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You’ve come a long way, baby! Praise you!

GO Kombucha's changing looks

2003-7 – the Boathouse phase

19th November 2018 marks the final payment of our 10 year business loan, making GO! Kombucha debt free, self-owned and determined. We mark this momentous day with a look back to where it began, and the various name and branding changes our real and true Kombucha range underwent along the way…

It all started on a Boathouse moored by the Thames in Teddington, Middlesex. The branding for our first ever mass bottling run in 2003 – contracted out in the earliest days for brewing to kids’ soft drinks manufacturer Rocks Organic – conveyed our quirky homemade heritage; Boathouse Gourmet Kombucha.

We set a precedent using only green tea and adding flavourings, pioneering ginger ‘booch’ along with fruity blackcurrant and peach and elderflower (we seriously underestimated the public palate would embrace the naked booch taste!) But there was a snag: probiotics were an unknown quantity in 2003.

The science into gut health and the microbiome was still some years away, so we idled on health food store shelves around the country unnoticed and unloved…a costly first attempt that saddled our little business with upfront debt. We withdrew from retail and sold exclusively online for the next few years…

2007-10 – the Olde England phase

It was Hollywood actress/wild child Lindsay Lohan who propelled us forward. In January 2007 Lindsay was arrested when the electronic alcohol detector bracelet linked to the local LAPD – which she was obliged to wear at all times as a condition of her then bail – went off, and Lindsay was promptly arrested.

Protesting her innocence, it was discovered that Lindsay was not back on the bottle after all but hooked on an emerging new west coast A-lister celebrity health craze, Kombucha tea, which although containing trace levels of alcohol was still enough to be detected by her bracelet, setting it off.

Most of the weekly women’s gossip magazines in the UK covered the story that month – several on their front covers showing Lindsay clutching a bottle of @gtskombucha – prompting thousands to seek out this ‘miracle elixir’. Overnight our online sales went into overdrive, heralding our first major pay day.

Realising there was gold in them thar scobys after all and with some cash in our coffers, in April 2007 we found a vineyard in the heart of rural Sussex which had the capacity to not only enable us to brew large quantities of authentic Kombucha, but was equipped to bottle and distribute the end product for us too.

The flavours were trimmed to blackcurrant, peach and – sensing the demand for unflavoured booch – Original Sencha and rebranded with a quaint ‘olde England’ design by an art college friend. Gaia’s Organic Kombucha was picked up by distributors again in 2008, only this time we were on our way…

2010-13 – the stylish makeover phase

By 2010 business was starting to thrive, with interest from Scandinavian markets including Norway, Finland and Sweden. Three out of every four bottles sold were Original Sencha, so we dropped the fruit and became a 100% pure and authentic kombucha tea.

Cue a third, stylish brand makeover and a shortening of the name using Gaia’s Organic’s initials. In October 2010 the slicker, punchier GO! Kombucha was born, with a new label by a friend who designed layouts for Condé Naste and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Red Pu-erh was introduced in May 2011, and by late 2012 GO! Kombucha was a health store bestseller throughout the UK.

2013- Quirky Retro forever!

GO Kombucha's quirky retro look
We love today’s quirky retro look!

In April 2013 we shook up our branding with our current ‘quirky retro’ look care of top London design studio Collectiva and launched two new teas in 250ml size bottles, China White and Yunnan Gold, to enter into the grab and go market.

With the successful 2017 launch of Darjeeling Black and the possibility of a sixth 250ml tea next year, the GO! Kombucha range continues to innovate and evolve to this day.

Only our small batch handcrafted process that honours the original Ancient Chinese brewing method remains unchanged after 15 long years – just as real and true Kombucha tea should be!

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‘ultra-processed’ food and the “kombucha industry” dilemma

GO Kombucha - Avoid foods that put you at risk

Go kombucha compare healthy options

The Kombucha sector should be a shining light within a global industry that ‘kills’ food in pursuit of mass profits. So why is it following suit?

by Gary Leigh  Part 1 (of 2)

New research published by The British Medical Journal, based on the food diaries of 105,000 adults, adds weight to the hypothesis that “ultra-processed” food significantly raises the risk of cancer, citing middle-aged women as being in particular danger of developing the disease. Factory-made convenience foods – from salt-laden ready meals, sugary cereals and chemical-infused fizzy drinks – now make up half of the typical British diet.

Study head Dr Mathilde Tourier said the poor nutritional value of factory food was probably the most important factor in cancer risk. “They all have additives, they all have compounds formed during the processing and heating of the products, and they have compounds that could come from the packaging itself,” she said, echoing ongoing fears that ready meals packed in plastic trays and drinks sold in plastic bottles could leach chemical residues.

you really are what you eat!

Ultra-processing involves applying artificial and industrialized techniques to foods to alter their make-up and structure, and is mostly profit-driven. Heat-treating/pasteurization destroys pathogens – and also live nutrients – to extend shelf life; chemical agents and additives add bulk and enhance flavor; cheap fats, refined sugar and salt together seduce the tastebuds and trick the brain into thinking it is still hungry, encouraging greater consumption…

These processes together leach and kill the microorganisms that give raw food its vitality, or life force; the good bacteria, beneficial yeasts, active enzymes, vitamins and minerals which confer life-enhancing benefits to the body. When destroyed, the deadened food in turn slumps us into a state of lethargy and listlessness instead of working symbiotically with the body’s natural processes and microbial ecosystem to invigorate and sustain it. You really are what you eat!

industrialization by stealth

How did we arrive at such a backward step in our evolution when, just 100 years ago, most of our food was ‘whole’ (i.e. untampered) and delivered direct to independent grocers shops and street markets from family-run farms which, by default, practiced natural and largely organic processes, and where livestock was allowed to roam and graze freely on green pasture as opposed to today’s intensive and comparatively barbaric factory farms?

The industrialization of food occurred by stealth, but a massive sleight of hand was dealt in the 1980s when food conglomerates convinced the western world that fat in all its forms was responsible for our waistlines slowly expanding since the 1950s, when food processing took off in earnest. We were told by industry heads and medical experts alike that shunning all fats and switching to low fat and synthetic versions of popular foods was the answer.

Low fat versions of everything from biscuits and snacks to cakes and yogurts hit the shelves, the fat replaced with sugar and refined / ’empty’ carbohydrates to compensate for the reduction in taste and texture. There was also a mass swing away from natural fats like grass fed butter – ironically one of the most nutritionally-dense foods of all – to synthetic spreads made with modified ‘Frankenstein fats’, because natural fats “clog up the arteries”, or so they claimed.

obesity, diabetes and heart disease

With the public buying into the hype and false claims wholesale, this could in retrospect be perceived as a cynical collusion between the food and pharma industries on a massive scale, because rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease began soaring in the west in the 1980s alongside the rise in the consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar, and pharma shareholders have profited massively from the synthetic compounds developed to treat them.

And these debilitating conditions have continued rising ever since, and wherever in the world the industrialization of food has occurred.

Foods lacking the digestive enzymes, live nutrients and fibre that processing and refining ruthlessly strips away in turn inhibits the body’s ability to process and break food down to enable it to pass through the body naturally, causing the digestive system to clog up. Bloating and flatulence are a result of undigested, decaying food trapped in the intestine producing noxious gasses, in much the same way methane gas is emitted from rotting compost.

No surprise that this breakthrough research found no cancer link to fruit, vegetables and pulses. Today the raw food and vegan movements lead the way in reawakening the world to the benefits of whole foods and healthy eating, and unadulterated, real Kombucha tea is about as raw and unprocessed as it gets.

However, in part 2 we turn the spotlight on the burgeoning global Kombucha industry itself, and the artificial processes and short cuts now being utilised by profit-driven brands to manufacture strange concoctions that are Kombucha in name only in a mad dash to scale up quickly and sell en masse. At what cost?

To be continued…

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why winning Great☆☆Taste means so much 2

Back from the Brink: A Life Lesson in Never Giving Up

by Gary Leigh  Part 2 (Part 1 here)

Mulling over how to effectively get back up S**t Creek without a paddle as I dozed off in my hospital bed one humid summer night in early August 2016, I awoke the next morning with the answer ringing loudly in my head.

I promptly phoned around all microbreweries within the Hastings/Bexhill/Battle triangle and in close proximity to our Kombuchery, and within two days found not one but two part-time brewers who could split their time brewing local craft ale with learning the art of Kombucha tea making. This would require near-daily, militarily precise emails sent by phone from my hospital bed listing every step of the process in painstaking detail. Kombucha is not just straightforward brewing; it requires laboratory expertise and precision. Just one misstep in the method or a few grams out in the ingredient calculations and the entire process could collapse, hitting us financially at a critical time and potentially setting the relaunch back months.

I needn’t have worried. New brewers Andy and Paul deftly felt their way through the process, combining their own expertise and knowledge of the brewing and fermentation process to finesse our production, yielding an end product even more finely-attuned and balanced than had been achieved previously. So it was with an overwhelming sense of relief that our return batch of 3000 bottles of Green Sencha and Red Pu erh rolled off the bottling line in mid-September 2016, immediately selling to our loyal and patient online customers to generate the cash flow necessary to forge ahead with larger runs that would see GO! Kombucha returned to shop shelves by the end of November.

“reach for the stars and bounce back!”

Fast forward a year, and the magical synergy that returned the brand to life yielded not only a rapturously received new flavor – GO! Kombucha Darjeeling Black – and exposure in the October 2017 edition of fashion and style Bible Vogue, but an “outstanding” 2-star Great Taste 2017 award; achievements which I unhesitatingly attribute to the renewed sense of purpose and unswerving determination to revive the brand by all concerned, propelling GO! Kombucha to new heights with zest, verve and vigour, undoubtedly also serving to spur my own recovery forward.

That’s why winning two stars in Great Taste 2017 just less than a year after making those pivotal calls – with 10kg of metal fixators still pinned into, and weighing down each of, my lower legs – means so much. Not just to be, finally, recognized by the very best experts in the food industry, but as testimony to the strength of the human spirit, will power, determination and self-belief. That against all possible odds anyone – yes, even me! – can reach for the stars and bounce back from the most debilitating and challenging of circumstances, and to new heights that might otherwise have been unattainable had business proceeded as usual.

Today I am back on my feet doing all the things I ever loved doing – only with more gusto, appreciation and joie de vivre whether it be planning a weekend away, shopping at Aldi, enjoying a double espresso at my local Costa, or simply just being – and activities I was told I would never be physically able to do again (well, perhaps I will be able to run for that bus again, one day…). Part of my self-prescribed rehab has been gym workouts and physio four times a week, and attending many of the wonderful charity-run vegan shows across the country in aid of animal welfare; one of the best tonics that has helped get me back into life’s groove and for which I will always be grateful for (thanks Victoria!).

It required the hardest of falls to earth to slow down and smell the roses. I’d ignored all warning signs leading up to it and, in retrospect, a great jolt was necessary to make me take stock and propel life forward. If the Universe is trying to make you slow down or change track, don’t ignore the warning signs, trust your gut instinct. I didn’t, again and again, and learned the hardest way possible, but nonetheless am grateful for the experience and valuable life lesson learned along the way.

War wounds and all!