Profile: Mucha Kombucha, Oiartzun, Spain
Griffin Halpern brews Mucha Kombucha in the Basque Country of northern Spain. Originally from San Diego, California, Griffin has always been an active person, athletic and adventurous. He spent his youth playing semi-professional football, skating and traveling. While a member of the Claremont McKenna College football team, he discovered the importance of nutrition in physical performance. Around this time, in 2004, he started drinking kombucha and making his own.
Mucha Kombucha has been in business for the past four years. They are based in Oiartzun, inland from San Sebastián in the province of Gipuzkoa. From an original fermentation of 50 liters that he gave away to friends, production expanded into a range of vessels, from 100 to 8,500 liters.
Griffin’s Saturday presentation at the Berlin Kombucha Summit — ‘Keys for a traditionally fermented commercial kombucha’ – was a cautionary tale aimed at helping new brewers avoid “making the same stupid mistakes I made.” Many of the lessons were around the layout of a physical plant where brewery equipment needs to be accessible, scalable, and economical.
Having the space to ferment is a new brewer’s most critical decision. This includes selecting suitable vessels for primary fermentation, chilling the results for stability, and sufficient storage before bottling and shipping. The advice was as obvious as having the labeling machine next to the bottling machine. He recommended Günther Frank’s book on kombucha.
All bottle labels identify Mucha as a ‘California – Basque Country’ company.
Standard flavors are original, apple and ginger, pomegranate, and tropical (a blend of coconut zest, wild strawberry leaves, safflower, and vanilla).
Limited Editions include Turmeric & Pepper with curcumin. This strong antioxidant contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties activated by the black pepper’s piperine which absorbs curcumin. There’s also an organic Café Sakona coffee-based variety and the “very freaky” Zapiain Sagardoa based on an apple-cider must.
They sell 98% of the product in glass bottles, with 2% going into local outlets in kegs. In addition to the standard 330ml bottles, they introduced a 750ml bottle that is returnable and reusable. They are in 400 stores across Spain and southern France as far north as Bordeaux.
Mucha gives 1% of profits to the Coral Vita – an organization that helps restore the world’s dying coral reefs.
Listen to the podcast to hear the story of Mucha Kombucha in Griffin’s own words.