In favour of fermented flavours
Miles away from India, in Colorado, Surya Prakash first chanced upon kombucha, a fermented drink, during a six-month working stint.
CHENNAI: In search of comfort food or a remedy for a churning stomach, most of us crave the ever-classic bowls of curd or glasses of buttermilk. Coincidentally, ‘probiotics’, which finds roots in a Latin word meaning ‘for life’, like curd have long been household remedies and touted as beneficial to health. Yogurt aside, the world has a variety of probiotics and fermented food to offer.
Miles away from India, in Colorado, Surya Prakash first chanced upon kombucha, a fermented drink, during a six-month working stint. Unable to forget the acquired taste of the sour, fizzy tea, he eventually crafted plans to bring the brew to Tamil Nadu. Along with his wife, nutritionist Rupini Devi, Surya set up a probiotics brewery Heaven’s Elix, capitalising on the chance to steer the city into the unchartered territory of vegan, non-artificial, sustainable drinks.
“We used to have proper probiotics with pickle, curd rice, and fermented stuff. But right now, people are moving away from that. And we have to bring in these alternatives to fill up the stopgap,” he explains, adding that the name comes from elixirs of immortality.
After over two years of experimenting and trying out various batches, Surya and Rupini managed to achieve the right balance and taste of the low-sugar drink, tailoring it to the Chennai palette. “I wanted it to be a strong flavour. But in the Indian market, if you give people a very strong (flavour), only those used are used to healthy food and low sugar diet, will handle it because it is on the sourer side,” explains the co-founder. Cut to 2023, the firm sells the tea brew, starting from Rs 149, in various flavours including the original black-and-green tea, lavender, home-grown hibiscus, and so on.
Much like curd, kombucha is brewed after a culture of bacteria is introduced into an existing brew. In this process, a balance of flavours is of the essence. “Essentially, you make a tea — green or black, herbal or anything — and then you add kombucha culture to it like curd. So this converts it into kombucha in seven-ten days,” explains the co-founder, adding that the longer the tea ferments, the sourer it becomes.
From antioxidants to boosting gut health and aiding in constipation, kombuchas are rich in benefits, says Surya. “I want people to move from fizzy drinks and carbonated stuff to healthier versions like this one. I don’t want people to just take it because it is good for health, but it has to be a healthier alternative to others that are in the market,” he shares.
Apart from kombuchas, Heaven’s Elix also began to try their hand at kefirs, and kimchi recipes as well, with napa cabbage, onion, and radish carrot. Last year, during a vegan market at Thiruvanmiyur-based The Viridian Plate, the firm “sold out kimchi essentially within half a day or a little over after lunch.” This kimchi, which uses authentic Korean chili powder in the place of fish sauce and shrimp paste, continues to be one of their popular products. Their jars of kimchi are priced at Rs 194.
Now, as they have firmly secured a spot on the city map for vegan products, the firm tells CE they currently hope to expand out their current bases in Chennai and Coimbatore to the rest of the South. Heaven’s Elix plans to take their probiotic and fermented elixirs pan-India in the next two-three years, says Surya.
Follow the firm on Instagram: @heavens’elix