Online Extra: How Ulcers Led STL's William Pauley to A Career In Kombucha

By Kelsey Waananen
In Food

This month, we took a look at how kombucha is emerging in St. Louis—on tap at Revel Kitchen, in cocktails at Small Batch and ever-present at Lulu’s Local Eatery. To learn more about this magic elixir, we turned to one of our city’s experts—Confluence Kombucha’s William Pauley, who has been dabbling and perfecting the probiotic beverage for years.

Saffron, DragonWell Turmeric Kombucha bottle

Confluence Kombucha. Photo by Kelsey Waananen

How did you get into brewing kombucha? In 2008, after a small bout of food poisoning I was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer. My childhood was plagued with ulcers, but nothing compared to the three-week struggle to heal my aggravated digestive system before heading to the emergency room. After three days in the ICU (intensive care unit), I was released with a bottle of pills and a $6,500 bill. I remember feeling angry by the lack of education I received in my stay, so I called a friend who was healing people through nutrition. She recommended kombucha as a daily regiment. After seven years, I am ecstatic to report I no longer suffer from ulcers.

At the beginning, I bought GT’s kombucha regularly and then started trying homebrews. I began to think about making my own and then on Dec. 17, 2009 I started my first batch of kombucha.

I began with an Oolong tea and have never looked back. During this time, I had just started working in restaurants; first as a dishwasher and then prep cook for Maggiano’s. Soon thereafter, I got the last cook position at Blood and Sand. The kitchen at B & S is where I gained the skills to create the consistent, palette-pleasing brews that people around the St. Louis area know and enjoy.

How did people react when you first started introducing them to kombucha? Are their reactions different today? From the beginning, people have been extremely receptive to the idea of kombucha, but not always to the taste. I would say that most events I work, at least half of the people I come into contact with have never heard of kombucha. When I develop flavors, I think of my audience first because I want those people to want to try kombucha again. Beyond anything else, I consider myself an advocate for kombucha.

Is there a cult following of kombucha in STL? People who are really pulling to bring it to the community? I would not suggest there is a cult of crazy kombucha kids, but I have had supporters since I started bottling almost six years ago. And, the amount of support continues to grow.

There are many of us aspiring to supply the metro area with this amazing probiotic brew. We understand the importance and want to share it with others. That, alone, is our mission at Confluence Kombucha.

What’s the best kombucha you’ve ever had? Silver needle, white tea … plain and perfect.

The worst? Fresh coconut … absolutely vile.

What’s your favorite to make? One of my most popular flavors is pineapple and turmeric and it has to be because there is so much love put into the processing of the raw ingredients. Sorry, no trade secrets being revealed.

What’s the most important thing you teach students in your Dabble classes about kombucha? Or in general? Like with any scientific process, consistency of variables is the most important idea to understand. Also, keep notes!

Anything you’d like to add? I want to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone that has assisted, guided and supported me through this transformation. I am walking this amazing path because of each one of you, thank you!!!

Please refer to the Confluence Kombucha Facebook page for updates regarding new classes, brews and ways to get involved.

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