Innovation Stories

Kristin Zerbin | Hoochy ‘Booch Kombucha

Before Kristin Zerbin was introduced to Kombucha – a fermented, lightly effervescent probiotic tea, she often felt tired, bloated, and like she was “allergic to everything.” But after discovering the health benefits and becoming a devotee of the drink, Kristin’s health not only improved, but she also decided she wanted to help others learn more about gut health so they could improve their digestion. So, in 2015, Kristin created Hoochy ‘Booch Kombucha, a small business dedicated to tea-infused Kombucha in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“If you’ve never tried Kombucha,” explains Kristin, “it can be a bit of an acquired taste. It’s a fermented tea, so it’s a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and a little bit fizzy. Our product is made with green tea with a hint of jasmine, so it’s what we call the ‘Champagne’ of Kombucha, because it’s quite light.”

One of the innovations of Hooch ‘Booch is that they never add any fruit juice to their Kombucha.

“We’re one of the only companies using only tea’s, herbs & essential oils to flavour. Most companies do a mix of juice and herbs, or strictly all juice. It was important to me to make a product that is all tea-herb based, that doesn’t have any juice, to not only keep the sugar low, but to also provide even more healthy benefits to a bottle of ‘booch. We’ve made health fun with our unique flavour profiles such as our Bellini and Blue Valentine.”

When asked about lessons learned along the way, Kristin says that being in business is like being on a consistent self-development journey. “There are lots of highs & lows and it tests you every day.”

“I feel like the most impactful lesson for me has been to believe in myself, believe in what I am offering and to just go for it. Perseverance is key, doing something every day to get us closer to our goals. Another great impact in growing this company has been all the wonderful connections we’ve made through our customers, retailers and other processors. I feel very grateful for the community we are surrounded by.
In addition to reminding herself to persevere, if Kristin could start over, knowing what she knows now, she says she would have taken more risks. “Kombucha is a competitive category and I think, in the earlier days, I played it small. If I could do it over, I would have figured out a way to get us out there more and experimented with further developing our product line”

Today, however, Kristin feels incredibly proud of having created a company she says is all about integrity.

“There are many opportunities in business where you can cut corners or do something that might cheapen the product, but we’ve loyally stayed committed to our natural and wholesome ingredients and our authentic fermentation cycle, which we feel very good about. It’s important for us to not steer too far from our values and the integrity of what we want to put out there.”

Although COVID-19 has had a definite impact on the business, Hoochy ‘Booch is currently available in about 100 stores including various local cafes, restaurants, and Independent Grocers. The company website also sells Kombucha Starter kits that come with everything you need to brew Kombucha at home, easy & effectively.

“Our model before COVID was mostly selling Kombucha to restaurants and cafes, so obviously there was quite a big pivot last year when most of those companies shut down or were operating with a smaller, more limited capacity. So, we moved to home deliveries, and it’s been really incredible getting to know our customers on a more personal level. We deliver every Friday, from Vancouver to Langley.”

When asked about future goals, Kristin, who recently moved Hoochy ‘Booch into their very own 2,500 sq ft brewery, a task that was 2.5 years in the making, says she’d love to see her product in Wholefoods and bigger grocery stores throughout British Columbia that “have a local vibe.”

“I also want to launch a new product, or 2, but that’s under wraps right now.”