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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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dreaming of a debt-free kombucha business…

By Gary Leigh, GO! Kombucha Founder

IT ALL BEGAN soon after the sale of my London home in March 2003 when I handed a £30,000 12-month loan to two friends, who wanted to turn a hobby crafting a weird tea on their Thames houseboat into a UK drink brand. When their ambition – and my cash – burned out within a year, I waded in to sweep up the embers of my life-savings.

The business was signed over to me lock stock and barrel, but I was still working out how on earth to kick start it with scant funds – balanced with unpaid work for the voluntary charitable sector – when, in 2005, my “friends” sold their houseboat for approximately half a million pounds and promptly purchased, and relocated to…a vast chateau in France!

By 2007 – with probiotics still off the media radar, funds drying up and resorting to sleeping on cases of Kombucha in a dank Shoreditch warehouse – I turned to 0% credit cards to keep the tea flowing (folks, do not try this at home!) A year on, a further £20,000 spent and the card rates about to shoot up to 20%, I crawled in thinly-veiled desperation to the bank manager…

An angel in disguise? He looked at my business plan and agreed, albeit hesitantly, to convert my now considerable debt into a ten-year business loan commencing fall 2008, with interest fixed at 5% above base rate – a lifeline compared to what would otherwise have been (near certain financial disaster), and just about manageable within the business’s tight cash flow…

finally, free of all debts and covenants!

A decade on. The UK base rate is still mercifully below 1% and…the final monthly loan installment is about to be paid off! GO! Kombucha as an entity will then be, finally, entirely free of all debt and covenants, self-owned, self-determined, and operating fully within its own resources; an event I won’t be able to feel, process or put into words until that impossible day arrives in November.

Today, most new brands circumvent GO! Kombucha’s haphazard trajectory by setting up companies with several or multiple shareholders jointly responsible for shoring up the business, or with corporate cash. I was forced to take the road least travelled and grew GO! organically by reinvesting every single penny while sofa-surfing close to 40 (so not a good look!)

But it was a route that enabled GO! to remain true to its core principles; brewing 100% authentic, premium Kombucha tea over 15 years with mentoring from the late, great Kombucha guru Alick Bartholemew, thereby honouring the Ancient Chinese legacy to this day; free from shareholder demands to cut corners and adulterate the brewing process to bolster profits.

That GO! Kombucha can stand tall today – a major accident on 19 May 2016 that closed production that summer notwithstanding – is what I consider to be a personal miracle, and great gift. I visualised and dreamt today’s reality into being most days this past decade; in that context each bottle poured and every glass drunk today, I believe, to be heaven sent.

Would I have had it any other way? Absolutely not!

FOOTNOTE: The day after the bank agreed the loan the 2008 global financial crisis hit and new loans to small businesses were promptly withdrawn. Synchronicity is a constant, reassuring companion on my journey, but that brush with disaster was a lightning bolt too close to call!

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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!

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why winning Great☆☆Taste means so much 1

Lindo-Wing-at-St-Marys-hospital-awaiting-Royal-Baby-Photo-C-Getty-Images

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

by Gary Leigh  Part 1

For several months in 2016 GO! Kombucha ceased production and, to all intents and purposes, was no more after 12 years of pioneering and paving the way for Kombucha tea in the UK.

After several turbulent months in early 2016 when harsh weather conditions hampered our production, at around 5pm on 19th May I suffered a life-changing accident that resulted in five months of hospitalization. With both legs broken below the knees, ankles smashed and two lower vertebrae fractured, 13 years of organically building GO! Kombucha from four cultures donated by the late, great UK Kombucha guru Alick Bartholemew and his wife Mari – and a zero interest credit card (not something I would recommend any sane person to ever consider!) – suddenly appeared over in one fell swoop.

The overriding consideration had to be my repair – replete with multiple pins in my feet and lower legs held in place by external steel rods and fixators which rendered me resembling a hybrid human-Meccano set – and umpteen months of recuperation and rehabilitation.

With the benefit of hindsight – and how I have chosen to interpret my experience – the Universe had resorted to extreme means to force me to slow down and smell the roses. I had been ignoring the warning signs for some time and was spinning many plates while tearing across the country – from my home in Manchester city centre to our ‘Kombuchery’ on the south coast – in an effort to keep them all spinning. Inevitably, and ultimately, they came crashing down, and me with them. A hard, painful and pin-filled lesson learned!

apply a positive spin to anything and everything

I woke up dazed from my induced sedation on 20th May 2016 in Manchester Royal Infirmary. I was somehow still alive if not kicking, my lower legs encased in cladding to segue them together pending several operations ahead, my upper body clamped in a near-suffocating brace to hold my back in position. But in that dreadful moment of realization I intuitively knew that if I was to make it through the tumultuously painful and rocky road ahead – myriad operations, endless medications and painkillers and excrutiatingly painful physio a given – and keep my sanity intact, I would have to apply a positive outlook/spin to anything and everything that entered my thoughts, and not dwell for one moment on my predicament; rather, to view it as a temporary setback and challenge to be overcome.

To that end I immediately befriended the wonderful nurses and porters on my ward, relished and savoured mealtimes and visiting hours, and focused on simply being grateful – indeed overwhelmed with relief and gratitude – to be alive, even as doctor after doctor recoiled from the sight of my injuries the like of which, they grimaced, they’d rarely encountered before. But the prognosis was good; I had never smoked nor drunk alcohol, and my healthy lifestyle – including daily lashings of GO! Kombucha! – had held me in good stead, reducing my expected recovery time to half that of the average person; 9-12 months as opposed to up to 2 years.

And even though my passion in raising awareness of Kombucha tea in the UK over the previous 12 years – quite the best task anyone could be gifted with having fallen into their lap (another long story!), and which had fueled and driven my life with zest and joy for many years – now lay in tatters, even the prospect of a sedentary job stuffing envelopes, I reasoned, seemed a tiny price to pay to still be breathing.

keeping the dream alive

Yet behind the scenes, even as I was being transferred down to St. Marys Hospital in Paddington, London to be operated upon, further south in East Sussex some good souls were working tirelessly to keep the dream alive and GO! Kombucha’s ongoing starter culture – like myself while being cared for by our priceless NHS – fed, nourished and nurtured in anticipation of a return to full production.

By the end of July 2016 I had recovered enough to be transferred from St. Mary’s wonderful Valentine Ellis Ward to my family’s local hospital, Northwick Park in Harrow, where I was reconciled with my self-contained office, a.k.a. my iPhone. I was then informed, to my utter amazement and sheer jubilation, that the culture I had nurtured since 2003 – and which had effectively spawned a Kombucha revolution in the UK as well as given my life a renewed sense of meaning and purpose – was still thriving when, for the preceding three months while my recovery took precedence, I’d been cut off from the outside world and assumed all was lost.

But now out of physical action myself, the challenge was on to find a way to get our complex – and occasionally temperamental – live tea made and flowing abundantly again…

(Part 2)

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great taste 2017 ☆ ☆ number-crunching

GO Kombucha Great Taste 2 Stars

To put GO! Kombucha’s ☆ ☆ win into perspective, of 12,366 products entered into Great Taste 2017 – acknowledged as the benchmark of food and drink industry awards – only 35% were accredited 1, 2 or 3 stars.  

GO! Kombucha Red Pu-erh Fermented Raw Tea was one of 1176 products to win a 2-star Great Taste award while just 165 products achieved the highest 3-star rating, placing GO! Kombucha in the top 8 per cent of all fine food and drink products entered from around the world (3,171 products were awarded a 1-star accolade)!

2 stars rates our earthy Red Pu-erh as “outstanding”; one of only 11 soft drinks entered to achieve 2 or 3 stars from the award organisers the Guild of Fine Food, their judges describing it as “an exceptionally refreshing and lively kombucha, really complex fermented taste, clean, aromatic and lively,” and, “excellently produced with skill.”

from Great Taste’s web site:-

“Judged by over 500 of the most demanding palates belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs and producers as well as a whole host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers.

“As well as a badge of honour, the unmistakeable black and gold Great Taste label is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product, which has been discovered through hours and hours of blind-tasting by hundreds of judges.

“Recognised as a stamp of excellence among consumers and retailers alike, Great Taste values taste above all else. Whether it’s gin, biscuits, sausages or coffee, all products are removed from their wrapper, jar, box or bottle before being tasted. The judges then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of an award.

“The panel of judges included: chef, food writer and author Gill Meller, MasterChef judge and restaurant critic Charles Campion, author and chef Zoe Adjonyoh, baker Tom Herbert and food writer and baking columnist Martha Collison, as well as food buyers from Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols.

“In short, The Great Taste symbol is the consumer’s guarantee a product has been through a rigorous and independent judging process. It’s not about smart packaging or clever marketing – it’s all about taste.”

display of recognition

The experts have spoken and, in a notable display of recognition for the burgeoning UK kombucha tea sector, Great Taste 2017 also awarded 1-star apiece to Equinox Kombucha and Love Kombucha for their delicious Raspberry & Vanilla and Lime & Ginger flavours respectively.

Now, the agonising begins over which GO! Kombucha tea to enter into Great Taste’s 2018 awards. Hmm, GO! Kombucha Darjeeling Black, anyone?

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introducing GO! kombucha darjeeling black 250ml

GO! Kombucha Darjeeling Black Label Artwork

The search for a new GO! Kombucha flavour led us to Darjeeling, India, where the gracefully elegant Bengal tiger roams the Himalayan foothills . . .

MUCH THOUGHT and care goes into selecting the finest organic teas for GO! Kombucha. In 2013 when our 250ml line launched, rather than keep things simple with smaller versions of our existing 750ml range we introduced two new varieties, China White and Yunnan Gold; each contrasting with, and complementing, the existing flavours with their own characteristics while making for distinctly individual and unique beverages in their own right, despite being essentially the same underlying drink; tea infused with the Kombucha culture.

GO! Kombucha bucks the trend of flavouring with sugary fruit syrups and purées. Anyone who enjoys expertly brewed, full-bodied Kombucha tea ‘neat’ knows there’s no need to smother the perfect marriage of pure tea and the clean, crisp taste of raw, unadulterated Kombucha with a third layer of complexity which, if not done with adeptness and finesse, can overwhelm the palate and cancel out the delicate balance of taste notes, turning what is otherwise a mature and sophisticated drink experience into another fruit pop.

the tea estates of Darjeeling

It may seem counter-intuitive, then, that when we decided to add a new 250ml ‘grab-and-go’ tea variety – which you may agree the range has long cried out for! – the one taste profile we decided would complement and complete the existing line up of grassy Sencha, earthy Pu-erh, fragrant Pai-Mu-Tan (China White) and aromatic Superior Yunnan perfectly would be…fruit! A fruit note, that is, derived naturally from the taste and aromatics of the tea itself. And exhaustive research led us to one particular family of leaves…

Darjeeling is a region of West Bengal, 270 miles from Nepal on the Indian border. Dominated by the vast Himalayan vista, the mountain region’s foothills – linked by the famous 2ft wide, narrow-gauge “toy train” Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which snakes and winds for 48 miles through the hills at elevated levels of up to 7,218 feet en route to New Jalpaiguri – are dotted with lush tea estates, some of which date back to Colonial times, and which bask in the ideal climatic conditions for the very highest quality organic tea cultivation.

“the champagne of teas”

Darjeeling Black tea is known as “the champagne of teas” for good reason, its sumptuous flavour and unparalleled depth of taste owing to the unique geographical features of the Himalayan foothills which stand at an altitude of between 2000 and 6500 feet. A high altitude slows the tea leaves’ growth, thereby providing more time to develop their complex flavours before being plucked. And around 50 to 60 inches of rain falls in Darjeeling every year while the soil in the region is fertile and sloped; both perfect tea growing conditions.

Each Darjeeling tea estate, from which the different varieties of tea take their name, produce their own distinct variety: ‘first flushes’ harvested in mid-March following the spring rains and embodying a gentle light colour, aroma and mild astringency; and ‘second flushes’ harvested in June, darker in colour with an amber cup, full-bodied flavor and possessing the exquisite, highly-prized ‘muscatel’ black grape character owing to the genetic changes to the tea leaves caused by insects that infest the plants before the second flush harvest.

2017’s second flush crop “wiped out”

Some second flush teas have sold for as much as $1,850 (£1,427) per kilogram because of this uniqueness. Darjeeling produces about 8 million kilograms of tea per year, more than two-thirds of which is exported mainly to Europe, but last year’s entire crop was wiped out in June when Nepalese Gurkhas demanding cultural status and protection rights halted picking, disrupting supplies to European buyers and potentially pushing prices higher. (GO! Kombucha has sufficient stocks to ensure ongoing production)

Back at our Sussex vineyard we test-brewed Kombucha teas made from the finest of the Darjeeling crops we selected, and whittled and paired the best down to 4 splendid leaves; first flushes Ambootia and Risheehat – lighter in flavor combining peachy notes and a hint of spice – and second flushes Lingia and the exquisite Muscatel leaf plucked from the elevated gardens of the Gopaldhara Estate. We couldn’t choose just one leaf so…we’ve carefully blended all four for a truly unique, deliciously fruity GO! Kombucha tea taste sensation!

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protect your skin’s ‘microbiome’ with raw foods

go-kombucha-protect-your-skin

Skin should be kept mildly acidic to stay healthy and strong – 4.2-5.6 on the pH scale – and rich in naturally moisturising bacteria which nourish the body from the inside (gut) out (to the skin’s surface), keeping the complexion radiant and glowing.

Diets heavy in refined carbs, sugar and junk food deplete the gut – and therefore the skin – of vitality-enhancing live bacteria and digestive enzymes. But nothing sullens and ages the skin as rapidly as smoking, or strips the skin of natural oils so ruthlessly and efficiently as alcohol. Consequently, half the population has malnourished/”sick” alkaline/dry skin.

The benefits of ingesting live, fermented foods is well documented, and the same principle applies to what we put on our skin. Conversely, most soaps, cleansers and cosmetics are synthetic and abrasively strip healthy surface bacteria away leaving the skin, particularly the face and hands, drier, more brittle and susceptible to sun damage and wrinkles.

On average, women apply more than 200 chemicals – including formaldehyde, phthalates, lead, mercury parabens and ethanolamines – to their skin and hair daily. Over the past decade men too have been following increasingly intensive, chemical-laden grooming trends, spawning a multi-billion worldwide men’s grooming industry.

chemical-laden skincare products

Among the worst of these chemicals is found in everyday soaps, shower gels, shampoos, even dental products. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and its close relatives sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laurel sulfate are cheaply derived chemicals found in many personal care products, including those described on the label as “natural” or “organic”.

Known as surfacants, these detergents break down the skin’s surface tension to separate dirt and grease molecules, in the process creating a lather that washes the accumulated dirt away. Essentially, if it foams it’s likely to contain a sulfate. So effective is their application that sulfates are used in industrial cleaning products, including engine de-greasers!

Hence how and why surfacants also strip the skin of bacterial oils, leaving it dry and alkaline. New research into how our skin’s ‘microbiome’ works supports findings that even <0.5% of cleansers containing surfacants may result in skin irritation and corrosion, that residual levels collect in the brain, lungs, liver and heart, and may also cause hormonal imbalance and lower male fertility.

The International Journal of Toxicology recommends levels of sulfates no more than 1% in products with prolonged use (some cleaning products have levels as high as 30%), but the message is clear: as a vital organ skin needs to be routinely nourished and replenished, so take care with what you apply to it and radiant, clear, healthy skin will inevitably result.

look no further than your kitchen

Oil-based, detergent-free cream cleansers are best, yet among the most effective ingredients can be found in your kitchen. The internet contains numerous tips and recipes for cleansing the skin naturally using everything from bananas and olive oil to lemon juice and raw eggs – and Kombucha! This simple recipe makes a natural, cost-effective face mask:

 Half a ripened avocado (rich in vitamin E);

 3 or more tbsp of GO! Kombucha (high in lactic acid bacteria plus polyphenols in the tea, we suggest using Green Sencha, our most neutral flavour. Ideally mature the tea by pouring into a bowl and covering with a cloth for a week or two until it becomes more vinegary and stringent;

 1 tbsp of raw, free-flowing honey (antioxidants galore).

Mash ingredients to form a smooth paste. Apply a hot water-soaked flannel to face and leave for a few seconds to open pores. Remove and immediately apply paste evenly from forehead to neck avoiding eye area. Relax for 10-15 minutes then rinse away. For a moistuirising boost stir in a teaspoon of virgin coconut oil that has been warmed to liquid and apply before the oil solidifies.

See our blog entry Kombucha tea – beauty on the inside and out! for beauty products that use Kombucha.

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kombucha and kefir trump yogurt drinks in BBC tests

Kombucha and Kefir trump yogurt drinks in laboratory tests for BBC

Over ten years ago BBC2 series The Truth About Food cast a sceptical eye over the purported benefits of probiotics in our food.

In the intervening decade the issue of probiotics has featured sporadically on British television, each time receiving a cynical rap. Until now, that is. The second series of BBC2’s Trust Me, I’m A Doctor , broadcast in February 2017, finally lifted the veil on the now irrefutable benefits of probiotics – and why they received such a poor press previously.

Historically, the media focus on probiotics was largely based around big brand yogurt drinks. Over the years their big name manufacturers heavily emphasizied the high concentrations of gut-healthy probiotic bacteria they contain, spurring six in ten households to buy such products regularly and spawning a billion-dollar industry.

EU health food claims directive

Claims of their products’ purported positive effect on gut health remained scientifically unsubstantiated, however, spurring the EU to launch a Europe-wide directive in December 2012 forbidding food manufacturers making declarations about their products not backed up by scientific evidence, leading to such claims on packaging being outlawed overnight.

In 2014, independent laboratory tests on popular yogurt drinks concluded that the probiotics they contain have little or no benefit due to most of their good – mostly lactobacillus – bacteria not surviving the journey through the harshly acidic digestive tract, while those that do make it through don’t last for long once they reach the gut.

By contrast Dr Paul Cotter, Head of Food Biosciences at Teagasc in Cork (above, with Trust Me presenter Dr. Michael Mosley), concluded from an experiment with volunteers that if the bacteria are fermented in an acidic base, as in Kombucha, then most of the good bacteria do bypass the digestive tract to reach the gut intact, conferring a net benefit.

as good as home made

Furthermore, lab tests were run to determine if commercial ferments contained as much live goodness as their homemade counterparts. Surprisingly, shop bought pickled kimchi and sauerkraut were found to contain no live acids or enzymes possibly as a consequence, Cotter surmised, of their being pasteurized prior to distribution.

By contrast, commercial kefir brands were found to contain almost as much good lactobacillus bacteria as kefir made at scratch from home, while there was virtually no discernible difference between the vast amounts of lactobacillus bacteria found in off the shelf unpasteurised Kombucha compared with home-brewed Kombucha tea.

As more fruit-infused UK Kombucha brands filtrate the yeasts and/or pasteurise and artificially carbonate to regulate their brews due to to the destabalisation that can occur when adding yeast-devouring fructose prior to bottling, GO! Kombucha will continue using only the finest teas and nothing else, ensuring stable fermented tea that is 100% raw – and as authentic as home made!

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GO! kombucha to make it through dry january

Go! Kombucha to make it through dry January

Hot on the heels of Go Sober October, Dry January is a campaign run annually since 2012 by Alcohol Concern to encourage people to give up alcohol for all of January.

A YouGov survey revealed that 16 per cent of the UK adult population attempted to steer clear of the bottle in January 2016, and research by the University of Sussex has found that 72 per cent of people who completed Dry January drink less in the six months afterwards. So, GO! Kombucha is stepping up a gear to promote the uniquely effective role kombucha tea can play in beating the booze, and even providing a permanent stepping stone to sobriety.

multitude of benefits

Kombucha tea is essentially a nutritious live food to be enjoyed sparingly as opposed to, say, sodas and booze, even though we’re often told by customers how GO! Kombucha – brewed longer to yield more sharpness and bite – has replaced their alcoholic tipple of choice. Kombucha isn’t a medicine or wonder cure but, like all fermented foods, helps restore balance to the body’s natural functioning. And nothing pulls the body out of balance more than alcohol…

Physically, alcohol causes dehydration by increasing oxidative stress and free radicals in the blood, leading to a gaunt, sullen appearance. This can be reversed by replenishing the body with the good bacteria and yeasts, minerals and enzymes abundant in live foods and the antioxidants and polyphenols in teas which work as an army to mop up free-radicals, revitalizing the skin from the inside out and slowing down, even reversing, signs of ageing.

comparing the calories

And with 4.2g sugar/100ml, GO! Kombucha packs less than half the calories of any alcoholic beverage. Per 125ml serving:

  • Wine (12% ABV) – 114 calories
  • Champagne – 92.7 calories
  • Beer – 47.3 calories
  • Cider – 46.2 calories
  • GO! Kombucha (all flavours) – 21 calories

So, with all of these things going for it – and also being far easier on your pocket to boot! – little wonder that fermented tea, and GO! Kombucha in particular which is brewed to ensure optimum levels of the good stuff, is fast gaining a reputation for being the best hangover remedy. Bar none