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Food and Drink

Risky kombucha business growing by leaps and bounds

The drink can be found in bars and shops across Halifax

3 min read
caption Cove Kombucha founder Ryan MacLellan holds up two of his drinks.
Geordie Summers-Lubar
caption Cove Kombucha founder Ryan MacLellan holds up two of his drinks.
Geordie Summers-Lubar

With only months left in his education degree at St. Francis Xavier University, Ryan MacLellan dropped out of school to concentrate full time with his business, Cove Kombucha.

At the time, he had only been selling the beverage for a few weeks. “I decided to give Cove Kombucha all I got,” says MacLellan.

The decision wasn’t easy. “There was a lot of opinions flying around,” says Maclellan. Friends wanted him to wait until he had his degree.

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“I decided to listen to myself,” says MacLellan. And “my heart was telling me to quit school.”

So he got the necessary papers together and started selling his kombucha at the Halifax Seaport Market in November of 2016. By December, he had his drinks in the Foggy Goggle and Riot Snack Bar.

The latter happened because Nicole Tufts, the owner of Riot Snackbar, a restaurant on Quinpool Road, approached MacLellan with the offer to give him space in her restaurant to brew his kombucha. Tufts says she liked the kombucha so much that she decided she “had to have the stuff on tap.”

The arrangement became a success. “It is a huge seller,” says Tufts. “A lot of people buy the growlers.”

From Riot Snackbar and the Foggy Goggle, MacLellan rapidly expanded to Seven Bays Bouldering, The Grainery Food Co-op and the Tall and Small in Antigonish. Soon, MacLellan says Cove Kombucha will be sold in the grocery stores Pete’s Frootique and The Organic Earth Market; Dilly Dally, a café; and the Local, a bar and restaurant.

Cove Kombucha has quickly become known around Halifax. “Growth has been phenomenal so far,” says MacLellan. “There has been a lot of great reception and a lot of repeat customers.”

caption Two bottles of Cove Kombucha’s Elderberry Acai in a backroom at Riot Snackbar.
Geordie Summers-Lubar

Kombucha is a fermented tea that originated in China. MacLellan calls it “delicious” and “effervescent,” adding that it tastes like “a mix between cider and juice, but low in sugar.”

To make it, MacLellan takes organic black tea and sweetens it with cane sugar. Then he puts a jelly like substance called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) in the tea, which floats on top. The tea is then stored at room temperature for two weeks while the SCOBY goes to work fermenting it.

Served cold, kombucha has a lively fizz and a fruity fermented aroma. The different flavours are created by added juices. Orange ginger is MacLellan’s best seller, but he is constantly experimenting with new flavour combinations. Some of his concoctions include blueberry pomegranate, mango turmeric, and strawberry raspberry hibiscus rose.

Besides the taste, many people drink kombucha looking for health benefits from the probiotics. “It is good for digestion and your gut,” says MacLellan.

MacLellan’s goal for now is to sell his product all across Nova Scotia in local restaurants, cafes and shops. But he isn’t counting out bigger vendors. “You never know,” says MacLellan. It would be great to “maybe one day be in Sobeys.”


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  1. L

    Luis Santos

    Ryan! Congrats! I'm happy you put my SCOBY to good use out there. Good luck in the future!
  2. B


    Congratulations Ryan well done more of this drink for all
  3. L

    Lisa Kalau

    So awesome Ryan, from your cousin Lisa in California! I kept seeing this product on FB but didn't realize you are the founder! So great! Go for it, the sky is the limit!! I would love to try it some day soon! Hello to all in NS from Cali❤️
  4. L

    Lynn connolly

    Such an awesome story, we are proud of you Ryan! I really believe you're capable of anything....the sky's the limit, love you. Aunt Lynn and Pius PS don't forget us when you become famous!
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