I’m continually amazed at all the new brands and products coming out of San Diego, and the continued push to grow from local entrepreneurs.
Bambucha Kombucha has been bringing its raw, unpasteurized, probiotic-filled kombucha’s to farmers markets, cafes and markets around town since 2017, but that wasn’t enough!
The Vista-based company expanded into the hard kombucha game, having recently dropped its first alcoholic kombucha lineup — Tropical Guava, Blueberry Vanilla and Hawaiian Hibiscus.
I asked CEO Michael Zonfrilli what that felt like and why being a chef might be an advantage when developing a new beverage.
Cheers! Hey Michael, congratulations on the new (lineup of) hard kombucha. It’s always exciting to pursue a new adventure, but we’ve been in a pandemic for 15 months. What has the past year been like trying to start Bambucha, and what does it mean to you to be officially out there in the marketplace now?
Michael: Thanks, Ryan! We are very excited to add our hard kombucha line to our non-alcoholic flavors. This past year has been challenging, but even though many of our restaurant and corporate customers had to close temporarily, we are very grateful for all the support we received at our grocery and other off-premise accounts.
Bambucha was very lucky that we were already canning our kombucha for retail, and my heart goes out to the many breweries that relied solely on keg and taproom sales. Since launching our hard kombucha, with Karl Strauss as our distributor, we have thankfully seen our amazing restaurant partners reopen and offer our products both on tap and in cans.
Cheers! Why is/was it valuable for you to be a chef during the research & development process, and were there any surprises creating the alcoholic version of your kombucha?
Michael: As chefs, we are always pursuing the best possible flavors and most positive experience for our consumers. In addition to understanding and achieving desired flavor profiles, chefs are also very familiar with ingredient sourcing, food safety and sanitation, and developing products with disciplined and methodical methods. These skill sets have really helped us as a company and continue to guide our craft.
In professional kitchens, we would say that we are only as good as our last plate, and this philosophy keeps us moving forward and trying to get better with every batch of kombucha we brew. Kombucha is alive and every ferment has its own unique qualities that we need to tweak and balance to make consistently delicious. Fortunately, that is what chefs do!
Cheers! For someone who isn’t familiar with the Bambucha brand, will you explain the theme or vibe, and what inspired you to pursue that style?
Michael: Bambucha is a Hawaiian slang meaning BIG, and is a reference to the big, bold flavors we are trying to achieve in our kombucha. As for the vibe, even though we take our kombucha brewing seriously, we want our customers to kick back island-style, chill out and enjoy every sip.
Cheers! Bambucha is positioned as a premium product. What separates it from the other hard kombucha on the market right now?
Michael: First, I want to say we have much respect for other kombucha brewers and are honored to be part of this growing community in San Diego.
Bambucha is a certified organic premium product for several reasons. First, our flavors are developed from a perspective deeply rooted in culinary traditions, guided by classic ingredient pairings that are exciting but also approachable. Second, we use whole food ingredients that we process in-house.
Produce like real blueberries, juicy chunks of mango, fresh roots of ginger and turmeric, and lime leaves from a local biodynamic farm are just some of the ingredients that differentiate our drinks.
Lastly, our kombucha is a raw, unpasteurized product that needs to be refrigerated. It is more costly for us to stay in the cold chain from production to consumption, but we believe people appreciate our commitment to quality.
Cheers! What is the best way for North County residents to get their hands on some Bambucha?
Michael: Our first choice would be for our local customers to purchase Bambucha at one of our retail or restaurant partners. I wish I could give a shout-out to all of them, but we are sold in over 300 locations throughout Southern California.
Natural grocers like Jimbo’s, Lazy Acres, Frazier Farms, Cardiff Seaside Market and Just Peachy carry us currently.
Local restaurants include Nectarine Grove, Haggo’s Tacos, Goodonya Organic Eatery, Beach Plum Kitchen, Belching Beaver, Birdseye Kitchen, Tony’s Sports Bar and Grill, Viewpoint Brewing and Gonzo Ramen, to name a few.
We are offered on tap at most San Diego farmers’ markets, sold through Kombucha Cares, where a portion of all sales go to help feed San Diegans in need. Also, check out our online store, where you can order Bambucha and have it shipped for free right to your door.
Cheers! Anything else you want readers to know about Bambucha right now?
Michael: We want everyone to know that most of our team consists of North County locals, and even as we expand to other regions, we greatly appreciate the love and support of our local customers. Thanks!
If you like craft beer, you probably also love a good cup of coffee. Pour a mug and check out the most recent episodes of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast featuring interviews and coffee education with great local coffee professionals.
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