MONCTON – In Tina Wedge’s basement, there are brewing pots on a shelf by one of the walls and bottles of Kissing Rocks Kombucha in boxes on the other side. Tina drinks it herself and started making it because it was so expensive to buy in stores, and now it’s turned into a thriving business.
Tina and her sister-in-law, Elsa Wedge, have sold their home-made fizzy, fermented tea product at the Dieppe Market since last summer. In the first two months, the women sold out 150 bottles by 10 o’clock each Saturday. Now they’re selling upwards of 500 a week.
“It really started with our family and friends coming just to support us and buying a couple [of bottles]. Then other people, the next week would come and say, ‘I was at so-and-so’s house and she offered me kombucha and I loved it,’ and now they came as clients,” Tina said.
“People started posting pictures of our kombucha on Instagram, and then people started messaging us, ‘where can I get it, I saw this on Instagram,’ you know. And we’re blown away that even our friends would support us like that, by posting the pictures and it just went from there,” she said.
Elsa added that the products also became popular thanks to word of mouth.
“We have a few clients that are huge fans of kombucha, and they really help us out because they’re really pushing their products to their group of friends,” she said.
Kombucha, an ancient Chinese beverage that was also drunk in Eastern Europe and Russia, has been rising in popularity as more people become health-conscious. The beverage is touted to have various health benefits, including improving digestion, due to the probiotic elements present in it. Consumption of the beverage has grown so significantly that PepsiCo acquired kombucha maker KeVita in 2016.
“I think that kombucha is just a trending beverage right now in the yoga community,” Tina said. “It’s also a product that has a sort of local cult following. In a lot of places in other provinces, even if people don’t know the creators of [the kombucha], they have that local pride, you know. This kombucha is made here at home, and we’ve gotten a lot of that same sentiment.”
The sisters-in-law started their business because they both love the sweetened beverage themselves. Tina, a former social worker who runs a salon, had started brewing her own kombucha some time ago when she realized buying the product in stores could get expensive.
As friends continued to ask for her kombuchas, she decided to start selling the beverage with the help of Elsa, a former lawyer who decided to stay in Dieppe after travelling with her husband Pierre-Alexandre (“P.A.”) Parenteau for eight years. Parenteau is a former NHLer who played for many teams including the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
A typical 350 ml bottle of Kissing Rocks Kombucha takes at least 15 days to prepare. The sisters-in-law use organic cane sugar, assam tea and fruits from farmers around the Maritimes. A key ingredient for the fermentation process is the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The tea continues to ferment and becomes carbonated after the SCOBY is taken out.
Now, the Wedges are making 500 bottles a week, and selling between 350 and 500 bottles each Saturday, depending on the market’s foot-traffic.
As mothers, each with two kids, Tina and Elsa said the flexibility that comes with having their own business makes it easier.
“You can do a little bit when the kids go to bed, you can do a little bit when the kids are at school,” Tina said. “You could do it on your own terms.”
Now, only one of them would be present at the Kissing Rocks Kombucha booth at a given time. But both love the interaction with customers.
“Working from home sometimes I guess could be a little bit lonely,” says Tina. “But just meeting people, talking to other people even who make their own kombucha at home, you know, they’ll tell us an exciting flavour they’re trying.”
The community has also been supportive of the Wedges. Not only do their friends and family offer to help, strangers have reached out to do the same too.
“We do a bottle recycling program, so if you return your bottle you’ll get a credit on your next bottle. And I can’t believe how many people ended up doing it. Because it helps everyone right? It helps the environment, it helps us as well to save on buying bottles. People have been so responsive, we get at least 100 bottles back every week,” Elsa said. “It surprised me. People are very cooperative.”