I have a soft spot for people that pick up a passion and make it come to life. The way they add value and colour to the world inspires and motivates me. When I first met Yassine Ejdaa, I knew I had met exactly that kind of person.
A few months ago, I saw some Stories passing by on Instagram of an Antwerp-based home delivery of kombucha. I clicked through and quickly decided to order my own. A few days later, Yassine was standing on my doorstep to deliver — what turned out to be — the best kombucha I had ever tried. I looked at him, with his notebook and cargo bike filled with bottles and in an instant, I saw a glimpse of myself. I know the dedication it takes to build that kind of business, working with natural ingredients and taking care of the A to Z by yourself. The newest Activated Toning Mist is inspired by the health benefits of fermentation. This fascinating, complex technique is the essence of his kombucha (meaning fermented or mushroom tea in Chinese). My attention was caught, and a few weeks later I visited his brewery in Antwerp to know more about the process and the person behind Figa Kombucha.
I asked Mieke Verbijlen to shoot Yassine's portrait, an Antwerp-based photographer. All pictures in this feature are by Mieke.
Hi Yassine, can you start by introducing yourself? What’s your background and how did you come up with the idea to start brewing your own kombucha?
Yes, sure! My name is Yassine Ejdaa and I’m 27 years old. I grew up and live in Antwerp. I have Moroccan roots, my father grew up in Sidi Slimane, a small town close to Fez. I used to spend many summer holidays in Morocco.
After high school, I struggled a bit to find my way at university. My childhood dream was to become a doctor, but I didn’t get through the entrance exam. I started to study bio-engineering in Antwerp, but I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Inspired by a friend, I moved to Amsterdam and enrolled in a program called Future Planet Studies and specialized in Social Geography during my Masters. It’s a topic I’m fascinated about, and try to implement as much as possible in Figa as well.
"When I moved back to Antwerp, I started experimenting with my first scoby and brewed kombucha for friends. The response was so positive, that I thought of a brand name. Then a logo came and a first label design, and that’s how Figa was born."
During my time in Amsterdam, I drank kombucha very often. In The Netherlands, it’s more common to have interesting drinks on the menu that are not necessarily alcoholic. I liked the idea of developing complex, layered flavors, refined enough to compete with a good bottle of wine, but free of alcohol. So when I moved back to Antwerp, I started experimenting with my first scoby and brewed kombucha for friends. The response was so positive, that I thought of a brand name. Then a logo came and a first label design, and that’s how Figa was born. Now I don’t brew in my home kitchen anymore, but I rent a space in Antwerp and deliver to several restaurants, bars and deliver to customers every Friday.
Can you tell us a bit more about your daily life, how do you invest your time?
I divide my time between Figa, volunteering and hospitality. The latter has always been a passion of mine. I’ve co-started several restaurant and bakery concepts around Antwerp. I love it when a team becomes like family, passionate around the same topic and working hard to make each night, meal or service a real succes. With Figa I often collaborated with Flessengeluk, a collective of friends that love to cook. We organized apéro evenings where we pair the food with natural wines and my own kombucha. It provided the perfect occasion for me to serve my kombucha directly to my clients, it’s a cross-pollination that makes sense to me.
Besides this, I volunteer for 11.11.11 at organizing ‘Zuidcafés’, thematic evenings on topics such as climate justice, decolonization, human rights and migration. I feel as though there is so much going on in the world, and we don’t spend enough time talking about it. It’s fulfilling to contribute at least a bit to the awareness around these topics, and underline how relevant they are in our society.
"During my studies in Amsterdam, I did a lot of research on degrowth, a concept I want to keep close to me throughout the entire evolution of Figa. It means I will always prioritize social and ecological well- being over profits and excess consumption."
If you could express a dream for Figa, what would it be?
Figa is a self-funded brand, and for now it’s me, myself and I who is running the show. My dream is to grow into a company with a cooperative spirit, involving a team that co-owns the company. I never want to be a “top-down” boss, I want a horizontal organization. During my studies in Amsterdam, I did a lot of research on degrowth, a concept I want to keep close to me throughout the entire evolution of Figa. It means I will always prioritize social and ecological well- being over profits and excess consumption. Besides, there are so many ideas for specialized kombuchas, tailored to the needs of the many restaurants of Antwerp. Kombucha is in need of an interesting, layered reputation and I’m here to create it!
How is your relationship to your skin and your appearance? What about your experience with Maiwe ? Do you have a favourite product?
When I was younger, I had some acne, like most teenagers I guess. I still have oily skin, and sometimes a few breakouts. I’ve always cared for the way I look, I like to pay attention to my appearance.
Before discovering Maiwe I didn’t really have a clear routine. Occasionally, I would use some products of my roommate or my girlfriend, while I was actually looking for a few products of my own that would work for me and a short routine I could stick to.
"Since I’ve been using Maiwe, I’ve been getting a lot of compliments about how my skin looks. And I can see it too, it looks and feels way better!"
I’m using the Purifying Cream Cleanser to cleanse my skin, but I have to admit it’s the step I’m a bit lazy about! Can you explain again why I need to cleanse?
Well, actually it’s the most important step in your routine! When you cleanse, you remove sebum, impurities and all the toxins and dust that your skin faces during the day, or produces overnight. The Cream Cleanser is also really effective at removing dead skin cells, which will clear up your skin. It will prevent your pores from getting obstructed, slow down the aging process, and it will make sure the products you use are getting absorbed much better. If cleansing once a day is a maximum for you, then make sure you do it at night rather than in the morning!
Ok, I’ll try to stick to that :-)
The Rosehip Oil Serum is just incredible. Everything about it is special. I love to use it in the morning, just a few drops and it makes my skin instantly look much better. I look more awake, my skin tone looks better and you can feel the beneficial effects instantly. Since I’ve been using Maiwe, I’ve been getting a lot of compliments about how my skin looks. And I can see it too, it looks and feels way better!
I’ve been using the Activated Toning Mist before using the Serum and after shaving. I’m an old school shaver, with a knife and lots of foam. I love the feeling of using The Mist, the fine haze of drops is really nice on the skin.
Filled with fermented actives
The Activated Toning Mist