Seek North Kombucha
At Hawthorne Valley, we are big fans of kombucha. This month, we had the opportunity to speak with Philippe from Seek North Kombucha, a delicious brew made right in Kingston from the choicest ingredients.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into the kombucha business? What was the impulse to move from making kombucha for yourselves to creating a company out of it?
Kombucha is a bit of an acquired taste. My partner, Julian, was actually never even that keen on it. I just started homebrewing, and a lot of my friends were interested in what I was creating, so I began producing more and more at home. Some people in my life were familiar with kombucha, while others had no idea what it was, so I tasked myself with creating a drink that was equal parts healthy, full of probiotics, and appealing to both groups. That’s a big part of our story, and the reason why Seek North tastes the way it does.
I did a lot of R&D — my family and friends were my dedicated tasters. Everyone always asked if they could start purchasing it from me or if I was selling it at our local farmers’ market. At the time, I didn’t really consider producing it commercially or creating a company out of it. I was doing it purely out of love and dedication to the craft, and I also got a lot out of sharing it with others.
But as fate would have it, one of these friends just happened to work at Dean & Deluca, and in 2017 my kombucha landed in the hands of the Dean & Deluca beverage buyer. They quickly asked if they could carry our beverage. At that time we didn’t even have a company name. But suddenly, by May of 2018 we were officially carried by one of the most coveted grocers in the world.
How did you come up with the name “Seek North”?
We all have an internal compass directing us to do good, to seek better for ourselves and our future. Julian and I had split our lives between New York City and the Hudson Valley. Going north and spending time Upstate gave us tranquility, nature, and a refuge for the self that we so desperately needed to rejuvenate ourselves from our busy city lives. The Hudson Valley, and Kingston specifically, is home for us. It’s our community, and we want to be wholly engaged with all things local. Seeking North can also be linked with the North Star. The North Star is a marker in the sky that helps determine direction, so the name refers to that desire to move with purpose toward a meaningful destination. And that really resonates with us.
What makes your kombucha stand out from all the other kombuchas out there?
Our kombucha was created out of a place of love and a desire to help us bring health and wellness to others while also bringing awareness to things that are important to us, like Lyme Disease.
Of course, our kombucha also tastes really good. Not only is our kombucha premium, Certified Organic, 100% raw (unfiltered and unpasteurized), and alcohol-extracted, but it’s also hyper-local. You can’t find another brand with all of those benefits and with so much heart and devotion to good causes to boot.
What goes into developing your flavors?
Developing flavors is complex. For every flavor, we use a ‘super ingredient’ like ginger, hibiscus, or elderflower. Each flavor is also motivated by a particular state of wellbeing that we keep in mind while creating it (e.g. Seek Harmony, Seek Clarity, Seek Immunity). So the process also involves the balance of mixing it with the right fruits, herbs, or teas and bringing those things to the table as well.
All our initial R&D actually comes out of our home kitchen in Kingston, NY. Before it hits our factory for testing and commercial viability, it’s home brewed in small batches, and it still gets tested among our neighbors, friends, and family. We have numerous gallons of kombucha at different stages of fermentation at any given point.
If you had one chance to get someone hooked on your kombucha, which flavor would you give them?
Seek Immunity is probably our gateway kombucha. Most everyone loves pineapple, and when that taste is paired with the subtle hops flavor of elderflower, it really mellows out the kombucha and makes it super smooth. This flavor was a finalist for the Good Food Awards last year—you can read about that here.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their journey to better gut health?
Recent research has shown that gut health affects not only on your digestion, but also things like your immune system. With 70-80% of our immune tissue within our digestive tract, it’s really important to put good bacteria back into our gut. It’s a synergistic relationship. If we treat and feed our gut with proper care and food, in return it will do its best to keep us healthy.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria, so by consuming these superfoods you are essentially adding all these beneficial bacteria and enzymes into your intestinal flora, improving your digestive system, and strengthening your immune system. Drink kombucha, sure, but also try eating other probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and yogurt.
What do you see as the biggest challenge the probiotic movement faces in the US?
With such a strong probiotic movement whose popularity is constantly growing, we’re seeing more and more non-authentic kombucha out there—such as those that pasteurize their kombucha (essentially killing off all beneficial bacteria)—and we are also encountering new ‘functional drinks’ that are adding synthetic probiotics to drinks to claim probiotic benefit.
The best probiotics, of course, are those that are diverse and naturally occurring, and those are found in our kombucha because of our brewing and fermentation process.