Meet The ChaCha Kombucha Boys, Ishaq Vadillo & Matthieu Morisset
Widely known as ‘kombucha’ or even ‘mushroom tea’ to some, the history of our favourite fermented tea is rather convoluted; some say it dates back to the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China in 221 BC while others believe it was consumed in other regions as well, namely Russia, Eastern Europe and Japan.
No matter its origin, the kombucha we know today is highly revered for its medicinal qualities and is currently going through a resurgence. Countries like Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Malaysia (to name a few) have hopped on the kombucha bandwagon since the late 2000s.
In spite of its growing popularity, the kombucha-making industry in Malaysia is relatively small next to the aforementioned countries. Only a handful of local breweries are actively competing in the market, one of them being ChaCha Kombucha.
Best Of Both Worlds
ChaCha Kombucha is, according to Ishaq Vadillo and Matthieu Morisset, "the perfect marriage"—the former is a personal trainer and a senior fitness instructor at FlyProject whereas the latter is an experienced vegan chef who constantly drank kombucha during his five to six years living in Hong Kong.
“When I came back to Malaysia, I lost my passport and had to stay longer than intended," Matthieu says. "During that time, I was brewing my own kombucha at home as it wasn't very convenient to find the drink, much less a good one."
From there, an idea sparked. The chef shared his thoughts with Ishaq Vadillo, an old friend in Malaysia.
"He listened to what I had in mind before saying, 'I'm in. Let's do it."
While ChaCha Kombucha currently has a microbrewery in Damansara Perdana and an impressive following on social media, the company started out small. The two could be found in Matthieu's home kitchen, bottling kombucha by hand as music blasted in the air.
"We started around late December in 2018," recalls Ishaq as Matthieu chuckles at the recollection. "We're just over a year old."
"The first time we started, we had a trial run of 60 bottles a day," Matthieu further details. "It took us like, 6 hours to bottle them by hand and when it gained traction, it grew to over 200 bottles a day in this tiny kitchen."
According to the two, that very enterprising, go-getter attitude is what prompted ChaCha's quick growth.
“I remember when Ishaq would walk into a café and be like, ‘Hello, this is our product—here you go."
Handcrafted & Au Naturale
The process of making kombucha is simple: mix sugar and tea in a glass jar, cover it with tightly woven cloth, leave it for a week or two, and then viola. You now have the basic recipe for kombucha. But to make quality kombucha is another thing entirely, and despite being in the commercial kombucha business where convenience is key, the two ChaCha founders are adamant about keeping their brew as natural as possible.
"It's expensive to produce," reveals Matthieu. "This isn't like soda where you can just plug and play in a factory. It takes 10 to 14 days to make a batch, and while we're trying to semi-automate things, everything is still done by hand."
"To make the beverage easier and cheaper to produce is part and parcel of mass-marketing," explains Ishaq. "People make it so that they have a longer shelf-life, and that usually comes with chemicals and preservatives. We want to to retain our kombucha's fizzy, sweet-sour flavour without the added junk. And because kombucha is a natural preservative, the beverage itself preserves the components of the natural fruit juice we add as flavouring."
ChaCha In 2020
Malaysians are slowly discovering what kombucha is and what ChaCha stands for: we don't just say ‘drink our drink’, but also encourage our consumers to eat well, live well, enjoy life, and try new things, especially the things that they’ve always wanted to do.— Ishaq Vadillo, Marketing Director of ChaCha Life
When asked about their plans for 2020, Ishaq answers, "Well, our halal licensing is in the works, and we're hoping to reach out to all corners of Malaysia."
Matthieu continues: "Because of the natural fermentation process, there's always going to be a tiny bit of alcohol in kombucha, but no more than a piece of ripe fruit, which is only about 0.5 grams."
The two have also toyed with the idea of creating kombucha tutorials online.
- PhotographyKhairul Imran