Berkeley’s Boochman Is the Bay Area’s First Kombucha Bar

A quartet of friends who launched kombucha at East Bay farmers markets found such popularity for their product that they have opened an exclusive kombucha bar in Berkeley.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Three years ago, four friends — comprising two sets of siblings, one raised in Turkey and the other in Pinole — loved socializing, but didn’t drink alcohol.

“We felt a need to share some other kind of beverage,” remembered Denisse Padilla, who along with her brother, José, and their pals, Numan and Mustafa Karabiyik, started sipping culinary-school-grad Numan’s home-brewed kombucha.

“We loved its taste. It made our guts feel good. Back then, kombucha was super-expensive in stores,” Padilla said.

Buying a slippery swatch of the bacteria-and-yeast-culture “mother” that morphs sweet tea into fizzy, fermented, probiotic-packed kombucha, she tried brewing her own.

“It turned out to be way harder than I’d ever imagined. I used to be a baker, so I wondered: How can I be failing at this?”

Seeking Numan’s assistance, she marveled at his technical expertise and flavor-blending vision.

“He’s so very intelligent. He loves the science behind kombucha, the biology — but also the art.”

Showcasing his talents, the quartet launched their Boochman Kombucha brand at East Bay farmers markets. It proved so popular that “we wanted to open an exclusive kombucha bar,” such as those thriving in Hawaii and Southern California.

Boochman Kombucha Taproom, open since August, turned out to be the Bay Area’s first.

“When something doesn’t exist yet, you’ve got to make it,” Padilla mused.

The soaring-ceilinged Berkeley space with its gleaming rows of growlers, glasses, and taps features a view of the kitchen where Numan crafts microbrews, starting with Turkish black and Chinese oolong teas — both organic, the latter from Livermore brand Prince of Peace — and finishing with fresh seasonal flavorings such as nettle, verbena, lavender, and ginger, “which is legitimately peeled, sliced, and diced by us,” Padilla said. “These aren’t extracts.”

Popular flavor blends include ginger sage, currant clove, apricot turmeric, strawberry hops, and cold-weather adventures juniper mint and pumpkin spice.

“Because we try to be as sustainable as possible,” spent flavorings filtered from finished batches are repurposed in-house into innovative edibles such as yogurt-apricot parfaits, currant biscotti, Japanese-style pickles, and yuzu mayo.

The taproom’s menu is expanding steadily, “because Numan loves the idea of pairing kombucha with food — patterning kombucha-tasting menus after the wine-tasting menus served at Michelin-starred restaurants where he’s worked,” Padilla said.

“Especially for nonalcohol drinkers, having a flight of kombuchas with a perfect blend of savory and sweet foods, a different one for every course — that would be amazing.”

 

Boochman Kombucha Taproom, 915 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-375-9911, Boochman.com.

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