Real was founded when David Begg had all but given up drinking. He was frustrated by the limited choice for non-drinkers and noticed they were not catered for in any serious, sophisticated manner. A friend served him a glass of his home brew kombucha with a fantastic meal and he was utterly hooked. He started a passionate experimentation with different teas, and different processes in order to develop the finest kombucha that he could brew.
Within two years the company has become one of the pioneers of the sober movement and is working to change attitudes towards alcohol in addition to becoming a leading authority on brewing and fermentation.
David studied engineering at university. He was part of the founding team at what became booking.com, founded the high end furniture brand Tom Dixon, the education tech company Magic Town before finding his spiritual home in Real Kombucha.
Hi David, it’s great to meet you, like me, you come from a design background, talk me through your journey from Tom Dixon to the Real Kombucha?
If you cut me I bleed “maker”. I have spent my whole life making, whether it be from wood and bits of metal as a child, to studying engineering at university, to building businesses over the last 20 or so years.
Real was born after a friend served me a glass of his home brew kombucha with a fantastic meal. I was utterly hooked. I’d all but given up drinking, I’d been a big whisky fan and had been searching for a quality alternative. I started brewing at home to create the perfect kombucha and then went on to design and build the Real first brewery.
That was two years ago and we have now become pioneers of the sober movement and are changing attitudes towards alcohol in addition to becoming a leading authority on brewing and fermentation.
And what in your opinion are the main benefits of drinking Kombucha?
I created Real as I was frustrated with the limited choice for non-drinkers and noticed they were not catered for in any serious, sophisticated manner.
Real provides a complex drink that can be compared to a fine wine. Drinkers can enjoy our Royal Flush, which is comparable to champagne, and have a real sense of celebration but without the alcohol.
And how does it differ from other carbonated drinks?
Again the complexity and depth of flavour. Top sommeliers are blown away by the taste and we are now stocked in 50 Michelin star restaurants around the UK.
A lot of other non- alcoholic drinks are full of sugar, we have minimal sugar content and sit around calories 50 per bottle.
In one word describe the taste…
Delicious!! It is light, tart and refreshing.
And pray tell, just what is a Scooby?
The heart of everything we do is our SCOBY or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This is the core of the brewing process. We take very great care of what we call our “Old Mothers”, even to the point that they each have names. Like great beers and wines, these are propagated in a tightly controlled environment to ensure that they produce consistent brews every time. But we take this a step further to the point where we understand in fine detail the microbial constitution of each Old Mother, down to their own personal DNA.
I inhale coffee on a daily basis, Will the caffeine in kombucha send me over the edge?
OK, let’s try and get to the bottom of this. There are lots of differing views out there, but the simple answer is, Yes… but not that much. We brew our teas to about half the strength of a normal cup of tea, and a small amount of the caffeine is consumed in the fermentation process. All told, our kombuchas have about a third of the caffeine of their equivalent tea. So, in the end, we assume the following:
In addition, tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which is a relaxant and works in a complementary manner to caffeine. So the effects of caffeine are less pronounced in tea than in coffee, and even in high-caffeine black teas, this helps to give you a calm alertness rather than that jittery anxiety common to coffee.
I have been a caffeine-free zone for most of my life, and even a single cup of tea in the late afternoon can really upset my sleep patterns. But a Smoke House late in the evening has never affected my drowsiness at bed time. As far as kombucha benefits are concerned, this seems like a real plus to me.
Which of the 3 Real Kombucha varieties should I invest in?
They all offer different flavours, we offer a sample pack with each variety. For me it depends on the mood I’m in.
Dry Dragon is brewed with pan-fried green tea. It offers delicate citrus notes of grapefruit and sweet lemons, grounded in a definite vegetal, green tea back note and a longer, fuller-bodied finish. On the tongue it tastes more acidic as we interpret those initial citric flavours
Royal Flush is brewed from First Flush Darjeeling. Brews give rich notes of rhubarb and gooseberry, rounding out to white fruits and maybe a touch of blackcurrant. A delicate floral acidity with a relatively short finish makes Royal Flush fresh and bright. Ideal as a celebration drink in place of a champagne.
Smoke House is brewed from a delicate, smoky black tea. It’s rich, rounded and full of apple and caramel with a delicate smoky top note. While you notice the tea character more than with the other brews, most would guess they were drinking a light natural cider.
You famously don’t add flavours, was this a conscious decision?
We let the flavours speak for itself. It is brewed using fermentation techniques usually found in fine wines and the best craft beers. We use the best quality teas and this means we don’t need to add any additional sugars or flavours.
Do you view Real Kombucha as a great alternative to alcoholic beverages?
Our client list is testament to how great an alternative we are.
Total alcohol consumption in the UK has dropped almost 20% in the past 10 years. But this also underlies a big change in consumption patterns: half as many people are drinking daily, and there is an enormous increase in teetotalism, particularly amongst the younger audience.
But consumers have previously sited the lack of quality alternatives to alcoholic drinks as being the main barrier to reducing their alcohol consumption. Now, for the first time, this is not the case. In addition to Real providing a beverage that is very similar in nature to a good sparkling wine non-alcoholic, beers are becoming pretty good and the range of non-alcoholic spirits on the market is staggering.
And finally, I know you sell online but where my nearest Real Kombucha outlet in Hampshire so I can get my hands on some?
You can buy direct through our website but we can also be found in Hampshire at The Pig Hotels, Lime Wood, River Cottage and Beatons tearooms in New Milton.
Thanks so much David