I had a lucky childhood. With my dad’s career managing duty free shops for an Irish company, my playground was in several countries; namely Russia, Pakistan, Bahrain and Oman. I spent 11 years of my life travelling to these amazing countries and gaining a wealth of knowledge on their cultures and environments.
In some ways I saw the ‘real’ world very early on. With some of these countries being quite impoverished, I learnt to be very grateful for everything I have and to give back when I can. This doesn’t always have to be in the form of money either. Throughout my childhood, I spent time helping orphanages, teaching English to kids in ‘shanti towns’, helping with beach clean ups and small conservation projects. I loved this part of my life and to this day crave to experience new places, their cultures and environments.
It was partly this and partly the fact that my sister was there, that I moved to Australia in 2008. Here I completed a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Conservation Biology at Griffith University and a Bachelor of Wildlife Science with Honours from the University of Queensland.
I took full advantage of these degrees and what they offered, traveling to work in Borneo, the Torres Strait Islands and eventually moving to work in South Africa after completing my studies.
In South Africa I worked for a NPO called Transfrontier Africa as the Research Technician and Camp Manager. I was responsible for the 4 major research projects focused on elephant, black rhino, predators and invasive species, and camp manager ensuring the smooth running of camp. I mentored up to 10 interns and volunteers, guiding them through the research on a daily basis.
This is where I met my partner Joel. He came as a volunteer and we ‘hit it off’ so to speak. It was a short romance in South Africa, but after he left we found ourselves talking up to three times a day. So when it came to me finishing up in South Africa and moving back to Australia, Joel decided to move with me. And we have been together now for 3.5 years.
I talk about all this, as these experiences and the support I get from my partner have been a massive means of inspiration and support for starting PJ Kombucha and how I envisage PJ Kombucha to grow.
I started PJ Kombucha soon after I moved to the UK in April 2016. Prior to this, I had brewed my own batches for my own use while living in Australia. Maybe this is a little bit TMI, but after coming back from South Africa I suffered from outbreaks of skin Boils, having one show up every month, for 6 months. The doctors, and eventually specialist’s, prescribed powerful antibiotics, that seemed to control the outbreaks, but left my insides in turmoil and likely barren from any beneficial bacteria.
I came across Kombucha on my quest to save my gut, did quite a bit of research and then began fermenting for my own use. I took a great liking to the whole handcrafting, biochemistry of it all, especially after I found that it really helped sort out my gut problems and boosted my immune system.
While in the UK I went for a walkabout, looking for a brand of Kombucha to drink. But unfortunately, I didn’t like any of those that I tried. So I again began to ferment Kombucha for myself. Soon, my partner (again) and his mum were demanding it regularly, and later friends and family were looking for it too.
It was my intention to open a business eventually, but I never actually thought seriously about opening a “Kombuchery”. Despite this, I tested the waters. I outfitted the cupboard, under the stairs of Joel’s mum’s house (where we are currently living), with glass demijohns, shelves, a fan and antibacterial/antifungal paint on the walls. I used an internet program called ‘Canva’ (which is now my life, I am terrible at technical software like photoshop) to design our labels and logo.
I researched UK Tea Company’s, fresh fruit and vegetable companies, bottle suppliers and more, to see where they source and how they source their products. And finally I made my first batch of PJ Kombucha and was ready to see how the UK took to it.
Everyone is always nervous to hear what people say about what they create and I was no different. I went to a small Farmers market in Bishops Park, Fulham and was pleasantly surprised when I received great responses from people who tried our drinks.
It was from this response that I thought, how can I get this great product into the hands of as many people as possible?
This thought didn’t stem from ego, either. Kombucha is a health drink that is full of life and it gives back life to those who drink it (in a way).
The benefits of Kombucha are numerous, but I will name a few key factors: First and foremost, the drink is a probiotic and a prebiotic. This means that it contains billions of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and the material needed to provide these bacteria with a healthy habitat to thrive in, in your gut. Secondly, the fermentation process results in enzymes, bacterial acids and other secondary metabolites that act as powerful detoxifiers. Thirdly, the fermentation process increases the concentration of naturally occurring tea compounds such as polyphenols and Catechins that act as antioxidants, eliminating free radical damage on the body. And finally, the low pH and the presence of acetic acid and Catechins in Kombucha have antimicrobial effects, inhibiting a range of Gram +/- microorganisms.
Some of these properties act to boost your immune system and create a healthier gut environment, leading to a more efficient system that helps improve the overall health and wellbeing of the body.
Just these properties alone have a knock on effect when you look at the importance of gut health. For example, we now know that up to 80% of your immune system is found in your gut and that your gut microbiome can influence your psychological state in regards to your mood, anxiety levels and stress. So a healthy and diverse gut environment can go a long way in helping improve anyone’s life.
It is because of the drinks ability to help the body in so many ways that I want to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. I myself have benefitted from an improved immune system by drinking our Kombucha and I have others regularly tell me how it has helped their lives, which is always great to hear.
It is our plan to see PJ Kombucha grow. After seeing so many different countries, cultures and environments, I know how important it is to be responsible for your impact on the environment and on communities. For this, I want us to grow ethically, being conscious of our social and environmental impact, in the UK and abroad.
We are still very small at the moment, with restrictions on how much of this goal we can achieve at present, but we aim to set up an achievement scale where we can celebrate our growth into a more sustainable, ethical and socially conscious business.