Started out of an apartment kitchen back in 2008, Toronto-based beverage company Tonica has humble roots, to be sure — but you wouldn’t know that based on the size of the operation today. Originally called the Fairy’s Tonic, founder Zoey Shamai started brewing small batches of kombucha (a fermented tea drink with natural enzymes that aid digestion and cleanse the liver) after first trying it during a stint in New Mexico where it was popular amongst the yoga community with whom she was living at the time.
“Everyone was making it down there,” she recalls. “But when I returned to Toronto, it wasn’t really available. So I started making it myself.” While those early batches don’t compare to the decidedly more palatable versions her company now produces, they were enough to generate interest amongst her yoga students and eventually some local health food stores. At the time Shamai was brewing around four gallons of her tonic a week.
Fast forward to 2012, and Tonica is churning out 500 cases of kombucha a week for sale in some 300 stores across the country, including major retailers like Whole Foods, Pusateri’s and McEwan. What started as a niche product with appeal to a New Age-type customer base (you know, the folks who still have Enya on their playlists) is now legitimately marketed as an alternative to popular soft drinks….