Profile: Café Bärbucha, Berlin, Germany
This is the second in the series of Profiles of Berlin-based kombucha brewers, which I scheduled around the weekend Kombucha Summit.
Meeting a frequent contributor to Booch News and a legend in the worldwide kombucha industry was indeed one of the highlights of my trip to Berlin.
Tadeusz Zagrabinski is the owner of Café Bärbucha, a surprisingly small storefront on a quiet street in the Schöneberg area, close to the center of Berlin. We’d corresponded several times, and I have re-posted his blog content on the History of Kombucha, as well as a multi-part ‘Kombucha 101’ series which goes into great detail on tea, sugar, water, the SCOBY, and the fermentation process. These articles show the range of Tadeusz’s expertise in all things kombucha and fermented foods overall. I was looking forward to meeting him in person, sampling some of his brews, and discovering more about the cafe and his fermentation skills.
I was not disappointed.
The cafe is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays — allowing Tadeusz and his wife Elizabeth time to catch up on orders and prepare ingredients. I’d arranged to meet on the Monday after the conference ended. When he greeted me, I was immediately struck by how compact the space was. The storefront window was filled with jars of fermenting foods, and the small kitchen area in the back was packed to the ceiling with SCOBY’s and jars of kombucha. The outsized reputation of the brand had led me to expect something much larger.
Tadeusz, originally from Poland, spent much of his career in the States as a chef. His culinary training was evident in the organization of the kitchen — everything had a place and a clear function.
Bärbucha Kombucha varieties are based on carefully selected, premium teas. As you can read in his guest posting on tea, the use of Black, White, Green, Oolong, Pu-erh, and Yellow teas is the foundation for his offerings. Examples include:
We use a Sheng Maocha Pu-erh from 2017 that comes from 200-year-old trees. This particular tea makes an excellent and light Puerh Kombucha.
We feature two different Oolongs to make two of our different kombuchas. One of them is called Lan Gui Ren, or Ginseng Oolong. It is an unusual Oolong, where the tea leaves are rolled and are coated with Ginseng powder. We picked this Oolong for extra health benefits.
Our Jade Silk Kombucha, made with a very special and very delicate Organic Jade Silk green tea that comes from Dongzhai plantation, in Yunnan province in China. This particular tea has discernible, natural passion fruit notes and those notes come out even stronger after the fermentation process.
You won’t find any ginger, fruit, or similar additives in this ‘booch! It was an absolute delight and quite an education to sit in the cafe and have Tadeusz share a half-dozen different bottles of these and other teas, explaining the process of creating each.
I was curious to hear about his experience as a pioneer in introducing kombucha into Germany and the changes he’s seen since he opened in 2015. You can listen to his story on the podcast. What struck me was the number of people seeking him out at the recommendation of health practitioners, who had been advised about the benefits of introducing kombucha and fermented foods into their diet.
I’d heard at the conference that the German market was unique in that consumers were more likely to cut expenditure on foods when, as is happening worldwide, they are faced with challenging economic times. The French, Spanish, and Italians will economize elsewhere to enjoy good food and drink. Germans are, apparently, willing to cut back on food to save money. This means a bottle of kombucha at 4-5 euro is not seen as an alternative to soft drinks. Instead, it’s more of an investment their health those who understand the benefits.
It’s obviously not the case that the German public doesn’t have a thirst for beer and wine. As Katharina Kurz from Brlo Craft Beer touched on this topic in her presentation at the Summit — craft beer is not taking off across Germany as it has in the UK and USA, since many Germans are happy supping cheaper supermarket beers. It will be interesting to see if this attitude changes as the market evolves.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to sample the many fermented foods available. In addition to their 20 varieties of kombucha in three lines, they produce an extensive range of other products. This includes ten variations of sauerkraut, fermented cauliflower, beets, dill pickles, garlic in honey, fermented kefir, whey, and seasonal sodas for kids!
Tadeusz hosts afternoon tastings for customers when the cafe is open. Lengthy fermentation results in tasty and beneficial products.
Listen to the podcast to hear Tadeusz discuss the origins of kombucha in Germany and the changes he’s seen over the past seven years.
Cafe Bärbucha is located at Eisenacher Str. 73, 10823 Berlin, Germany, a short walk from the Eisenacher Straße station on the U7 metro