It was a kombucha lover’s dream: An entire festival dedicated to kombucha, the amazing, sassy and addictive fermented beverage that has been climbing in popularity over the last few years. Once dominated by a few producers, the kombucha industry has exploded with smaller, microbrewers producing incredibly tasty and inventive brews. Boochfest Montreal 2019 celebrated these innovative kombucha brewers as well as the pioneer kombucha companies that helped to bring kombucha to the masses. I was in kombucha heaven!!
Boochfest Montreal 2019 was held on August 24 & 25th at Stage IGA in Jarry Park, Montreal. It was a super fun festival, packed with events. In addition to kombucha sampling, there were also fermentation seminars and workshops, concerts, lots of music, fitness classes, tasty food and a homebrew kombucha competition. There was something for everyone: from the kombucha-curious to the connoisseur!
The weather was amazing and there was a steady stream of attendees, a mix of kombucha lovers and newbies, all eager to sample the impressive variety of local kombucha brewers. According to Boochfest’s organizer, Drew Williams, “there are more commercial brewers in Quebec than the rest of Canada combined”. There were almost 30 kombucha brewers at Boochfest Montreal 2019, and I sampled each and every one of them! This article will review my top 5, focussing on new and smaller artisanal kombucha companies.
1. Vee Kombucha
I first discovered Vee Kombucha at the annual Expo Mange Sante Vert in Montreal a few years ago. Based in Shawinigan, this is the only company I have found in the kombucha market that has perfected a completely sugar-free kombucha. I was happy to try their brand new flavour, Vee Zero Orange-Turmeric. It is made with yerba mate, a tea renowned for its energy-boosting properties. This kombucha was downright delicious, almost like a grownup orange soda with a soft aftertaste of turmeric. I loved it so much, I bought a case! Vee Zero Orange-Turmeric Kombucha will be in stores soon, but in the meantime, you can find other delicious flavours in both regular and sugar-free formats.
Many commercial companies try to mask the actual kombucha flavour (which can be a little “funky and sour”) with lots of sugar and fruit flavour. I like my kombucha to TASTE like kombucha, and ginger is the one flavour that allows the true kombucha essence to shine through. This is why I always request ginger as my first sample, not to mention that ginger is also my favourite flavour! I would have to say that KOMBUCHISIMA‘S Ginger Kombucha is my new favourite. It is not overly fizzy, with a subtle aroma of kombucha and ginger followed by a pleasing afterburn only experienced with real ginger.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the Mint Kombucha flavour . Mint is generally not my favourite, but I was really taken with the fresh and clean taste of the mint, in particular the authentic mint bouquet I breathed in when I took my first sip. Kombuchisima is brewed in Laval, Quebec and also comes in other tasty flavours such as Grapefruit, Blueberry, Mint and Pomegranate.
3. Tchaga Kombucha
Tchaga Kombucha is brewed in the Estrie region of Quebec. This kombucha is unique as it contains chaga, a medicinal mushroom renowned for its antioxidant properties. Chaga typically grows on tree bark and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to boost immunity and overall health. Don’t worry, this mildly fizzy kombucha does not taste like mushrooms and comes in a variety of flavours such as Sea Buckthorn (Argousier), Ginger, and Hops.
I was very interested in the Argousier (Sea buckthorn) flavour. This berry originated in the Himalayas and is now grown in Canada. Sea Buckthorn is very high in Omega 3, 6, 9 & 7, Vitamin C and has been linked to weight loss. Combined with the antioxidant properties of chaga, the Argousier Tchaga kombucha packs quite the healthy, delicious punch!
4. Art Kombucha
Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea with a specific, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. Basically, the yeasts consume the sugar in the tea and create CO2 and ethanol. The bacteria convert the ethanol into beneficial acids. However, at the end of fermentation, there is sometimes a small percentage of alcohol that has not been converted. Although it is negligible, it can still cause headaches for commercial kombucha brewers as they are not allowed to put any beverage that contains alcohol in the non-alcoholic section even if it only contains a minute amount. ART Kombucha, a new company in St.Hubert, Quebec, has turned this problem around and embraced the alcohol potential in kombucha, increasing it to 4.5%!
ART Kombucha achieves this 4.5% alcohol content by using gluten-free malt. In addition, the yeasts and bacteria are removed through a microfiltration process as they cannot survive in a high alcohol environment. The result is a more clearer-looking beverage and longer shelf life. The taste was mildly fizzy and delicious. This is the first alcoholized kombucha I have tried in Quebec. It reminded me of Wild Tonic, a fantastic alcoholized jun kombucha I discovered at the 2019 Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California.
ART Kombucha comes in 3 flavours: Hops, Mint and Hibiscus. Look out for them in a store near you in Quebec, but make sure go to the beer/alcohol section!
5. Les Chants Du Fleuve
The award for the most innovative flavours would have to go to LES CHANTS DU FLEUVE. This kombucha company based in the Bas-St.Laurent area of Quebec, produces by far the most intense kombucha flavour blends I have ever tried. In addition, LES CHANTS DU FLEUVE sources their ingredients from the fertile area of the Bas-St.Laurent, ensuring freshness, quality and support of local producers.
I tried every flavour and needed to cleanse my palate after each one as the ingredients and taste were so pleasantly pronounced. LES CHANTS DU FLEUVE kombucha is available in the following flavours: Raspberry- Holy Basil, Chamomile-Lavender, Blueberry- Haskap (Camerise) Berry, Apple-Ginger and Spiced Cranberry. My daughter loved the Spiced Cranberry because it “tasted like Christmas”!
1. GUTSY KOMBUCHA: Nice fizz and interesting flavour combinations (Ginger-Raspberry, Cardamom-Rhodiola, Vervain- Scuttelaire (Skullcap), Hibiscus-Fennel. Available in cans and on tap at various locations.
2. POP CULTURE BREW: Very delicious and fresh-tasting kombucha brewed in Dartmouth, NS. The flavours are locally sourced in Nova Scotia and shine through in the brew: Haskap Berry, Apple-Chai, Ginger and Spicy Lemon Ginger.
3. Y KOMBUCHA : Gardy Fury, the creator of Y Kombucha, might just be my favourite kombucha brewer and the perfect ambassador for this lively beverage. His joie de vivre and nonstop enthusiasm for kombucha is infectious and elevates this brand. Y Kombucha is great for those who don’t like too much fizz in their booch! My son’s favourite is Hops, and the other flavours include Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackcurrant and Mango. Y Kombucha can be found in most IGA stores in Quebec.