I love meeting inspiring women who have managed to find the right balance between work, home and play.
My Women at Work series is for just that! Identifying women who have made work “work” for them.
One such woman is Manon Calmont, who together with Mark Jones, launched Happy Culture – the kombucha health drink brand in 2017.
Infused with a passion for health, happiness and bubbles their aim is for their products to spread happiness far and wide by sharing the wonders of living foods and good gut health.
Interview with Woman at Work – Manon Colmant
What has been your career journey?
I grew up on our family farm in Franschhoek, ‘Colmant Cap Classique & Champagne’, which was founded by my parents and which specialises in the production of a delicious Cap Classique range (the South African name for Champagne). Both Mark and I worked with my dad on the farm for close to a year prior to embarking on this business journey, where we learnt a lot about the art of the perfect bubble, the running of a winery and a beverage business. The expertise, knowledge and passion gained from this background definitely positively contributed to the creation of Happy Culture, and is especially reflected in the style and quality of our booch, our production methods and the way we run our production facility.
How did you come across kombucha? And why did you decide to it market it?
The first time I came across kombucha was at a yoga retreat during a travel Odyssey in Latin America. I immediately fell in love with the weird but wondrous fizzy ferment. About 18 months later when I was back in South Africa, I started exploring the opportunity to start a venture aimed at spreading the kombucha love in the country, and soon realised that this was an opportunity well aligned with our entrepreneurial spirits, the market trends, and our desire to inspire positive change.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy probiotic tea, crafted using an ancient Eastern tradition. A sweet tea undergoes a unique fermentation process with combined with a healthy culture of bacterias and yeasts (known as a SCOBY). The result is a naturally fizzy living drink, which is filled with an abundance of goodness to uplift one’s well being.
Explain the kombucha fermentation method and tradition it’s based on?
There are two fermentations that take place in the production of kombucha. The first is in an open vessel, where the Mother Culture (SCOBY) will transform the sweet tea into kombucha by converting the sugars into organic acids, digestive enzymes, vitamins and micronutrients – this process takes about 3 weeks. The second fermentation is a few days in the bottle, this when the bubbles will be created by the yeasts. Once the effervescence level is where we want it to be, we then put the bottles in refrigeration and keep them cold until consumption to avoid further fermentation. This alchemy comes from an ancient Eastern Tradition of about 2000 years, when kombucha was known as ‘The Tea of Immortality’.
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
These gut-loving probiotics, organic acids, antioxidants, vitamins and digestive enzymes, work together to improve the gut microbiome. This is made up of trillions of microorganisms — both friendly and unfriendly. Maintaining the right balance of friendly bacteria in our gut with probiotics is known to:
- improve digestion and nutrient absorbtion
- boost metabolism immunity and vitality
- balance and detoxify the body
- improve brain function and mood
- improve gut flora, overall health and, even, mental health
Why is gut health important?
The gut plays an important role in our overall health and well being. It can help control everything from our digestion, to our mood to brain health and immune function. In short, a healthy gut is key to a healthier, happier life. The health of our gut microbiome is affected by a range of different factors from diet to environment, exercise, medication, stress, and sleep. We must therefore have a holistic and integrative approach when looking to heal and optimise our gut health.
Do either of you have links to health activities, or similar fields?
We were both already super passionate about health and wellbeing prior, living active, healthy and mostly plant-based lifestyles. This journey has definitely further boosted and inspired our passion and understanding for health, and especially the topic of gut health. We love living wholesome lives and are more than ever passionate to inspire and support other people’s health journeys.
Kombucha is a great complement to a healthy diet as it is filled with a whole lot of goodness to help the body thrive and is especially an easy and delicious way to consume probiotics to support the gut’s micro-biome, and therefore overall wellbeing.
What is the fundamental ethos that underpins the Happy Culture brand?
We are strong believers that a healthy body, is a key ingredient for optimal happiness. People often associate being healthy as something that’s unexciting or inconvenient. Our mission to offer delicious goodness-filled products aimed at uplifting one’s well being in a way that is fun, exciting and accessible.
Different kombucha brands have largely varying styles depending on the ingredients and methods used in production. We have chosen to use 100% green tea base which leads to a style that is fresh, clean and elegant. Our brews are low in sugar and have a dry style, with delicate effervescence. We use mineral water and high quality ingredients to ensure our cultures stay healthy.
Your Happy Culture comes in plastic bottles, yet minimising your environmental footprint is clearly important to you. Why plastic?
In order to share the Happy Culture love far and wide, packaging is both a wonderful solution and unfortunate necessity. It was not easy for us to chose the type packaging to use. We needed a packaging solution which would enable our vision to make kombucha more accessible to the market, while also holding close to our hearts our desire to minimise our environmental footprint.
There is a lot of misconception on the topic of plastic /packaging. When assessing the environmental impact of packaging, it is key to understand the impact across the product’s entire life cycle, from production to disposal. PET uses significantly less energy across its life cycle than other beverage packaging alternatives, which reduces a variety of environmental impacts. PET is also inexpensive, lightweight, resealable, shatter-resistant and highly recyclable. If recycled, PET is actually a much more environmentally sustainable option than it is often perceived to be, as it becomes a part of a circular economy, while minimising the need for raw materials, energy and staying away from landfills/the natural environment. Check out our website to find out more about PET and how we can work together to minimise our environmental footprint.
For those who have never tried kombucha, what does it taste like?
The best way we can describe the taste of our kombucha in a nutshell is ‘somewhere between iced tea and Champagne’. A little yeasty, a little tangy, a little sweet. During the fermentation process, the cultures will consume the sugars to produce a range of organic acids such a acetic, gluconic and glucuronic acids. These acids offer tarty and sour sensations. There are also some flavours from the tea of course, while the yeasts contribute a yeasty element, and the residual sugar a little sweetness to balance it all.
Our flavours are: Cucumber & Mint, Blueberry Basil, Ginger Lemon, Rooibos Chai, Pineapple Lime and Raspberry Hibiscus.
Lockdown cocktail kombucha recipe
There’s nothing better than mixing your own refreshing cocktails to sip in the sun on a nice summer’s day. While classics like mojitos and margaritas are always reliable, adventurous and healthy new kombucha infused cocktails with loads of ingredients are exciting to make and there’s a lot to be said for drinks that are different and easy to make.
So ditch the sugary, MSG mixers and use Happy Culture Kombucha instead!
The Gin & Tonic has been the classic and easiest choice for yourself or guests on a hot summer’s day since its creation in the 1850s, however we present the Gin and Happy Culture Kombucha that adds double the flavour and improves your gut health at the same time.
Gin & Kombucha Cocktail
- 30ml Gin
- 30ml Campari
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 150ml of Happy Culture Raspberry and Hibiscus kombucha, chilled
- Lemon wedges and fresh raspberries (for serving)
- Stir gin, Campari, lemon juice, and ginger in a pint glass or measuring cup.
- Stir in kombucha. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into an ice-filled Collins glass.
- Garnish with lemon wedges or anything you fancy.