The Boucha Story
In May 2018 I made one of the toughest yet greatest decisions of my life. I was going to stop drinking alcohol FOREVER! I had questioned my drinking for over a decade, but always came up with excuses to defend it. I never labelled myself an ‘alcoholic’ but there was definitely a dependency on alcohol. Happy = drink wine, sad = drink wine, tired = drink wine, and so on and so forth. A life without wine seemed like no life at all, yet the effect it was having on me was nothing like the glamorous, party-girl images depicted in adverts. As a woman approaching forty, with three beautiful sons, a darling husband and many happy years ahead of me, I felt like life was passing me by in a Groundhog Daze of hangovers, boozy dinners and blackouts.
Why Boucha? Well, it’s simply a refined version of the term ‘booch’: a popular pet name for kombucha, which for me always had connotations of ‘hooch’ or ‘moonshine’, so I softened its edges a touch. I also loved the translation of the palate cleansing dining course, Amuse Bouche, to mean ‘excite the mouth’ which was my primary objective when designing the flavour – ergo, Boucha was born.
Strangely, stopping was the easy part. After a few weeks of shame-free mornings watching the sun rise after a full 8-hours sleep, it was clear this was the version of ‘Me’ I wanted to be.
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how outcast it feels to be a non-drinker in an alchocentric world. Dining out has always been, and continues to be, one of my favourite past times. I love my food and I loved my wine yet finding a comparable drink to have with my meal; one which felt sophisticated and could complement my food was virtually impossible. A selection of sugary juices, fizzy pops or plain old water was what I had to settle for, or a Becks Blue if I was lucky. Even if the restaurant had sold one of the de-alcoholised wines you could buy in the supermarket, they were tooth-curlingly sweet and often made by brands I wouldn’t have touched with a bargepole even in my drinking days. There had to be a better option.
I found it eight weeks later in July. The sun was shining, and I was giddy with hope as I took the train to my first Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival at Spitalfields Market in London. There were stalls galore with bright-eyed, booze-free drink sellers offering their wares to an eager crowd, and it was here that I tried my first sip of the beautiful elixir that is Kombucha. It was the Lo Bros Original variety, and I was immediately struck by this sparkling drink which had the perfect balance between tart acidity and zesty fruit. Not sweet, but so very pleasing to the palate….it was reminding me of something!
In that moment I knew what I wanted to do, and the seed of my Boucha baby began to grow.
Back at home I set to work immediately. My initial idea was to combine unflavoured kombucha with a shop bought alcohol free wine to see if it would bring the sweetness down by increasing the acidity due to its fermented flavour. I made a lovely seafood supper, put my concoction in a tall-stemmed glass and voila! It was delicious and I finally felt I’d found something to fill the gaping hole in the market for a non-alcoholic alternative to wine – YES!
While it was all good and well creating my magical mix of drinks at home, I remained stuck when dining out. Most restaurants were still completely unaware of kombucha, so I made it my one-woman mission to build a brand which was delicious, looked like a wine, tasted like wine and allowed the drinker to have the same experience as every other customer – just minus the hangover.
I think it’s fair to say my first forays into home brewing were inconsistent at best and explosive at worst! I set about researching equipment and techniques; teas and natural flavours and found out very quickly that I was never going to create a consistent, organic, delicious and shelf stable product in the comfort of my own home. It was time to call in the experts.
The first brilliant kombucha minds I picked came from the guys at Good Culture Kombucha who I had the pleasure of meeting at their professional kombucha brewer’s workshop in Berlin. They opened my eyes to the potential of this brilliant business, but also to the intricacies of producing a living product on a commercial scale. I had two choices: I could invest in brewery space, equipment and spend the next few years honing my craft, or I could invest in expert producers to assist in creating my perfect brand, leaving me free to focus on the marketing and business side of things. I chose the latter and within a few weeks I had been put in touch with Gina and Luke from Wild Fizz Kombucha. Together we designed the Boucha recipe, and slowly but surely, my dream became a tangible reality.
Flavour was of utmost importance in the design process, so using the profiles of several dry and zesty wines, we found the perfect balance; creating an organic drink with lasting notes of green fruits and a dry, mouth-puckering finish. Presented in a wine style bottle with a label painted by my super talented, artist mother, my Boucha now looked the part, and I was ready to present it to the world.
I’m bursting with pride at having had the confidence and drive to produce this incredible drink; to create an exciting new brand and build the business from a seed of an idea to a saleable commodity. As I enter my fourth decade, I feel like I’ve just started living. Living my best life without booze and the chains which were holding me back. Drinking culture is shifting and I’m so excited to be riding the wave. The future is bright and Bouchaful!