The first time Diane Mitchell and Arjuna Veeravagu walked into the Kauai Juice Company in Hawaii was like a mirage in the desert.
"We went there and they have cold-pressed juices and macadamia nut milk and kombucha on tap and it was just this oasis of goodness," explained Mitchell. "We saw all the clientele coming in and it was tourists and locals and young people and old people, and it got us thinking."
The couple had already envisioned making the move north from their Vancouver home to Whistler, and with their passion for kombucha reaching a fever pitch—Mitchell has spent the past several years learning from some of Canada's best brewers and perfecting her recipes—launching their very own kombucha startup in B.C's outdoor sporting mecca seemed like the perfect fit.
"We did have the thought in Kauai Juice Company that a similar model that we hadn't seen yet would work very well in Whistler," noted Veeravagu. "We feel it's a great fit and so far the early feedback we've been getting from everyone up here has been very positive and supportive." Landing a second-floor space for their taproom in Function Junction this May, Whistler Elixir is the community's first commercial kombucha brewer. At the moment, they have four flavours on offer, with plans to add more.
Blue Ninja, created by Veeravagu's daughter, features blueberries, hibiscus, and a "sneaky kick" of fresh ginger juice.
The aptly named Claude Monet contains all botanicals, including chamomile, lavender and elderflower. Light and refreshing, it is one of Whistler Elixir's bestsellers. Then there's the Razz-Goji-Rose, a tangy punch of flavour featuring fresh raspberries, goji berries and rose petals. The Ginger, meanwhile, is made with cold-pressed ginger juice infused with lemongrass, lemon balm, lemon verbena and kaffir lime leaves.
Referring to their product line as "wild craft kombucha," the couple is aiming for strong, bold flavours in their beverages.
"Whenever possible, we use our own organic cold-pressed juice that we juice ourselves, we use organic botanicals to infuse into the kombucha, and generally, what we're going for with our flavour is rich and tangy," Veeravagu said.
With their taproom set up, Mitchell said they are now working to get into local shops and restaurants—Whistler Elixir is already available at Stay Wild in Pemberton, along with the Whistler and Pemberton farmers' markets—with an eye on one day expanding their commercial footprint.
"We feel like we're here for the long term," she said. "(The taproom) might turn into office space one day if we're growing at a good pace and we can store tons of growlers and tons of products and have a walk-in cooler just for our kegs and things like that, and then eventually move to something brick-and-mortar for our own retail presence."
Veeravagu, who works as a naturopathic doctor with a focus on digestive health, believes the mainstream is finally starting to understand the many health benefits that kombucha can offer.
"Kombucha, with the beneficial bacteria that's in it, can have a great positive impact on the microbiome along with getting a tasty, effervescent, refreshing drink," he said. "It's kind of this dual benefit. It's a great healthy alternative to a lot of other carbonated drinks out there. I think that's part of the reason why it's growing so rapidly."
Whistler Elixir is located at #213-1420 Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction. The taproom hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information, visit whistlerelixir.com.