The chance offer of a kombucha drink in Cape Town resulted in 'love at first taste' for KTea founder Kate Attieh, so when she was unable to find a great tasting kombucha on her return to Guernsey she decided to make her own. Following extensive research, which included sampling kombucha from around 30 breweries in Portland, Oregan, she was encouraged by the founder of the kombucha movement in the US to set up her own brewery - so she did. From a small start up in her repurposed wine cellar to a bigger and better new brewery home, KTea is going from strength to strength, in the Bailiwick and beyond.
Read Kate's story here.
I am half Greek, half Lebanese and I grew up in South Africa but I spent most of my adult life in London, until moving to Guernsey in 2006. I started out in Architecture and Space Planning, primarily for commercial office interiors. I trained in CAD - one of the first systems created for architects - in the late 1970’s in Johannesburg and was offered a position in London with a firm of architects in 1982, where I worked on Canary Wharf as it was coming out of the ground in the early 80’s.
I then spent a year in Brussels setting up a Space Planning and Management Consultancy in 1988 and on my return to London, I quit my job and set up my own consultancy. At that time, there was very little provision for children’s day nurseries in central London so, as a side line, I set up a children’s day nursery with a good friend as a business partner (she was a graphic designer) and we slowly built the business up to a chain of 5 nurseries employing over 100 staff. We sold the business to an American operator at the end of 2005 and I then moved to be with my life partner, who had already moved to Guernsey.
I took a sabbatical for the next 10 years and caught up on all of the interests that I never had any time to pursue - namely share trading, property development and wildlife photography to name a few!
We built a house on a vineyard in the Cape and spent the deepest, darkest winter months down there. During one of our stays, I was offered a kombucha tasting as a non-alcoholic alternative in a lovely restaurant in Cape Town. I fell instantly in love. I came back to Guernsey and tried to find kombucha, but the one local option I found tasted like vinegar and wasn’t very pleasant. So I read up on how to make kombucha at home, sent off for the culture from an organic website and the rest is history!
I am passionate about healthy eating and drinking. My mother was a wonderful cook and I grew up in a house where everything was made from scratch, with lots of fresh veg and fruits. No prepared meals, junk foods or sugary sodas, so I love being able to produce something that is so magical, and also has so many benefits.
The dictionary describes kombucha as ‘a drink produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria’. We call it life changing, soul nourishing and joie de vivre inspiring. It’s a lightly sparkling tea drink with a long and rich history, having been brewed for centuries in Asia and Eastern Europe, where kombucha is often consumed for its detoxifying and energising properties.
The process starts with just three ingredients, high quality tea leaves, raw cane sugar and filtered water. Then the magic ingredient is introduced; the SCOBY - a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast - which facilitates the fermentation process, converting most of the sugar and caffeine into naturally occurring live and active cultures which we need for good gut health.
While we were researching the kombucha market, we spent 2 weeks in Portland, Oregon. We bought up a sample of almost all the kombuchas available in 2017 in Oregon, from around 30 different breweries, and tasted them all.
We also contacted the founder of the kombucha brewing movement in the US who lived in Portland, hoping he would meet with us. To our amazement he agreed, saying he was curious as he had never met anyone from Guernsey. He convinced us to set up our own brewery, so armed with a lots of advice we returned to Guernsey and repurposed our wine cellar into a kombucha brewery in 2018.
For our first Seafront Sunday we hand bottled and labelled 540 bottles and packaged them into 90 boxes. I was terrified that no-one would buy any of it, but we sold out in two hours. We’ve grown since then and we're an all female team of five lovely women who do the brewing, bottling, bookkeeping, deliveries and spreading the KTea love.
Now we attend the annual kombucha brewers conference in Berlin and most of our fellow kombucha brewers are blown away by how many bottles per capita we produce and sell locally compared to the rest of the UK and EU!
Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing. Producing and bottling KTea during Covid was a very challenging time. We weren’t allowed more than two people in the brewery at one time, so we had to keep the brews ticking over and we had to hand-bottle and label enough kombucha for all our website orders during lockdown. We also face the ongoing challenge that all of our ingredients, bottles and equipment need to be shipped over and nothing is available locally.
Being audited for our SALSA certification was also intense. SALSA approval is only granted to suppliers in the UK and Channel Islands who are able to demonstrate to an auditor that they produce and supply safe and legal food and are committed to continually meeting the requirements of the SALSA standard.
We love that we have personal contact with most of our clients and we receive lots of lovely emails from customers who tell us how good KTea makes them feel and that it’s the best kombucha they have ever tasted. We’re also proud to support The Soil Farm, who take in all our spent tea leaves, botanicals and cardboard, so very little goes into waste.
I have very little down time, but when I do I spend it making sourdough bread and cooking.
True entrepreneurship often comes from a need for something personally and not being able to find it, which Kate demonstrated when she started home-brewing kombucha with such determination that it's now a wellbeing staple of local life across the Channel Islands. A huge reason for this is the brilliant taste of the product - half the battle when selling-in something new - and healthy - into an established market. We raise our glasses (of 'booch) to Kate and can't wait to see it continue to grow.