Game changers: Oddity Kombucha’s Alicia Medina
In this new interview series, we’re highlighting those who are inspiring, teaching and making health and wellness accessible to the masses through their businesses. These are the new trailblazers, making things like plant-based eating the new norm, using food as medicine, and with our first interview, creating a social space where a health-promoting drink like kombucha, offers an alternative to alcohol. We’re talking to Alicia Medina, co-owner of Oddity Kombucha, Vancouver’s first kombucha tap room and café about how she’s changing the game, one fermented drink at a time.
What is Oddity Kombucha and how did you start it?
I kind of started the company by accident, after having stumbled upon kombucha as an alternative to beer. I totally fell in love with it, and enjoyed having a refreshing beverage that was healthy, and that I could drink in social situations. It’s not that I’m against alcohol, I think it’s just so important to be able to have those options, while still being able to have a social life not completely based around booze. I also noticed that a lot of the brands at the supermarket were from the U.S., so I thought there was some room in the market for more local companies. My husband and I were just about the open Faculty Brewing, so it was the perfect time to use it as a platform to launch the product. Though it did just started as a hobby and a side business, as I was working in architecture. It wasn’t a strategic plan to have this big company, it was all just very organic and natural.
Can you us give a bit of background on Kombucha and some of the health benefits it offers?
My approach is drink it for health, but also drink it for the pleasure. I always kind of hesitate with that question. A lot of kombucha companies are selling the product because of its health benefits. When I drink it I feel good, and it helps with digestion – if I have a heavy meal and I drink kombucha, I notice in my own body that it helps. Kombucha, as well as many other fermented foods, have been consumed for centuries, and the traditions passed down generations, there is a reason is has been around so long. But in terms of being able to actually make claims on the health benefits, there is no scientific proof that shows that kombucha has probiotics (it would be a fairly complex analysis to demonstrate that). I always just tell people to see how they feel when they are drinking kombucha. Just listen to your own body.
How did you get interested in health and wellness?
It was a personal journey. I was just working in an office, stressed out, not eating well, and I started to do some cleanses, and went to a naturopath, did an elimination diet, and I had never felt so amazing in my life! I’ve always been seeking to improve my health through the way I eat, my lifestyle, exercise, and just trying to have a more well-rounded life. I wanted to provide a space that was social, but healthy. We offer good food, kombucha and a nice environment to hangout in.
Who has been your main clientele?
It really varies – a lot of people that work in the neighbourhood mainly. People that would normally walk to go get a coffee because they just need to get out of the office, they come here and they get a cup of kombucha to go. A lot of people come for growler refills as well. I wouldn’t say there is a specific demographic, but mostly a little older, 30+ years of age. It’s usually professionals coming in, but we try to make our prices a little more accessible to everyone.
What kind of impact or ripple effect can you see happening with Oddity?
I think what we may see is other local kombucha companies opening tasting rooms. To be able to have your retail spot where you can control the customer experience, it’s what I can see happening with other businesses. Everything becoming hyper-local and location specific, and more small scale producers opening up their own shops. And more kombucha on tap as well! I think the whole city and neighbourhood is changing, there are more of these small, local retailers and shops opening up. The city is becoming more vibrant. In the last five years a lot more independent businesses have opened, which makes things more interesting. I think just we are just part of that trend, and helping it to move forward.
How is Oddity Kombucha changing the game?
I think it’s our approach that you are buying from the source. We make everything here, we offer people the opportunity to go and see our production, and demystify the kombucha making process. A lot of people don’t drink kombucha because of the scoby – the name sounds weird, and then you see this floating thing, so the aim is to make it a lot more approachable. Buying from the source, using super local ingredients, and also having the opportunity to connect with our customers directly – I am working at the bar a lot so you can ask any question, building a space with a little community and events is what makes us different.