Have you been by Wunder-Pilz for some of Austin’s finest kombucha? If not, you’re definitely going to want to stop by for some this coming weekend! Come and say hello to Bill Nadalini, Dallas native turned Austinite, and founder of Wunder-Pilz. I caught up with Bill at HOPE FM recently and he turned out to be a plethora of information on the trendy beverage that everyone in Austin seems to love.
If you’re from Massachusetts like the handsome young devil writing this blog post, you may be thinking to yourself: Kombucha? What is that? Sounds sorta Asian. If so, you’re partially correct! Kombucha is actually a misappropriation of two Japanese words, says Bill. Kombu, which translates to sea kelp, and cha, meaning tea. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fortunate enough in my twenty-four years of life to never have come across a sea-kelp flavored drink (Sorry if you haven’t been as lucky). For all of you Austinites and other hip people who have boarded the Kombucha train long ago, you may be thinking this is old news. What’s special about kombucha from Wunder-pilz, you ask? Well calm down! Keep reading and I’ll tell you.
Despite the fact that kombucha has nothing to do with sea kelp, one thing that does translate correctly is the tea part. Kombucha is aerobically fermented tea, which has proven health benefits due to its probiotics and acetic acid content. When one ferments tea with sugar, yeast breaks down the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Acetobacteria (that’s healthy bacteria!) then processes alcohol, which turns into acetic acid, and is believed to be therapeutic for your liver. Bill revealed to me that the probiotics in kombucha are good for digestion because they can withstand acids in the stomach, as opposed to those found in yogurt, which usually cannot. All together, this makes for a super healthy small and large intestine. (Yay, colons!)
Another, more accurate translation, can be found in the name Wunder-pilz. The name comes from the German words wunder (miracle) and pilz (mushroom). “I chose the name because it’s fun to say,” says Bill bluntly. Wunder-pilz got started when a friend turned Bill onto kombucha back in 2009. At first, he wasn’t into it. Not much for sweet beverages, Bill prefers fully fermented, drier, drinks. The one thing Bill did enjoy about the kombucha, however, was how he felt afterwards. There’s no doubt about it, the probiotics in kombucha really do sit well with your stomach.
So Bill played around with brewing kombucha himself using different kinds of tea until he created something that satisfied his taste buds. As his brewing continued, he started making larger and larger batches until the surplus he had been giving out to friends led him to selling it out of a friend’s food trailer. From there, Bill started leasing some space at the commercial kitchen in what used to be The Daily Juice Café in Hyde Park. Eventually he moved Wunder-Pilz to its own space in a warehouse in Southwest Austin. Three years later, Wunder-pilz can be found in a couple of dozen locations in Austin, and now in Pflugerville and San Marcos. The product we are able to enjoy today is exactly what Bill set out to make: a drier, less-sugary kombucha that still has plenty of flavor and health benefits. This is truly what sets Wunder-pilz apart from the rest, which to me all taste like soda.
Another awesome fact about Wunder-Pilz is that they use all organic ingredients. Bill says that his ideology behind Wunder-Pilz’s expansion is something we can all get down with: being a conscientious entity in the market every step of the way. It’s about sustainability combined with practicality, and questioning how the choices he makes are affecting the environment and the community. To maintain this balance, Bill keeps in mind the idea of keeping a small footprint, something he has been very successful in doing. Wunder-pilz is sold exclusively on tap, and will only be available in canned form when they release their new probiotic drink. At HOPE, Bill serves kombucha either through unique re-usable bottles, bottles customers bring themselves, or in plant-based cups, which can be composted. Wunder-Pilz also prides themselves on the fact that they compost all of their organic waste material. All in all this makes for what Bill describes as a slower, yet stronger growth in the community.
Bill has been at HOPE for 5 years now, and has kept coming for that strong community and family vibe. I agree when Bill says that from the managers to the vendors, HOPE never fails to bring a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. So next weekend be sure to get yourself a refreshing glass of Wunder-pilz or cool off with a kombucha popsicle! Feel free to sample different flavors, which Bill tends to switch up every week. My go-to is the green tea-lemon-ginger-pricklypear. It’s a perfect balance of sour, tangy, and gingery-spice: perfect for washing down some tacos or fresh tamales.
I’m Stephen. Environmental activist, world traveller, and strong proponent of the local food movement! I started volunteering at HOPE in January, and have loved every minute of it. When I’m not at HOPE, I’m most likely eating, cooking, or doing some form of exercise. (And binge-watching shows on Netflix in between, of course) I’ll be writing more of these blog posts in the future, so I hope you liked it. Thanks for reading!