Jan. 14, 2019
With a pickle jar, a scoby, and tea from her pantry, Christina Parker started a kombucha making side hustle that would become Medicine Hat’s first kombucha brewery.
Kombucha is a sweetened, fermented tea with origins in either Russia or China, comes in many flavours, and has a refreshing vinegar taste.
“I made my first batch over two years ago and continued to make more,” says Parker. “I loved it so much that I introduced it to all my friends.”
At a few dinner parties, guests offered to buy her kombucha and Parker started packaging the product to sell.
Much like with craft beer, the kombucha product category didn’t exist before 1990. In 2014, U.S. sales of bottled kombucha were $400 million, with much of that growth at the expense of traditional soda pop and other carbonated beverages. Little wonder PepsiCo purchased kombucha maker KeVita in 2016 for approximately $200 million.
From pickles to yoghurt, fermented food is all the rage right now. According to Kombucha Brewers International, a trade association, “Kombucha provides refreshment, probiotic organisms and nutrition in a living form which leads to a palpable sensation of ‘feeling good’ that is one of the drivers of the exploding marketplace.”
With approximately 140,000 people in the Medicine Hat trading area, quick and easy access to Calgary and Edmonton, and growing consumer awareness on the horizon, Parker felt the time was right for Medicine Hat’s very own kombucha brewery.
In 2018, Parker found Community Futures, took the self-employment training program, and pitched her business plan for Wicked Rose Kombucha to a panel of judges in the APEX Business Challenge. Coming in second place, she was awarded $5,000 grant and free accounting for a year from local firm JMH & Co.
“I would recommend it to anyone who might want to start a business,” reflects Parker. “Community Futures has many resources for marketing and bookkeeping, plus anything you need to start a business.”
Parker found a 550 square foot space on the corner of 3rd Street SE and McLeod Trail that held the potential for brewing and drinking kombucha. A new sink and dishwasher were installed in the kitchen and a cozy café area was set up near the large windows.
On Dec. 17. 2018, Wicked Rose Kombucha opened its doors. The Heirloom and Solar Spice flavours are on tap, kombucha making kits are for sale and hot teas are available.
With rising consumer and business interest in fermented products, it wasn’t long before a local entrepreneur tapped into the kombucha business in Canada’s sunniest city.