Kombucha has taken the country by storm in the last few years, appearing in various different varieties and flavours that line health food, and even supermarket, refrigerated shelves. Upon first taste, people can be taken aback by the fermented, fizzy liquid, alas, it is a taste and sensation that people learn to love quickly. With the added health benefits that kombucha offers, its really a no-brainer that people are reaching for kombucha over other juices or soft drinks, and that more and more companies are appearing to come out of the woodwork with their own unique brand and culture. If you happen to ask the average consumer what kombucha actually is, you may get a vague answer that includes the words ‘fermentation’ or ‘microbes’ or ‘friendly bacteria’. The public seem to have some idea that this bubbly, champagne-like drink is indeed good for them, but just how good it is, may not always be known nor appreciated. Buchi on the other hand have not only developed a bottled kombucha that tastes heavenly, they are also on a mission to educate their consumers, to create positive change in public health and individual consciousness and to heal and promote the wellbeing of their community, one gut at a time.
Sarah is the visionary and co-owner of Buchi Kombucha, located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, and through her many years of study and practice as a health practitioner, she knows first hand that so much of our wellbeing- from our mental functioning, to our mood, to our physical health- stems from the condition of our gut. Initially looking for practical solutions to health problems in children, Sarah’s research continually took her back to this place- to the gut, as she explains, ‘Most people think of the gut as a simple plumbing job. Food goes down the pipe, something happens in the middle, and waste comes out the other end, but the more we find out about the gut the more we realise that it is in fact a highly sophisticated, finely-tuned system of intelligence that needs our continual support.’
Sarah explains that the gut in fact operates as a ‘second brain’ in the human body, “It’s home to 100 million neurons (as many as the spinal cord) and about 40 neurotransmitters (as many as we have in the brain). In fact 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut, and it plays a major role in the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep.” With the dominance of mass-produced food in our culture today, the modern diet is exceptionally void of friendly bacteria. With chemicals, pesticides, GMO’s, the processes of homogenization and pasteurization- most of the food that lines the supermarket shelves is indeed, dead- bereft of any of the healthy bacteria that our system needs to thrive. For Sarah, her mission with Buchi became clear, “The challenge we face today is in finding ways to support and optimise the health of our gut, and Buchi is certainly part of this movement.”
Growing up on a rural property Sarah’s upbringing was shaped by the natural ebb and flow of the seasons and the circle of life, as she explains, “My family were farmers, so eating farm-fresh, raised-in-our-own-paddock, whole food was all I knew.” This childhood gave Sarah a solid foundation and understanding of the value and importance of organic, natural, seasonal food and it was from this rural and humble upbringing that inspired her go on and gain degrees in nutrition and public health.
Buchi became a way for Sarah to offer her community and beyond an accessible and tasty way to flood their body with friendly bacteria and in doing so, slowly learn for themselves the importance of nurturing the body with live, fermented foods. As Sarah explains, “Fermentation, in a nutshell, is about creating environments for our microbial friends to grow and thrive…and then eating the tasty buggers. They perform some of the most important physiological functions in our lives. They are the interface between the outside world and the human internal environment. They protect our gut wall against invasive pathogenic microbes, improve immunity, create organic acids in the body, can help us harness energy and nutrients from our food, and how much fat we store.”
Sarah explains that some of her favorite ferments are kefir, beetroot and lemon kvass, sauerkraut and of course, kombucha. Once Sarah understood how to nourish and prosper microbiota, and how simple and tasty it could be, Buchi became a way to extend this process from her own kitchen to her community and offer a product commercially.
Buchi has been embraced by the Sunshine Coast community and its reach is now beginning to spread right across the country. Beginning as a small market stall at the Noosa Farmers market, Sarah explains that the local community have been extremely supportive, while also at times, their greatest critics, as she states, “The popularity and expansion of Buchi comes from an often energetic two-way communication with our community…(They) give us feedback when our ferments don’t work or need to be tweaked in one way or another. For this we are most grateful because it keeps us attentive to detail and brewing beautiful potent ferments.”
The popularity of Buchi and the interest it has sparked in the community is not only evident in sales, but also in the fully booked workshops that Sarah has recently been offering to the public. It is common knowledge that these unique fermented foods were staples of ancient cultures and past generations. Fermentation came about out of a need to preserve food during the months when it wasn’t so readily available. It has been shown that the longest living communities around the world all included some form of fermented food in their diet. Unfortunately, these traditions have largely been misplaced and forgotten. For Sarah, her passion is connecting people back to these roots, back to these ancient foods and cultures.
The workshops also have another interesting spin on them that people upon first signing up, may not have been switched on to, as Sarah states, “Besides the enormous health benefits of fermented foods, there is also a kind of politics at our workshops. When people ferment their own food they’re essentially reclaiming their artisan food roots and at the same time also lodging an eloquent protest against the pastorisation and the homogenisation of flavors that dominate the mainstream food culture currently.” Sarah’s workshops gift her students an opportunity to take their food and their health into their own hands, back into their kitchens, where they can develop their own unique ferments, reclaiming these old traditions in new and empowering ways.
Every step of operation with Buchi from production to distribution is done with utmost care and consciousness, making sure that each and every step has as little impact on the earth as possible. Sarah’s adamancy in this field stems from an international comparative study she completed on industrial chemical exposure in children. “The findings were ugly let me tell you that,” Sarah recalls, “And they have certainly played a significant role in developing the ethical, green business practices we have in Buchi today.” The study found that in this day and age, children and being born into the world with over 200 industrial chemicals already in their little systems. Sarah discovered that there was a real lack in policies to protect children or adults from these chemicals, so when Buchi was being developed, Sarah asked herself a series of questions that she believes are essential to all business today: “Am I contributing to the health of the consumer (or not)? Do I have any chemical byproducts as a result of producing my product? Does the packaging leach into the food? And another question, close to my heart, but more philosophical in nature, is about the question of intergenerational inheritance: What am I currently doing in my business that I am using up or destroying such that my children and generations beyond will have less of? As a mother of two small girls, I for one am not going say that I contributed to their ill health and generations to come. We at Buchi want to part of the solution.”
Following on from this ethical standpoint, Sarah is also an ambassador for Organic Australian Awareness month, helping to educate the public further on the importance of natural organic food, not only for our own health and wellbeing, but for the health and wellbeing of the planet at large. Sarah is realistic in acknowledging that the organic movement can not solve all the problems in the world, but she is passionate and educated about the issues it can indeed have an immediate impact on, as she explains, “Firstly, conscious food choices can significantly reduce (or eliminate) toxic exposure; secondly, good clean food can build body resiliency against toxic exposure; and thirdly, ethical (organic) food choices can provide systemic solutions to the issue of human and environmental toxicity and pollution.”
It is no secret that Sarah is a busy woman and her passion and drive to heal, nourish and educate the Australian public is nothing less that remarkable and inspiring. Sarah is encouraged by the increase of real food movements expanding across the country, as she demonstrates, “We are now at a place in Australia where food is being driven more and more by consumer choices and there are examples everywhere of ethical food businesses that are sprouting up and taking root.” Sarah also acknowledges that the growing organic industry is proof that consumers are indeed capable of defying the industrial food industry and embracing change- “Farmers markets are growing. The direct-sales farming sector is expanding. Fermentation is taking hold. These are all beautiful things that at Buchi we will continue to support and grow.”