Profile: Max Ozhegov, Kombucha Club, Moscow

Long before American hippies (and GT Dave) discovered it, kombucha was a staple in Russia.

Tea Mushroom

There was a time, back in the USSR, when most households brewed a concoction known in Russian as a chayniy grib, or “tea mushroom”. Many used the cheapest teas available, but it was a popular beverage in a country where sweet sodas were not available. Children would cry if their grandmother had not given them their nightly glass before they went to bed. Indeed, the tea was common in the crowded prisons of the Soviet gulag, where inmates were known to brew it and share it with their guards.

Commercial kombucha arrives in Russia

In 2012 the tea mushroom took on a new life when Max Ozhegov and a partner started the first commercial kombucha company in the land of hayniy grib. They introduced higher quality ingredients, secondary fermentation, and fruit flavorings to deliver the same form of the drink that had become a sensation in California and, increasingly, across the West. HQ Kombucha was born.

Max says this represented the “boomerang” effect of the drink returning home in a different form.

Kombucha Club

Max later sold his interest in HQ Kombucha and, in 2017, founded Kombucha Club as a Russian-language resource for everyone from homebrewers to commercial brewers. The main challenge, as in many other parts of the globe, is to publicize the “new” form of kombucha across a vast country where associations with grandmothers’ “tea mushroom” die hard. With over 1,600 Instagram followers and a new YouTube channel, the Kombucha Club is raising awareness about kombucha.

There are over 30 reviews of different brands, interviews, and news about commercial brands available in Russia.

Podcast

I spoke with Max on the phone about his journey from the founding of HQ Kombucha to now, and what he sees in the future for kombucha in Russia. While the phone lines were not 100% clear you should find it interesting to hear from a person with his first-hand knowledge.

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