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RISE Kombucha: Refreshing on So Many Levels

Posted by Bryan / September 14, 2013

2013-09-04 19.43.04.jpg Kombucha has become all the rage among health nuts. It's supposed to boost your immune system, aid digestion, help your joints and help detoxify your body. Midnight Poutine got an inside look at how one Montreal company aims to bring Kombucha to the masses.

Although this traditional eastern remedy has been around for over 2,000 years, it's only taken off in the West during the past decade. The beverage is made up of sweetened white and green teas that are then fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or SCOBY, for short). In the early 20th century, Russian and German scientists thought that Kombucha might prevent cancer if one drank it regularly. Although their research was inconclusive, the benefits of Kombucha's gluaric acid on digestive health and, more specifically on the liver have been demonstrated. It helps balance your intestinal flora and can help with migraines and stress.

At first taste, Kombucha doesn't seem like it's for everyone. It has a strong vinegary smell (from the acetic acid) and can be rather sour. Fermented beverages aren't a new concept to anyone, but one fermented with a bacterial culture might scare some people off. A few sips of the stuff, though, are usually enough to convince most people to go back for more.

Enter Montreal's own Rise Kombucha. The business got going thanks to David Cote and Mathieu Gallant who began brewing Kombucha at Montreal's famous raw food mecca, Crudessence. Soon after they started, they met Simon Bertrand who has become the President of Rise.

Their Kombucha is awesome for a variety of social and ecological reasons I'll discuss below. The most appealing thing about it, though, are the flavours. Rise sent us a sampler pack featuring their full spectrum of flavours and damn, were they refreshing. If you've been turned off Kombucha by tasting someone's overly vinegary homemade concoction once, think again. This stuff is the elixir dreams are made of. Their Kombucha comes in Ginger, Blueberry Maple, Lemongrass, Mint Chlorophyll, Hibiscus Rose Hips and Rose Schizandra. Each of these is awesomely balanced; you taste a subtle balance of sweet and sour along with that trademark kombucha sparkle. The most impressive aspect of these flavours, however, is how subtle they are. You'll taste them, but they don't overwhelm you. My personal favourite was the Lemongrass Kombucha (which pairs phenomenally with Massaman curry), though the Hibiscus Rose Hips was a close second. The carefully balanced flavours of these Kombuchas (Kombuchai?) also mean that they lend themselves incredibly well to cocktails; the Mint-Chlorophyll makes a great mixer for a mojito, while the Ginger with some spiced rum gives you a lighter version of a dark and stormy.

Rise has managed to make Kombucha delicious and to get it out to people who would never try the stuff otherwise (they've got over 1000 points of sale across Canada and 400 in Quebec alone, including a number of major supermarkets). They've managed to tweak their Kombucha thanks to some really good know-how on the part of the brewers and microbiologists they have on staff, along with extensive testing of their flavours until each one is just right.

One of the greatest things about Rise lies in their business philosophy. The production process of their Kombucha is so responsible, the bottles nearly glow with righteousness. Each bottle they make is raw and completely vegan. It's also local, organic AND fair-trade! In my interview with Simon, he explained to me that they didn't have to get both the organic and fair trade certification. In fact, fair trade certification can sometimes be rather expensive, even if you know that the product employs fair practices all along the line. Nevertheless, as Simon explained to me, Rise's philosophy isn't simply to make money, they wanted to be sure that their product was as ecologically and socially responsible as humanly possible even if this ended up lowering their profit margin somewhat.

DIY readers might want to note here that some major American Kombucha brands heavily diluted their product after a Kombucha recall in 2010 due to alcohol content beyond the legal limit of 0.5%. The result is that now it's very difficult, if not well-nigh impossible to grow your own SCOBY or Kombucha starter culture from these brands. Not only can you still easily grow a SCOBY from Rise's Kombucha, they even give you instructions for doing so on their website.

If you've ever been curious to see what making Kombucha on a larger scale looks like, read on! Rise gave us a tour of their factory and showed us how they brew, ferment, flavour and bottle their Kombucha. Check out our photo tour below.

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The first thing you need to make Kombucha is a giant vat of brewed, slightly sweetened tea.

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2013-09-05 15.13.58.jpgWhat you see above is what gets the whole fermentation process going; the mother, also known as the kombucha mama. This massive SCOBY is the same as what would form in a bottle of Kombucha if you left it out on the counter for too long. (See left)
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The tea is fermented by adding in some of the mother culture and being left alone for some time.

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2013-09-05 15.17.05.jpgThen it's onto the bottling line, where the Kombucha gets dressed up to go out into the world and packaged into boxes for shipping (left).
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The final result is bottled magic: delicious, responsible, local and incredibly good for you. Above is Rise employee Mark Mahoney with a bottle of the Mint Chlorophyll Kombucha. Mark also plays some pretty sweet Reggae around Montreal. Check out the video of him playing at Shaika Cafe in NDG a few years ago below.

Simon tells me he likes to have artists working in the production of Rise Kombucha because it not only gives the drink better energy, but artists are also able to entertain themselves for long periods of time and don't get bored as easily.

Whether you're looking to make a radical change in your life and go completely organic and raw, whether you need a detox after a rough Saturday night out or whether you just want to try a damned refreshing beverage made entirely in Montreal, pick up a bottle of Rise.

Do you have any good recipes for Kombucha cocktails?
Share them with us in the comments below!



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