By Sean D’Angelo
Kombucha. It sounds Korean, but if you ask a Korean what the word means they probably will not have an answer. The truth is no one is really sure where or when this strange beverage originated. If it was ever popular in Korea, it has long since been forgotten. Dan Fransham is here to give us all a little reminder. A tall and personable New Zealander with a lively spark of mad genius in his eyes and a sensibility for managing start-ups, Fransham lifts a small sparkling bottle of micro-brewed hibiscus kombucha and pops the top. The sensuous red liquid lets out a satisfying report like good champagne. “I’m not sure it’s very sparkly so let me have a try,” he says with a smile as he pours himself a glass. A likely excuse after the sound it just made! The kombucha is effervescent, sweet and refreshing – a perfect summer drink.
Fransham, a web designer and photographer, came to Korea with his wife of thirteen years and founded the company nFuze Tea, a hand-blended herbal tea company right here in Gwangju. His company philosophy is all about intentional community and environmental integrity. “Humans as a species have to take a step back and say, hey there’s something wrong with what we’re doing here. Everybody’s health has gone to [you-know-what] and it’s because of a lack of nutrition as well as toxins in the environment.” While many fermented foods have a probiotic effect, bolstering our digestion and strengthening the immune system, Fransham explains kombucha is something special. The acid produced by bacteria during fermentation actually inhibits the growth of harmful pathogens that make their home in the human gut, making a product so pure the FDA barely bothers with it. It is chock full of vitamins too! Fransham brews with all organic produce and currently offers two awesome flavors, Sparkling Hibiscus Plum and Sparkling Ginger Plum. Even on its own, the kombucha tastes amazing, and Fransham imagines marketing it plain in the future.
After learning about the detoxifying effects of kombucha, Fransham turned his curiosity into a full-fledged local business. Bottles of “Mount Mudeung Kombucha” are already on sale at two locations in Gwangju, Pedro’s Voyager Travel Café in Sangmu, and the Happy Days Café in Jisandong near the entrance to Mudeung Mountain. Of course, there have been some bumps along the way for Fransham and nFuze Tea. Red tape and invisible hoops abound for anyone brave enough to run a start-up in Korea. But, all of the trials and tribulations he has faced only seem to have strengthened his resolve and faith in his dream. “It’s been incredibly frustrating and really rewarding at the same time,” Fransham says about his business, but thanks to the awesome community in Gwangju things are coming together quickly, “That’s really the only reason this business is going, people like Pedro Kim, Tim Whitman over at First Alleyway, everybody who I speak to is really supportive, everybody helps each other out”. Hooray, another reason Gwangju is one of the best cities in Korea. Fransham is planning to start retailing in Daein Market near downtown, hopefully sometime in the next few weeks. Be sure to stay on the lookout next time you are wandering the area and give his kombucha a try.
If you are interested in contacting Fransham or learning more about the business, visit his website at facebook.com/nfuzetea. He is looking for business partners. If you are fluent in Korean/English and love marketing for a good cause, Fransham would especially love to hear from you.