Ask Melissa Mak how she and her family got into the business of fermentation and she’d probably tell you: it’s written in the stars… or their family name. While trawling through the Internet one day, Mak learnt that her surname in Chinese – Qu – translates to “fermentation starter”.
Call it a happy coincidence for the fermentation fan. In 2015, Mak created “SG Fermentation Friends” to share her interest in home-brewing kombucha and kefir. The project took off with alacrity, and before long Mak found herself opening her own brewery, Fizzicle, which specialises in jun kombucha – kombucha sweetened with raw honey instead of refined sugar.
Kombucha has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to its golden reputation as the ‘tea of immortality’ and its reported health benefits in supporting digestion and boosting one’s immune system. For those unfamiliar with the process, the drink is made by sweetening either black or green tea and adding starter tea, which contains a colony of microbes known as scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). These living bacteria and yeast are left to ferment the tea over the course of a few weeks. And the result? A refreshingly fizzy, slightly tart beverage filled with healthy probiotics.
Junboocha isn’t her first foray into fermentation, but it’s something that has stuck with Mak simply because of her love for tea. “A good quality tea, good quality sugar and good starter tea are all you need to get started,” she quips.
The variations following that are endless. Number 1, which is made with blended green and black tea, fruits such as peach, and wildflower honey, is Fizzicle’s best-selling product. “If you’ve never had a good experience with kombucha, this will be a good starting point,” recommends Mak. Their second most popular flavour is crafted with pink guavas sourced from a local Indian supplier. Mak picks softer, riper guavas out of the box of “ugly produce” for use, and reiterates that no machines are involved in their operations – everything is handcrafted.
Fizzicle’s kombuchas are available in seven different flavours, and start from $7.50 for a 270ml bottle. “I know [some people find] our kombucha expensive. But considering all our overhead costs – all the hands and legs and how we’re hiring 100% locals only – we have no choice,” Mak explains. For those on a tighter budget, she suggests keeping an eye out for their upcoming product – a fermentation starter kit for making your own kombucha at home.
To keep things fresh, Mak says she is “always trying out new flavours”. She offered us a taste of her latest “for fun” creation – kimchi and ginger kombucha, which is remarkably reminiscent of the soup base for naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles). Fish sauce is another “weird” ingredient that she is experimenting with, though it has yet to work in her favour. “I’m sure it is going to work at some stage; I love fish sauce!” she laughs.
Sadly for adventurous folks, these quirky flavours are not for sale. Don’t get too dismayed though, as Fizzicle has just launched a brand new concoction – a cookies-and-cream kombucha made from vanilla-flavoured tea and oolong.
Fizzicle junboochas are available on their online store and at Scoop Wholefoods.