Kombucha may be relatively new to the Calgary scene, but the ladies behind Wild Tea Kombucha are trusting that the health drink alterative is more than a fad. Emily Baadsvik and Brigette Freel have been working together since 2015 to perfect their Wild Tea Kombucha blends. In just those few short years, the brand can now be found in over 50 locations across Western Canada including big grocers like Sobeys and Save-on-Foods as well as niche and independent retailers and restaurants.
What exactly is kombucha? Kombucha is a sweet tea that undergoes a fermentation process using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY) and mixed with fresh juices to create healthy and functional beverages. “[It’s] a great alternative to sugar-filled sodas, lemonades, and iced teas,” explains co-owner Emily. “Our kombucha has endless uses – in smoothies, in a cocktail, in a marinade/salad dressing, or just on it’s own. It’s nice to have an option!”
Wild Tea currently has flavours like Strawberry Daiquiri, Wild Ginger and Hard Lime along with seasonal mixes each month. “We try to use fresh local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible and love doing fun kombucha twists on classic cocktails,” says other co-owner Brigette. “[Kombucha is] for everyone – athletes, moms, yogis, hikers, kids, elderly, people watching their weight, people who choose not to drink.
The kombucha fermentation is similar to the mechanisms needed to make beer which led to a unique collaboration with Wild Rose Brewery. Mixing Wild Tea’s kombucha with Wild Rose’s Cowbell sour led to the “Blushing Brew” blend that proved to be popular with beer and kombucha lovers alike. “We are in the midst of planning some new summer flavours with Wild Rose, as the Blushing Brew was such a hit. Look out for it in July, just in time for Canada’s 150th [birthday],” says Emily. “We also have a feature flavor that was developed in collaboration with the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon. Hint – it involves maple!”
Both woman have wellness backgrounds with Emily being a former Olympic bobsleigh athlete and Brigette as a health professional at Alberta Health Services. Being a small business owner has been a big change for both, but they have some advice for those looking to branch out on their own. For Emily, she says, “Be prepared to be poor, to be fearless and be willing to grind 24/7. Sleep will be minimal, stress will be high, and be ok with crying sometimes.” For Brigette, she advises to take things day-by-day. “The problems may be overwhelming but you get up the next day and sort through them. You feel a sense of accomplishment that you wouldn’t know in any other line of work. Be prepared for the lows and the highs and always be true to yourself and your brand!”
Starting a business during a downturn is never ideal, but the Wild Tea Kombucha team have been heartened by all the support they’ve received from the local community. “Albertans have been so kind and supportive. We’re looking forward to further expansion into other regions to broaden our fan base,” explains Brigette.