From an Instagram account in which he prepared recipes with kefir to producing thousands of bottles of kombucha every month in an industrial warehouse. That has been the journey in just over three years of El Kefitero, the Aragonese brand that has turned to the production of this ancient drink originating in Asia and to which probiotic properties and other benefits are attributed. Now, at the beginning of 2023, it already has customers in the national territory and is positioned as a 100% organic product and also committed to local products.
As its founder, Adrián Cuadrado, explains, El Kefitero “was born out of curiosity”. Specifically, from a publication of his uncle on Instagram, in which he showed a bottle of kombucha that he had been given, brought from London. From there, the founder of this brand decided to investigate and learned that it was a fermented drink, with probiotic properties and that it could be made at home.
After acquiring the ‘scoby’, the ‘mother’ of kombucha, and starting to produce it as an amateur, Cuadrado created on Instagram the profile of El Kefitero, in which he uploaded recipes with this drink and kefir (hence its name). Some of them were, for example, a breakfast composed of kefir, ginger and pomegranate ‘cookies’ or the ‘ginbucha’, a cocktail made with gin and kombucha.
On an adventure
All this journey began in 2019 and from 2021 he decided to take the leap to the sale. “I threw myself into the adventure,” he says about that decision with which he acquired a warehouse in the La Cartuja industrial estate (Zaragoza) that he set up himself with the help of his relatives.
With everything ready, he still had to wait a few months to launch the product, since kombucha has its production deadlines. And now, in February 2023, it will be about a year and a half since then, a period in which, he explains, the drink has changed: “I’m improving it as I learn and try it,” he points out.
As a result of his tests, El Kefitero now offers five flavors: pineapple and cinnamon; orange and black tea; pomegranate; apple and turmeric; and ginger. About them, he points out that they are natural drinks and low in sugars. But they will not be the only ones, as it plans to launch a new flavor for the summer. On its website, it also offers ‘packs’ with the five varieties and monthly subscriptions to periodically have the drink at home.
To make his kombucha, Cuadrado tries to “respect as much as possible” the proximity of the products, using, for example, Fontecabras mineral water. A fact that, in addition, he considers that differentiates him from other competitors who use microfiltered water, while he prefers spring water.
Logically, not all ingredients can comply with this premise of proximity, as is the case with pomegranate juice, a very seasonal fruit. In this case, a specialized company supplies pomegranate juice, albeit organic, all year round.
With black and green teas and the rest of the products, he makes a drink that incorporates two fermentations in the process, which allows it to be carbonated naturally. “In the first fermentation, the tea, organic cane sugar and the fungus (scoby) are added,” he says. “That is subjected to temperature, I let it ferment for a few days, filter it and, from there, I transfer it to a drum with the natural juices, bottle it and ferment it again,” he continues. “That’s where I get the gasification of the product,” he reveals about these steps that include an aerobic fermentation, the first, and an anaerobic fermentation, the second, where the bubbles appear.
Currently, Kefitero is achieving productions ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 bottles per month, a figure it hopes to increase, and is beginning to position itself in the national market, with customers in different parts of Spain, such as Asturias, Galicia, Navarra, Madrid, Catalonia and, of course, Aragon, “the hardest place to introduce products,” he says with a smile. “We are harder than a rock and, if it works here, it will go ahead,” he adds.
An age-old drink
Although in Spain the popularity of kombucha has been growing in the last few years, together with the boom in probiotics, in other countries it is already a consolidated drink. “Here there is not so much culture but, for example, in supermarkets in the United States there are entire shelves of kombucha and in England, France and many other countries it is much more advanced,” he says.
In fact, he says that the origin of this drink is 2,000 years ago in Asia, in countries such as China and Japan, although the production of fermented beverages is not exclusive to that area. In this sense, he says that, for example, in South America they have products such as tapeche, made from fermented pineapple, or Chicha.
Regarding its clientele, Cuadrado says that there are specialty cafeterias, herbalist shops and stores where the public is open-minded to this type of products, such as vegans and vegetarians. These customers recognize in El Kefitero a “very mild” kombucha, which is not as vinegary as others.
“I’m surprised that people I don’t know at all write me on Instagram and tell me: ‘The best kombucha I’ve tried by far’; and I haven’t received one message, or two, or three that tell me that, it’s something that gives me energy to keep fighting,” he concludes.