Ruth Joseph from the Healthy Gut Company brews kombucha – a fizzy fermented tea drink – out of a unit in Parliament Business Park.
A Toxteth business park is the location for a brewery with a difference, creating a non-alcoholic drink called kombucha, which is made from fermented tea.
The drink, which is popular in America, is becoming more widely known in the UK and Ruth Joseph at the Healthy Gut Company, based in Parliament Business Park, is determined to raise awareness of the naturally fizzy “versatile” tea-based drink in Liverpool.
Kombucha is a type of fermented tea drink made with tea and a starter culture and brewed in a temperature-controlled space. The drink develops a natural fizz as a result of the fermentation process and fruits and spices are then added to create a range of flavours.
Ruth Joseph, who founded the Healthy Gut Company two years ago, started experimenting with kombucha after her husband was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and she spent “hours in the kitchen every night making juices” to help boost her husband’s immune system as he battled the disease.
“I was actually introduced to kombucha by my friend Julia who also works with me now.”
Ruth continued: “I’ve always done Granby market, I’ve lived in the area 15 years and Granby Market has been going for about 10 years now and I have always had a stall selling something – it’s such a nice community occasion.
“I thought that I would try with the juices at the market. My husband made me a stall where I dispensed the drinks, but I also created a resource library and people would loved to stop to talk about health matters.
“I read up more and got three different cultures, including kombucha, and I tried them out at the market.
“I realised how popular kombucha could be here, like it is in Canada and America, as it’s such a versatile juice and suitable for everyone.
“Kombucha is vegan, non-alcoholic and there is no forced carbonation – the gentle fizz comes out naturally in the process. I realised I could make a business and build it.”
With help from her business adviser Darren at Granby Toxteth Development Trust, Ruth began to turn her idea into a reality and started the Healthy Gut Company in 2017.
Ruth’s kombucha drinks are stocked in businesses across the city including several premises with a focus on vegan and sustainable nutrition, such as Purple Carrot, Indigo Greens and the Nakery.
Ruth said: “I have 21 business customers and people can also buy straight from me. There is a big vegan movement in Liverpool and a big health movement, which are great fits for my product.”
Ruth is keen to develop a sustainable business model and is constantly looking at reducing waste on her products and making her packaging more eco friendly.
“There are businesses I have spoken to who do not stock anything with single use plastics, and so I moved across to green bottles in order to support that.
“I’m still looking at ways of changing my bottle tops so they are not made from plastic, and I’ve also developed a solution for businesses that want to encourage zero waste.”
Ruth has created a special dispenser that businesses can lease, which dispenses cold kombucha into customers’ own bottles or cups – reducing the need for excessive waste.
She is also looking at developing dispensers suitable for use in bars and pubs – The Healthy Gut Company’s kombucha drinks are stocked in the Liverpool Botanical Gardens and Ruth hopes to get her drink into more bars soon.
Ruth says: “People love to drink alcohol, why not make it a little healthier by mixing it with kombucha” instead of more sugary carbonated soft drinks.
Her eco friendly approach also influences her method of delivery – as the kombucha drinks are transported across the city by cargo bike – and she also makes sure her byproducts are re-used where possible.
Ruth said: “I think it’s very important for new businesses to consider all these things. With the kombucha there are two main byproducts – one is composting material, and we’re working with a social enterprise which collects composting byproducts for reuse.
“The other by-product is the cultures – when they are dried out, they can be used for different things. We donate them to (maker space) DOES Liverpool and to a theatre company that has been trying to make the culture into costumes.”