’t necessarily about competing with each other, but more about offering people an alternative to soda and soft drinks.
The business has also been a vehicle for her passion of food security, Yeung said. Culture Kombucha is certified organic and uses local ingredients in its brews.
“I believe in sustainable agriculture, I believe in reducing food waste, I believe that everyone deserves good and healthy food no matter their situation.”
A major part of the business for Yeung has been giving back to the community. She said the business has partnered with the Parkdale Food Centre and works with a class at Connaught Public School to teach entrepreneurship. The class grows basil and Culture Kombucha buys it back at market price to use in drinks, which teaches the students how to market and sell a product.
“I’m from an immigrant family and my parents worked super hard to give us the things they couldn’t have,” she said. “I feel the responsibility to give back to those who don’t have the same opportunities and luxuries that I have been so lucky to have.”
Yeung said her parents have run a mechanics’ shop for 30 years and a community has developed around their store. Seeing this was one of the things that lead her toward starting her own business.
“We still see my dad’s customers and they used to say they saw me when I was a baby in diapers, so it’s a really amazing community they’ve built and that’s the community I’m trying to re-create.”
In the future, Yeung said she wants to grow the business to the point that it can buy tea and sugar direct trade straight from growers. She said the goal is to continue to – and become more—environmentally friendly.
“It’s really, how do we create sustainable business that has deep roots in the environment? How can we create better soils and help others at the same time?”
Culture Kombucha drinks are available at locations across Ottawa, including Happy Goat Coffee, Stella Luna, Pure Kitchen and CRAFT Beer Market.