By Alex Gryciuk
“Ewwwwww! You like kombucha?! It tastes so sour!” is a common response to my love for the fermented drink. Known by most to taste vinegary and unappealing, kombucha doesn’t necessarily have the greatest reputation despite its potential to taste delightful and the numerous health benefits that come with drinking it.
Like many of my peers, the founders’ kids also thought that typical store bought kombucha “was too tart and pungent for them”. On a mission, Soul Patch set out to make accessible, fun flavors that not only could their children enjoy, but also individuals willing to give kombucha a second chance.
Starting off in March 2020, after positive feedback from family and friends, Soul Patch first became a way to “get out of the house, socialize, and have fun” with the rest of the community during the pandemic. After “connecting with the local farmers market right in [their] neighborhood” and obtaining necessary certifications, the company set out to sell on the weekends in local markets. Immediately popular, Soul Patch, even after increasing production, would “sell out” every week — a great indicator for a successful product. A “serendipitous” experience for founders, what originally was a “COVID-passion project or COVID-baby,” flourished into a successful, recognizable brand that customers now seek out at markets and small scale boutiques such as Zanotto’s family market and Montebello.
Needless to say, Soul Patch succeeded at their mission of making delectable kombucha that everyone is sure to love. Combining elements “like tropical fruits and eccentric flavors that people are not really familiar with but at the same time also comfortable with,” they create wonderful concoctions of delicious, bright flavors that come together and make a refreshing kombucha. The extremely palatable flavor profiles, “Groovy Guava”, “Mango Sunset” (mango and cold pressed ginger), and “Flower Child” (hibiscus and rose water) are perfect examples of popular, interesting flavors that showcase the true potential of what kombucha can taste like. Certainly, Soul Patch has cracked the culinary code for what makes a great beverage.
So, if you find yourself craving something new, thinking about a piquant kombucha, or in the farmers market on the weekend, I encourage you to sample lovely flavors like “Groovy Guava,” “Shark Bite,” and “Elixir of Life” at the Soul Patch tent! Take it from founder Ramis, “the only way you’re going to know [if you like kombucha] is by giving it a try and seeing which one is perfect for you.”
Santa Clara Farmers Market- 9am – 1pm (950 Jackson St, Santa Clara)
Saratoga Farmers Market – 9am – 1pm (West Valley College)
Los Gatos Farmers Market – 9am – 1pm (Montebello Way, Los Gatos)
Soul Patch Website link: here
@soulpatchkombucha on Instagram
What is the significance behind the name “Soul Patch”?
It is a play on words. Up until before the pandemic, I didn’t have a beard. I had a soul patch. We [the brand] were also trying to figure out what would fit our motto “Feeding your body and nourishing your soul.” We figured that we’re the patch between your body and your soul; the product that connects your body and your soul. A soul patch!
How long have you been brewing Kombucha?
So, officially to the markets for a little over two years. Since May of 2020.
How did you first start off the business? Did you first start by selling to friends or did you immediately go to the farmers market? How did the pandemic affect your business?
So I had been brewing kombucha for just friends and family at home. One of my goals was to make kombucha accessible to my own kids because they just didn’t like the taste of store bought stuff; it was either too pungent or too vinegary for their taste buds. I was trying to figure out a good way for them to have an alternative beverage.
When I was brewing, the feedback was so positive that we scaled up. Then, the pandemic hit. It was like all of a sudden, OMG! How can we get out of the house and do this safely while having fun in our neighborhood and community? It was a matter of connecting with the local farmers market right in our neighborhood and seeing how we could bring the product [our community and farmers market].
Next thing you know, we got a certification to make a kombucha and we just kept growing. Overall, we went from just brewing for friends and family to officially taking kombucha to the market right when the pandemic hit when everything had to be outdoors. It was just serendipitous for us. We weren’t intending to turn it into a business. It was really a way for us to get out of the house and socialize and have fun.
We kept getting great feedback [from customers]. Everytime we would bring kombucha to the market, we could completely sell out and we would bring some more and sell out. We scaled up from there. It became our COVID-passion project or COVID-baby.
Where do you draw inspiration from to create fun, interesting flavors?
The primary reason [to make interesting flavors] was for our family to enjoy kombucha. Our kids did not like the standard like store bought kombucha because it was too tart and pungent for them. But then, once they expressed that they enjoyed flavors like “Guava” and “Mango”, we thought, “That’s really good. They like fun flavors.” Also, the extended family liked the flavors.
When we took it to the market we found that there is this perception of kombucha that it is vinegary and doesn’t taste good. So then we thought, “Let’s make kombucha accessible to non kombucha drinkers. We want to create gateway kombucha for people to enjoy.”
One thing led to another and we started leaning more and more towards the mocktail style of kombucha and making the flavors fun, tropical, bright and playful. Part of inspiration were things that we enjoy like tropical fruits and eccentric flavors that people are not really familiar with but at the same time also comfortable with. One example is “Flower Child” which is hibiscus and rose water. People don’t associate the two together, but when they taste [the kombucha], it tastes phenomenal.
So, we just want to have our kombucha be fun to drink and just have the wow factor when you first drink it to change your perception of kombucha. Just about all our flavors are a concoction of two to three different flavors that come together that makes it really super easy and fun to drink.
What would you say is the fan favorite flavor?
The two that we sell the most are Guava and Mango Sunset, which is Mango with cold pressed ginger. We take lots of pride in bringing those to the market because they are so easy to drink and people love them. They are mainstay flavors (we go to the market every week) along with our rotational flavors. They showcase what we’re about.
What is your personal favorite flavor?
I will totally give you my honest answer — they are all my favorite. I would never, ever, bring anything to the market that I don’t personally like and love. I want to bring something to the market that I am proud of and that I truly enjoy without a doubt. However, there is always a mood for Guava, or Cherry Bomb, or Elixir. It really depends what mood I am in. That’s why we also try to bring a variety of flavors to the markets to cater to the customers’ moods if they want to have something different every once in a while.
How do you actually make kombucha? On a larger scale is it made at home? In a warehouse?
For anyone to be able to sell a product at a farmers market, you must make goods in a county certified facility; we do have a brewing facility where we brew our kombucha that meets all the health codes necessary to produce goods for the edible market. It’s a little facility that we coshare – it’s where the magic happens.
Do you have any future plans for the business? Do you plan to scale up further or continue to sell at the markets?
We enjoy being at the market, interacting with the community, and being a “South Bay Original.” That’s how we started, being out and engaging with fun people when bringing our product directly to the market and consumers.
We don’t plan on expanding in terms of taking on more than we can handle. But, currently, we are at small, little boutique family markets in small quantities. You can find us at Zanotto’s family market and Montebello. What we also do is also provide our kombucha on tap at a couple of non-alcoholic breweries and coffee shops. We are also at some corporate offices. It is super cool that we have been able to do all that while we still maintain it as a craft beverage where I can manage it between my wife and I.
What would you say to the readers of the Shield who have not had your kombucha or any kombucha in general to get them to try it?
I would say to sample different ones. There’s such a wide range of approaches to kombucha [how it’s made and flavor profiles], so give yourself a chance to find your favorite kombucha whether it’s ours or somebody else’s. The only way you’re going to know is by giving it a try and seeing which one is perfect for you. At the end of the day it [kombucha] has the health benefits and you can find something that is super delicious and works for you. Hopefully it’s at Soul Patch!