by Eliza Goetze
FOUR years ago Helen Tricarico was "questioning everything I always knew about healthy eating".
Searching online, she came across an unusual drink that, fast forward to now, is loved by foodies and health fanatics alike: kombucha.
That is, fermented tea - brewed with sugar and a colony of yeast and bacteria, a slimy disc called a scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast).
It helps your gut "flourish with good bacteria".
"I was so fascinated I put a call out on Facebook saying 'Can anyone in Bundaberg find me a scoby?'" she said.
Her chiropractor was a keen kombucha brewer.
"After I had my adjustment he would say 'no sitting or lying down', so I'd walk home with this weird looking thing in a jar," she recalled, laughing.
"I made it for family and friends and someone said, 'Would you sell it?'
"It just went from there."
While it was "scary" beginning her own business, Healthy On The Inside, or HOTI - on top of her full-time council job - the rewards have been worth it, she said.
"I call it my 'side hustle'."
That means waking at 4am to bottle the brew and deliver it in the afternoons.
"My biggest fear was... what if someone says 'That's disgusting'? But I haven't had one bad review."
Thanks to kombucha and other fermented foods, Ms Tricarico said she no longer experienced bloating.
"For me it was about: I thought I had something delicious and beautiful and I wanted everyone to have the chance to taste it."
HOTI turns one year old next month and Ms Tricarico has so many orders for flavours like ginger, lemon and hibiscus, she often turns some away.
"Children love it because of the fizz; some people replace wine with it.
"And a lot of people love it first thing in the morning."
You can buy HOTI Kombucha by the glass at Gypsy Folk, Sea Gypsy and the Pocket Storehouse or buy bottles directly from Helen Tricarico.
Phone 0418 142 566, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out facebook.com/HealthyontheinsideHOTI.