Mombucha may seem no different than the other probiotic elixirs exploding onto the beverage market as of late, but the uniqueness lies in the handcrafted care infused in each drink right here in Greenpoint combined with the ethos of its founder, Rich Awn.
The brand, which kicked off in 2009, was inspired by Awn’s own mom, Barbara, and her history of brewing kombucha at home.
“I was working in fashion photography and production, and I worked in advertising before that, but nothing really felt like it was where I should be. But what I had been doing and what my mom had been doing for our family since I was in my late teens was brewing kombucha; and I kept sort of doing it, I got brave and decided to grab a scoby (Editor’s note: a SCOBY is a kombucha starter made up of bacteria and yeast) from mom,” Awn recalled of his early brewing days.
Barbara herself was introduced to kombucha as a nurse when interacting with a fellow mother hoping to alleviate symptoms and suffering for her daughter with a liver condition outside of traditional pharmaceutical treatments, which has since lent itself to Mombucha’s highly concentrated formula.
“It’s unique in that essentially what we’re brewing is a concentrate, so you’re making a super dense, super bioavailable, concentrated form of kombucha. So because we’re making the concentrate initially, we can turn it into what’s more palatable to the mainstream,” Awn explained. “The way in which the industry evolved, and thanks to the big bottlers and big manufacturers– though really what Mombucha was [in 2009] was me trying to bring something to market that wasn’t like that; I was like ‘This doesn’t taste like mom’s ‘bucha, so let’s demonstrate that in as pure a form as possible.”
The brand also believes in a simpler, closed-cycle method of production, citing easily available equipment and technology that anyone can learn how to use, plus a bottle return and reuse program and regular composting of materials.
In 2013, Awn and his friend and real estate partner stumbled upon the space (formerly owned by Brooklyn Spice Company) that has since become Magick City, the home base for Mombucha that also offers a creative, collaborative space and kitchen for other entrepreneurs, events, and startups. In particular, the Bushwick chapter of the group Food Not Bombs uses the kitchen for food prep.
“There’s so much magic here, with the community that’s created around the shared kitchen space and everything involving Mombucha has just been mine and Mombucha’s ticket in on all of these amazing places,” Awn said.
And one of those places is leading to more partnerships with companies like Facebook and Squarespace, which Awn feels have a responsibility to support small businesses in the communities where their employees actually spend their time. Particularly, Awn is working to develop Mombucha Module, a program aiming to use underutilized commercial kitchen spaces commonly seen in corporate offices for on-site fermentation.
Ultimately, Awn’s goal for Mombucha is to expand to more decentralized production hubs without needing extra, specialized equipment, but simply what’s already available in most kitchens.
“We teach our method very openly. The open-source production methods that we use, we’re pretty proud of, so we think they should also be shared,” Awn explained. “Justin, my head brewer is leading the vanguard as far as that goes and is keeping these dialogues. We’ve really hit on this way of doing it, and it’s really unique.”
But no matter what growth looks like for Mombucha, the brand’s dedication to their values is apparent.
“[Major drink corporations] have a duty to their shareholders, whereas our duty is to our scobies,” Awn said.