Improve gut health with dotto.'s handcrafted kombucha teas

The fermented drink is believed to be a good source of probiotics, which can enhance immunity.

Unique flavours include Passionfruit Roselle, Butterfly Pea Yuzu and Red Dates Longan (All photos: dotto.)

William Ewart Gladstone, former prime minister of the UK, once said: "If you are cold, tea will warm you up; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.” That is exactly how tea connoisseurs Pee Weng Foo and Chong Eng Shen (fondly known as Han) feel about the aromatic beverage.

Foo and Han worked at a local teahouse (as operations manager and barista, respectively) before they began exploring business possibilities for themselves. “We started brewing kombucha for our own consumption in 2020 but it was only a hobby for us then. When the pandemic hit, Foo started selling the drink to friends and I initiated building a brand for it,” Han says.

With a mind-boggling array of teas in the world, why focus on kombucha? “As tea enthusiasts, we are always seeking new ways to present the drink, and we found ourselves fascinated by kombucha, which is unique, tangy and offers a refreshing alternative to traditional tea," says Foo.

While the origin of kombucha is unclear, historians have concluded that the fermented tea has existed for millennia and was used by health practitioners to treat the emperors of China, Japan and Russia when they were sick.


Foo and Han

For the uninitiated, kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea, yeast, bacteria and sugar. As it is produced through controlled microbial growth and enzymatic action, it is believed to be a good source of probiotics, which can ensure a healthy gut and enhance immunity.

Establishing their company called dotto. in September 2021, both founders regularly consume their own products because of its many advantages. “Its potential health benefits and nutrients include probiotics for gut health and digestion, antioxidants that improve the immune system, and B vitamins to boost energy,” Foo says.

The partners first bought scoby (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast disc) and tried making kombucha using the ingredient. “We learnt from online resources and by trial and error. While it may seem complex initially, with proper guidance, it's manageable for many home brewers.”

The production of the fermented drink can be quite tedious and time-consuming. “I would say patience and attention to cleanliness are key for successful kombucha brewing.

“We have to do the fermentation process twice and one batch normally takes two weeks to complete. The basic process during the first round is brewing the sweetened tea, scoby and starter tea and leaving it to ferment for seven to 10 days. Next, we add fruits and herbs and let it ferment for the next three to four days. Then, there is filtration, bottling and labelling the final packaging,” Foo says.


The brand comes up with seasonal and exclusive flavours during major festivals to introduce a variety of new tastes to customers

The main challenge with producing kombucha is time management, Han admits. “It is not something that can be done in just a day. It requires lots of planning to keep things in order. When we first started, both of us still had full-time jobs and struggled to cope with production. We took a leap of faith and quit our jobs. It definitely helped, as we have more time to focus completely on this venture. However, our current obstacle is sustaining and strengthening our business.”

To stay relevant and constantly attract customers — new and old — they continue to experiment with different brewing techniques, tea blends and natural ingredients. “The development of unique flavours often comes from adding various fruits, herbs or spices during the secondary fermentation stage,” Foo explains.

For now, dotto. sells six signature flavours: Passionfruit Roselle, Butterfly Pea Yuzu, Pineapple Crush, Honey Ginger, Spirulina Mojito and Red Dates Longan. Foo’s favourite is the first because he likes the strong aroma of fresh passionfruit, the balanced sourness of roselle and the tangy aftertaste from it. Han’s pick is the Honey Ginger “because it’s smooth, yet flavourful. It is my go-to for daily consumption”.

Occasionally, and especially during key festivals, the duo try to come up with seasonal and exclusive flavours — such as Honey Chrysanthemum, Coffee, Genmaicha, Pink Lemonade, Mango Honey Citron, Kumquat and Apple Asam Boi — to introduce a variety of new tastes to patrons. “We often release fresh flavours, so our customers will always have something to look forward to,” Han says.

Dotto., which simply means dot, presents the idea that everything starts from a single point before it “transforms into something more. It’s a reminder for us to start small and dream big, to never forget the beginning of our journey and continue to create more possibilities in the future”.


Dotto. takes part in bazaars from time to time

“The overall concept of our brand simply revolves around the idea of endless possibilities, from a dot to shapes and more. We want to be fun and optimistic by playing with bright colours and all kinds of patterns.”

True enough, dotto. stands out with its attractive and vibrant packaging, as well as interactive Instagram posts, whose main aim is to inform customers of the benefits of kombucha tea and the processes and ingredients used in its production.

With her graphic design background, Han is mindful of the branding and packaging of their products. “It definitely helps in terms of grabbing attention and strengthening our online presence, especially when we started the business, because we had a distinctive look compared to existing kombucha businesses on the market at the time.

“I also frequently shared the trials and errors in our journey on my own Instagram account before launching dotto., which I believe piqued the interest of some followers, as it wasn’t a common product then and people were really curious about what we were doing. Social media has always been very important in terms of brand marketing, as the majority of our customers are young adults and teenagers who are active on the platforms.”

Foo and Han envision dotto. as more than just a kombucha brand. “We are planning to expand our range of products. Our vision is to bring kombucha and tea into everyone’s daily life. Having said that, we want dotto. to be seen in more places and hope to open a physical store of our own soon.”


This article first appeared on Feb 19, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.

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