Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mamachari Kombucha

I’ll admit that I was a little late to the kombucha party, but I’d like to think that I’m making up for it by being extra excited.  For those who aren’t familiar, kombucha is an old beverage with roots in Asia, and it has seen quite a resurgence over the past few years.  It has gotten so popular that even industry giants like Celestial Seasons are in the game.  This is good, in that it generates awareness and whatnot, but let's all buy Mamachari instead.

Anyway, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, well, here’s the skinny: kombucha is made by fermenting tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  If this causes you to raise an eyebrow, fear not- it is both safe and delicious.  It is also available in a number of flavors and formulations-  “concord grape", anybody?  The drink is probiotic in nature, and many health benefits are often associated with it.  Lots of people make kombucha at home these days, but for those of us who occasionally like to enjoy the fruit of someone else’s labors, Mamachari Kombucha is widely available in Salt Lake City.  I recently had the chance to sit down with Christy Jensen, the creative force behind Mamachari, and her story was inspiring.  It also made me really thirsty for more ‘booch.

Christy was introduced to kombucha in college- she attended Utah State in Logan- and she admits to always having been a bit of a tea nerd.  An expert at a health food store recommended kombucha when Christy was feeling under the weather, and she got hooked.  This happened around the time that she was apprenticing with the Crumb Brothers bakery, and the recalls that this was the time of life when she really caught the fermentation bug.  She obtained a SCOBY (the starter referenced above) and quickly had 6 gallons brewing.  About 3 years ago, she started tossing around the idea of starting her own kombucha business- one of the things she thought about was the fact that pretty much every big city has 1-3 kombucha breweries, and that seemed to point to an unfilled niche in Salt Lake City.  After a year of planning, she started up.  As a small businessman myself, I am pretty blown away with how much she’s accomplished; the list of places that carry her products is impressive, and it is still growing.

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is that people are really supportive and eager to help; her taproom is opening in a few days, and she noted that a ton of volunteer labor has helped to get the place ship shape.  To me, this speaks to the importance of community, and Christy was quick to point out lots of other ways that collaboration adds to the business.  For example, she regularly does joint projects with Vive Juicery and has also crafted a special kombucha featuring Blue Tea from The Queen’s Tea.  Local vegan restaurant Zest offers kombucha cocktails, which I’d like to try.  She also told me about her aspiration to collaborate with a local beer brewer to create a kombucha-infused beer.  This would be a first for Salt Lake City.  I hereby nominate my good pal Kevin Ely at Uinta Brewing.  If you know him, bug him about it.

In terms of Mamachari’s presence in the community, the downtown Farmer’s Markets have provided terrific exposure and sales opportunities since day one.  Christy was shocked by the positive reception at her first market a while back: despite bringing what seemed like a lot of product, she sold out by 10:30am!  I heartily recommend checking out her spot at the Saturday markets this winter- she has a number of different brews on tap so that you can taste a bunch and find your fave.  This is really helpful, because they vary quite a bit, and it is a veritable certainty that you’ll find some to be more appealing than others.  With this in mind, Christy strives to offer a lot of different flavors.  This is directly in support of her mission, which is to create a down-to-earth, organic kombucha for everyone.

I figured there was a cool story behind the company’s name, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Turns out, Christy grew up in Japan, and in Japanese, the word “Mamachari” means “mother’s bicycle”, which is a colloquialism for a sort of everyday, utilitarian bike that is common throughout the country.  This metaphor touches on two things- Christy’s goal to make an accessible “drink for the people”, and also the fact that bikes figure pretty heavily into both the social mission and daily operations of the business.  Christy aims for a business that is as sustainable as possible, and bikes plays a big role.  She makes as many deliveries as possible that way, and she has plans for a new “kombucha bike” which will be buffed out so as to be a fully self-contained serving station that will hold 5-6 kegs and can be pedaled to farmers markets and the like.   Christy has lots of other great plans, too- the taproom has lots of space, which will provide a nice location for some classes on fermentation (sauerkraut, anybody?) in the not-too-distant future.  Her ultimate goal, when I pressed her for her “dream big” ideas was to achieve statewide distribution.  Given how much she’s already accomplished, and how focused and effective she seems to be, I don’t doubt it a bit.  I for one would love to see Mamachari in the hands of everybody that wants it—but I'll be honest: at the moment, I’m mostly glad its about to be in mine.

Also of note:

Mamachari Kombucha’s Taproom (located downtown at 445 S. and 400 W.) is opening on Friday December 5th from 12-8pm

Regular Taproom hours will be Thursday and Friday from 12-7pm

for more info about kombucha, visit

I also suggest visiting for special deals