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A bottle of kombucha, bottled and brewed in the Stockholm suburb of Bagarmossen.

Photo: Kombucheriet AB

Categories: Start a business

'We've gone from being a nano-brewery to a real micro-brewery'

Publish date: 22 March 2021

Kombucha might be a household item in parts of Asia. But in Sweden, it's relatively unknown. And to find Swedish-made kombucha is even rarer. "There’s no point in shipping water across the globe", says Fredrik Pettersson at Kombucheriet AB, a kombucha brewery based in the Stockholm suburb of Bagarmossen.

As the trend of local food is growing stronger every year, Stockholmers are finding new and exciting delicacies to produce at home, sometimes quite literally. There’s no shortage of basement beer, bread, cheese, candy, jam and marmalade, sausages, or honey. However, a Stockholm-made kombucha is a rarer sight.

"I tried to cultivate oyster mushrooms out of used coffee grounds first", says Fredrik Pettersson, one of the founders of Kombucheriet AB. "But that went nowhere, and my partner Ailin insisted that we go all-in on kombucha instead".

Simply put, kombucha is a fermented tea drink hailing from East Asia. Its exact roots are unknown, but Eastern Russia or Manchuria have been cited as possible places of origin. Some scientists say the tradition is somewhat recent – only 200 years – others that it dates back at least some 2,000 years.

Ailin Lee received her first kombucha-culture in 2007 which she used to brew the drink for her own benefit. Some years later, during an annual flea market in Bagarmossen, she and Fredrik decided to introduce their neighbors to kombucha.

At the end of the day, we’re not in it to make money from soft drinks but to provide a sustainable and delicious alternative to mass-produced drinks
Fredrik Pettersson

"We realized we didn’t really have anything to sell in our attic. Instead, we collected used bottles for our batch and it turned out to be a success. The following year, during the same flea-market, we took it to the next level. We bought bottles, made provisional labels, and set up a simple webpage. We sold out our stock again and actually got the first customer inquiries through our webpage".

Fredrik and Ailin decided to scale up their business. They had now settled on the name Kombicha – “a play of words. And we don’t have to explain that it is kombucha, it’s self-evident”. And after some initial troubles with finding a space better suited as a brewery than their basement, they’ve reached an important milestone.

"You could say that we’ve finally gone from being a nano-brewery to a real micro-brewery", says Fredrik.

Today Kombucheriet AB delivers its drinks to several shops and cafés in southern Stockholm. Convincing more to join suit isn’t always easy since the fermented drink has a shelf-life of 2-3 months. Many stores require bottles of drinks to stay fresh longer than that. Another challenge is the beverage's cloudy look.

"Kombucha drinks can have a lot of naturally occurring precipitation, like unfiltered ale", continues Fredrik. "But people normally prefer a clear drink, without particles floating around".

So far, Kombucheriet’s small-scale business has allowed them to maintain a sustainable process and production. The bottled drinks, for example, are delivered by bike to cafés and shops. And while they might have to find other ways of delivery, should the customer base spread outside of Stockholm, Fredrik stresses the importance of keeping their business climate neutral.

"At the end of the day, we’re not in it to make money from soft drinks but to provide a sustainable and delicious alternative to mass-produced drinks. True, some of our ingredients are quite exotic and have traveled far to get here. But there’s no point in shipping water across the globe".

Made in Stockholm

Want to taste something brewed or baked in Stockholm? Here are some delicacies to try out!

Pang Pang Brewery - Ale and Beer. One of Stockholm's first craft breweries. Made in Hökarängen since 2010. Available in bars around Stockholm as well as many Systembolaget stores.

Stora Skuggan Honung - Stockholm-based Beeurban maintains several urban rooftop gardens and produces their own honey at Stora Skuggan on Gärdet. Available in several delis and grocery shops around Stockholm.

Löfsta gårdsmejeri - Cheese made from cows milk and goats milk, produced just north of Stockholm. Available in several delis and grocery shops around Stockholm.

Pärlans konfektyr - Artisan fudge and candy. Available in shops around town as well as Pärlans own candy store on Södermalm.