By Chelsea Hohn
Barrels line reflective colorful walls, and a scent of vinegar hangs in the air. Eccentric cut-outs collaged together create a welcoming and calm atmosphere. Tucked neatly in a corner of Ypsilanti is the warehouse that houses the successful kombucha beer company Unity Vibration and its Triple Goddess Tasting Room.
Kombucha first originated in Eastern Asia, and was then introduced to Germany. Since its manifestation, kombucha has been regarded as a healthy, immune-boosting beverage.
Brewing kombucha is a tedious and careful process, one that has been near perfected by Unity Vibration through years of practice and experiments. The ingredients are simple: most kombucha is made with a combination of tea, sugar, and a scoby (the key ingredient). The real work is the fermentation process. At a home-brew level, the most difficult part can be checking the vinegar component every day. For Unity Vibration’s large scale operation, their biggest challenge has been getting the carbonation levels right.
The scoby, or Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, is the work force in the beverage. It remains a mystery even to the owners and creators of Unity Vibration, Rachel and Tarek Kanaan.
“It’s a mystery even to us; no one knows exactly where it came from,” said Rachel Kanaan. The scoby is naturally occurring, and was discovered by accident. In order to form a new scoby, pre-existing kombucha is needed. It is a floating, pancake-like living culture that works to transform the tea into the fizzy probiotic that is kombucha.
“It’s so crazy — it’s this lovely culture that’s physical, you can see it,” said Rachel. “I think the really cool thing about it is that you can see different reactions with it.”
Rachel explained that the scoby thrives off of the energy around it, and at Unity Vibration, they’ve taken time and care to make sure their environment is one that fosters the quality kombucha they are known for. Playing music, painting the walls bright colors, playing Tibetan singing bowls, and truly valuing their employees all help to keep the energy level positive. If the employees are happy and putting good energy into the upkeep of the kombucha, they find that the scoby reacts positively.
Their mantra, “Love, health and possibility,” is written on the side of the brewing tanks and is also inscripted on the bottles they sell.
“We wanted to put those concepts into people’s minds,” Tarek said. “People can create whatever possibility they want in their life, and love for other people and the world.”
For Rachel and Tarek, creating possibility is a familiar concept. When the two met, Tarek was already an avid kombucha drinker, and he was impressed to find that Rachel already had a scoby in her kitchen. From there, the two started selling and giving away their own kombucha to friends.
Kombucha found them, Rachel explained. They didn’t seek out kombucha. They were led into starting their own company because it was getting expensive buying and selling kombucha out of the back of their van.
The name came from the creative principle of combining two things into one. “We combined both of our energies together to create the company, [and] the product is always a combination,” said Tarek.
It hasn’t been easy, though. Unity Vibration’s kombucha tea clocks in at .5 percent ABV, just enough to be regulated by the state and considered as beer and wine. Their kombucha wasn’t tested for alcohol levels until 2010, when they were already in business. But instead of changing their recipe, they changed their approach. Now, they brew kombucha beer in addition to the tea (with some beers certainly stronger than .5 percent ABV).
Tarek and Rachel found that brewing kombucha was similar to brewing Belgian beer, and that people were interested and loving their product. For the Kanaans, they were happy to be able to provide an alternative to Pepsi and Bud Light, they explained.
The creation of their business came just a few months before the inception of GT Dave’s Kombucha, one of the leaders in the kombucha market. Rachel and Tarek have found that they are often on the cutting edge, and with kombucha, Unity Vibration came at the perfect time. The beverage has grown massively in popularity, and is one of the fastest growing beverage markets currently. Part of this is because of the health benefits that kombucha boasts.
“For me, it helps my digestion and boosts my immune system,” said Tarek. “It gives me a sense of well-being. It’s unique the feeling or energy I get from it.”
For Rachel, a cancer survivor and raw foodist, she finds that her energy levels are better when she drinks kombucha, and she is also interested in the alkalizing properties.
There are few studies in the United States that show clear-cut evidence of kombucha’s benefits, but the success and popularity seem to tell a different story.
Rachel points out that while there may not be direct evidence in the U.S. for kombucha itself, all of the individual ingredients have proven health benefits. The vinegar-like compound is similar to apple cider vinegar, which is known for its beneficial health properties. The tea used to make kombucha is usually a green or black tea, both with health benefits that go back hundreds of years. Not to mention the local, organic fruits that Unity Vibration uses to flavor their beers.
For a business that was started out of the back of a van by chance, Unity Vibration has come a long way to the nationally distributed brews that they have currently. For now, they’re focusing on getting their product to this side of the country, possibly expanding their tasting room, and continuing to spread a message of love, health, and possibility through their healthy libations.
Unity Vibration is located at 93 Ecorse Road, Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198. For more information, visit www.unityvibrationkombucha.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.