Cali Kombucha—Brewer Q&A
Based in: Los Cabos, Mexico
Distribution: Los Cabos, Mexico
We really admire founder Vanessa Mada's mission to bring more healthy beverage options to Mexican consumers. These flavors are really soft and crisp, and we especially loved Cranberry Mint, which had the perfect balance of mint's coolness with the tart-and-sweet of the cranberry. The mint, in fact, comes right from Vanessa's own garden. She currently brews her kombucha right in her own home, producing 32 gallons a week. We chatted with Vanessa about what it's like being the first locally-brewed kombucha in Los Cabos!
Kombucha Hunter: When did you first discover kombucha?
Vanessa Mada: I discovered kombucha for the first time in Arizona, 12 years ago. My ex-boyfriend's mother talked about it and showed us "el hongo chino" (the Chinese mushroom) that her and her friends would pass along to family members, neighbors, and whoever was interested in this mysterious tea that promised to keep you healthy. I had a few sips of her home brew and I liked it, but what I was more intrigued by was the story behind the immortal tea. There were no brands of kombucha at the time in Tucson, Arizona. In Los Cabos, the kombucha brands that are available now in our local health food store are GT's and Health-Ade Kombucha, and we started to see them about a year ago. Kombucha is pretty new in Los Cabos and Mexico.
KH: When did you start brewing your own kombucha and how did you get into it?
VM: I rediscovered kombucha three years ago in Colorado at health food stores, and started trying as many flavors and brands as I could. During my visit there, I moved to a new home in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, and the landlord left a huge scoby with starter liquid under the cabinet and gave it to me and my friend Brandy. We had no idea how to make kombucha, but we wanted to make our own, save a few bucks, experiment with it, and feel the gratification of home-brewing. After a few days of research and watching tons of youtube videos, we decided to make our first batch. In the middle of the first batch, I had to leave back home to Los Cabos and did not get chance to try it, but my friend told me it turned out really good. I was hoping to soon be able to do it again, but never really thought I could travel with a scoby.
Heading back home was were magic happened again. I made a stop in Ensenada, Baja California Sur at my friend's home, and little did I know that she had been making her continuous brew for a while, and she gave me and my friend Silvana a scoby to bring back home to Baja Sur. We were stoked! Finally, we made it home with a new scoby, and after a few successful brews that we shared with friends and family, we noticed people wanted more, and we also received great feedback from regular booch drinkers from the US and Canada. I was hooked! All I wanted to do was brew and experiment with different flavors and teas. I knew this was a sign that we need to share this with the rest of the people down here in Mexico.
So, to be exact—13 months ago, we stared officially brewing the first local kombucha in Baja California Sur, Mexico. We were two dreamers thinking big and feeling blessed that we had found our passion, which was making booch and sharing with all of our community and all of Mexico, if possible. Six month into our business, Silvana and I decided to split the business. Now she has her own brand, and she is doing wonderful. I am really blessed she was in my path—it was a huge kick-start for both of us. I feel we both inspired each other to do great things but in different ways.
KH: What kind of regulations exist for commercial kombucha production in Los Cabos currently?
VM: A lot of people down here have no idea what kombucha is, but the regulation to handle any type of food or liquid is to pass a blood test of all the people who are handling the product and checking to see if they are eligible to do so. Also, our local organic market does an inspection of our facilities for sanitation and to make sure we are fully organic.
KH: Do you source your flavor ingredients like mint and cranberry locally?
VM: Yes! Our mint is from our garden and most of my seasonal flavors come from my garden and from local farmers. The cranberries I buy at Costco, since no cranberries grow here. I buy organic Mexican sugar; the teas I get are from a local tea shop that has great quality organic teas blends, and every time there's a trip to the US I make sure to bring back some good teas.
KH: Are there any fruits that are native to Los Cabos that you plan to incorporate into your kombucha?
VM: Yes, yes so many: mangoes, guayabas, guanabanas, pomegranate, lychee, pitayas, varieties of citrus, strawberries, and dates, all of which I already experimented with—yum! There is still a lot more fruit that I can't wait to get my hands on like plums, figs, carambola. We also have damiana tea from the desert that have great benefits that I want to experiment more with.
KH: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome to produce your own kombucha, and what are your goals for your brand?
VM: My biggest challenges have being managing time, because I have another job and I am a mother of a three-year-old beautiful baby; also, finding wholesale prices in Mexico, learning from scratch how to build a business on my own, and making the decision to choose the correct business partner. I have a big goal and it's happening so fast, it blows my mind. I want to be able to provide a healthy alternative drink to all of Mexico, starting locally and then maybe expanding nationwide. All I just want to do is brew and make people smile, because their bellies are happy!