WALLINGFORD — Maryann Houde became interested in making kombucha after her daughter Sarah would come home from working for a naturopathic doctor.
Her daughter would bring home bottles of kombucha, filling up the refrigerator, she said.
“I was trying to figure out how to arrange everything and why are you keeping and bringing home all of these bottles,” Houde said.
She finally asked her daughter “What is this stuff?” Her daughter replied, ‘Kombucha.’”
This was early 2021. Houde, at first, did not like the taste of the kombucha, which is a raw and living drink made out of filtered water, organic tea, pure cane sugar and a live kombucha culture of bacteria and yeast. But because of her previous experience of being in the wine industry, she decided to experiment and make her own kombucha with a kit she bought online.
“You just ferment tea and you keep the jar on your counter,” Houde said. “You could see how it was transforming and fermenting and all of that. My husband and (Sarah), they loved it. It was so different from what you would get in the store. It just took off.”
Houde started to give jars of the kombucha she made to friends and family who have digestive issues. After hearing how her kombucha helped people feel better, Houde wanted to start making it on a larger scale.
“I was at a point where I was at a crossroads where I needed to change (my career) so I just dove headfirst,” Houde said.
Houde started selling her kombucha at the Wallingford Garden Market, which took place at Doolittle Park every Saturday throughout the summer and early fall. Houde was there every week from July 23 until the market closed for the season Oct. 29.
“Just trying to take small steps and grow slowly,” Houde said.
Jon Scagnelli, market supervisor, said SouLstice Kombucha was a nice addition to the vendors at the market.
“It’s been a very popular item at the farmers’ market this year,” Scagnelli said.
SouLstice Kombucha Brewing Company is located at 29 North Plains Highway, Suite 4. The lease for this location started June 1.
At the store, Houde added a counter and refrigerated area so people can come in and pick up bottles. People can return their bottles and Houde sanitizes them to reuse them.
“They are sustainable,” Scagnelli said. “They take their bottles back and reuse them. They put them through a sterilization process and then reuse the bottles. It’s nice that they give people that option.”
Every month, Houde offers a new flavor, trying to keep with the seasons.
“We just did an apple cider for September and we did a cranberry orange for November, thinking Thanksgiving and we are working on something for December for Christmas and New Year’s,” Houde said.
Houde does offer certain flavors year round including Summer Triangle, which is raspberry, lemon and ginger; Blue Moon, which is blueberry lavender; Twilight, which is butterfly pea flower and lemon, and Solstice, which is lemon medley, ginger and mint.
Houde’s products are also now offered at East Center Market.
“We’re looking for little shops, sandwich shops, health food stores, yoga studios that might want to carry it,” Houde said.
Along with that, Houde said they are collaborating with other small businesses. For Halloween, she worked with the owners of Bones and Botanicals, a Wallingford located cafe, to sell Halloween themed kombucha drinks, such as a blackberry thyme drink.
A bottle of Houde’s kombucha is $5.50. A pack of four is $20, while a case is $55. Her storefront is open Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Ever since COVID, I’ve noticed, that people are looking for healthier alternatives to sodas, even alcohol. People are drinking less alcohol these days and they’re very conscious about the ingredients that are going into the things that they are eating,” Houde said. “This is just a very simple, minimal drink that people can enjoy.”