Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Ted Zagrabinski & I am the founder & brewer at Bärbucha Kombucha – Berlin’s First Raw Kombucha. Also a co-founder of Café Bärbucha – Berlin’s first Kombucha Café & also a Fermentery. Before moving to Berlin, Germany in 2014, I was a cook, a Chef & then Executive Chef in various restaurants in Connecticut, US (New Haven County). With a total of 28 years in the restaurant business.
Your current job:
My current job – Kombucha brewer & Fermentista, as besides Kombucha, we also offer other fermented items like water & milk kefir, red beet Kvass & various fermented vegetables. So I develop the recipes for all those items & I oversee the fermentation processes of all the above mentioned.
In which city:
How did you discover kombucha?
Living in the US until 2014 & working in the food service, where you track various trends, it is really hard not to notice something like Kombucha. Besides, my friends used to brew it already in the nineties so I was exposed to Kombucha quite early.
What prompted you to start your company?
After moving from the US, I discovered that besides a couple of brands of pasteurized Kombucha, there was absolutely no local, raw Kombucha that was commercially brewed in Berlin (or in the whole Germany, for that matter). So I decided that it was the right time to change that by creating the first Kombucha microbrewery that would offer local, raw & high-quality Kombucha.
What makes your product unique?
There are a couple of things that make our Bärbucha Kombucha unique. One of them would be that our Kombucha is a tea-based product. By tea-based product, we mean that almost all of our different Kombucha varieties, and we offer around 16 ones, are only flavored by using a particular tea or a tea like product. So no juices, no extra fruits, no extra sugar. Just to clarify it more. We have two different lines of Kombucha. One is a Classic Line & the other is Premium Line. The Classic Line consists of 5 different Kombucha, plus one Jun (Honey Kombucha). That line is also available through other places throughout Berlin & the Premium Line is available only at our Kombucha Café. The Classic line includes Morgenduft Bärbucha Kombucha (made with a single green tea & flower petal mixture) or Orange tee Bärbucha Kombucha (made with a single Black Orange Tea). In our Premium Line you will find a Lung Ching (Chinese green tea) Bärbucha Kombucha or Osmanthus one (also a Chinese green tea used in TCM) or Bärbucha made out of a single Magnolia Oolong or one made with Keemun Mao Feng black tea, or one out of Lapsang Souchong, which is a Chinese smoked black tea. Besides those tea based examples, we also have cold-brewed Cascara Kombucha, one made with Guayusa & another one made with Jiaogulan.
The other thing that makes us unique is that unlike most of the commercial Kombucha brewers, we still brew all Kombucha in glass jars. So no plastic, no stainless steel. And we use unrefined brown sugar for all of our Kombucha.
What do you want to convey through your brand image?
The first thing that we want to convey through our brand is that our product is made in Berlin & mostly for Berlin. Bärbucha is a compilation of two words – Bär (Bear – an emblem of Berlin & Bucha from Kombucha). So a local, Berlin product. The second thing that we want to convey is a higher quality of Kombucha. What that means is that our Kombucha can be more comparable to a good wine, than a soda. For that particular reason, we serve our Kombucha in wine glasses.
What are the main challenges in your company?
One of the challenges would be the specifics of the German market. What that means is that Kombucha market is developing at the much slower pace, than in English speaking countries. And the second one would be, that because of using more expensive, higher quality teas our Kombucha is slightly more expensive than some other ones, currently being offered on the German market and we also appeal to a more mature audience. It also takes time to educate the people about what kind of product we offer & why.
What tools are essential for your work (app, software)?
As far as apps or software essential for my work, I don’t think I use anything specific. But for the connecting & promoting - all the social media are crucial in propagating, what we do. And since we have a Kombucha Café & Kombucha, we have separate accounts for both. That means double the works. So, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
A word to define what type of worker you are:
Determined would be one, a perfectionist would be another.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Yes, I do. But I also have to take into account that I deal with living products, which don’t always behave the same way, so I have to sometimes adjust to that.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
That is something that has to be worked out individually. You can achieve a better productivity by using better-mechanized production lines, meaning big shiny toys like stainless steel fermenters, bigger bottling lines, etc. Or you can go the more difficult way and brew small batches, but you get a unique product.
What is the best advice you have been given?
I actually cannot point out to one particular one. Listen to our inner self to see what is the best for us in any particular situation.
What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?
A bottle of our cold Kombucha for relaxation & enjoyment is the best end-of-day routine. I would include some physical exercises, Yoga & stretching.
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
An mp3 player with some relaxing music would take that spot.
Upcoming products or projects?
Our Kombucha will be offered through more places in Berlin & also possibly through one store in the neighboring Poland. We are also working on creating a new line of Kombucha that will be distributed exclusively under another label & in totally different bottles. But we can’t reveal any details as of yet.