Photos by Michele Mateus
Words by Alexis Baran
It wasn’t long ago that if offered a murky, bubbly, slightly sour beverage with a brewing process that involves a rubbery, wet bit of floating bacteria referred to as a “mother”, most people would not-so-politely decline. But now with varieties that range from those that are sweetly flavoured, bottled by Pepsico and found in gas station fridges to tart kitchen counter home-brews, kombucha is now a probiotic and antioxidant beverage staple of the pacific northwest and certainly in the Vancouver area.
Martin Ebadi, owner of Green Leaf Brewery and avid kombucha creator, was willing to let us behind his scenes to have a look at what goes into this fresh fermentation at his Lonsdale Quay brewery alongside the beer casks.
Ebadi, a former car mechanic, is soft spoken yet enthusiastic with a warm smile and a welcoming demeanor. It took 15 years of unhappy people walking through his shop doors for Ebadi to quit the automotive industry and instead open a business where people arrive and are happy to be there. “I wasn’t learning anymore,” says Ebadi, and people are never happy when they come to a mechanic. The brewery has such good energy and people come in because they want to, not because they have to.”
Green Leaf Brewery was opened in 2013 and have a variety of their own beer and seasonal taps, as well as a selection of whiskey, scotch, tequila and other spirits. (They can pour you a mean whiskey and beer pairing too!)
What was originally a side project at home, Ebadi decided to bring his kombucha to the brewery 2 years ago and brew it alongside their ales, IPAs and lagers. “Not everyone wants to drink alcohol,” says Ebadi, “I wanted to make something healthy and non-alcoholic as an option for all kinds of customers.”
Each batch of Green Leaf’s kombucha starts out with high quality black tea, fresh-juiced fruit, berries, or vegetables, and of course, the “mother” or “scoby” which is an acronym of “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”, which floats in the beverage while it’s brewing.
The first step is culture the tea. The black tea is combined with sugar and cultured with the scoby, which is a bacteria that consumes much of the sugar (much like how bacteria in yogurt cultures milk).
Scobys reproduce quite quickly, and at Green Leaf there are post-its beside some of the batches with phone numbers of people who’d like the next scoby for their own home brewing.
Next comes the addition of flavours.
The flavours of Green Leaf’s kombucha vary with the season, but there is almost always a ginger lemon variety, which is quite strong, and a milder flavour, that can incorporate berries, veggies, and other natural ingredients.
Ebadi (right) and his team work with mainly fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen berries.
The juicing ginger sends a warm spice into the air of the back room, and then is complemented by the sweetness of apples.
The finished product can be found at Green Leaf Brewery – try it in a cocktail, from a jar, or fill your growler to take some home.