Profile: OH-K! Kombucha, Lisbon, Portugal
Following a visit to Aquela Kombucha in Porto, my journey along the west coast of Portugal in my brother-in-law’s sailboat reached the port of Cascais, which is a short train ride from the capital Lisbon. Despite the short notice (there being no way to plan arrival times when sailing), I made appointments to see two kombucha companies. My day started at 10:00 am meeting OH-K! Kombucha and ended after 6:00 pm at AMO Kombucha. I want to thank everyone for the generous welcome. This is the first report of the day.
OH K! Kombucha founder Renato Braz arranged for me to meet him on Friday morning at Miosótis Bio, a large natural foods store in Oeiras, mid-way between Lisbon and Cascais. He had set up a tasting booth near the entrance to the store and offered samples of three flavors, taking the time to discuss the taste and health benefits with people who had often never tasted kombucha before.
As many brands know, customer education is a necessary and valuable way of growing a local market.
Renato practices traditional Chinese medicine and advises his clients on the benefits of kombucha to aid digestion. Through his practice, he discovered the benefits of fermented foods in helping balance the body. In Chinese medicine, it is said that the sour flavor relates to the Wood element of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water). Just as Spring renews life, fermentation is a form of growth. Chinese nutritional theory believes that this growth ‘factor’ strongly assists Liver and Gallbladder health.
Renato and his colleagues spent three years experimenting with different kombucha ferments before they felt ready to launch the company, which they did in December 2019.
We plunged into a process of study, tests – with some fiascos in between – and improvement, based on the ancient Chinese recipe for this healthy drink/medicine and inspired by the Japanese proverb “fall seven times and get up eight.”
Oh-K! is a very ‘dry’ tasting drink, low in sugar and, through various carefully developed techniques, shelf-stable while not being pasteurized or excessively filtered.
We create kombucha with personality and a strong identity, full of color, richness and flavor. The recipes are made with large amounts of plants and fruits and not based on extracts, essences or concentrates.
They stock 2650ml, 330ml, and 750ml bottles and encourage customers to pair their drink with meals rather than seeing it as a ‘soda replacement.’ They make a ‘pure’ or original flavor that uses Portuguese Hysson tea from the Azores, which has a distinctive flavor from the volcanic terroir of those islands. Their most popular flavor is based on dried ginger — which gives specific Chinese medical benefits. In addition, there is a red fruit-based flavor.
As well as ‘booch, they sell a line of three flavors of Agre kombucha vinegar. This is fermented from green tea over three months.
After spending time with Renato, his marketing associate Ana drove me the 40 minutes into the hills north of the city, where they have extensive production facilities. There is excellent water in the hills, and the industrial park facility allows for enormous headroom for expansion–they are currently using a fraction of the available space.
I met with Susanna, who heads production. She walked me through the process, from steeping and fermenting to flavoring and bottling. The warehouse holds many cases, which happily sit at room temperature before being shipped. Listen to the podcast for Susanna’s detailed description of the process that allows for shelf stability.
Oh-K! cater to the needs of the home brewer. They sell a variety of kits based on their organically certified SCOBYs. Customers order from across Europe and as far away as Brazil, which naturally has a strong connection with the native-language homeland.
Cocktails and Mocktails
Their Chinese medicine heritage does not mean they are abstemious. They produce two booklets listing several cocktail and mocktail recipes, often developed in-house at the end of the workday. These are available as e-book downloads.
To hear the Oh-K! story in full, listen to the podcast.