Kombucha brews strong in the Triad
Kombucha. Do you have the “guts” to drink it?
It’s a unique beverage that’s popping up in health circles everywhere, even though it’s been around for over 2,000 years. It has made it’s way to the Triad thanks to some health-loving entrepreneurs.
Kombucha is a naturally fermented tea, and the fermentation process of the black or green tea is attributed to it being rich in probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. It becomes kombucha with the help of a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). All that gunky stuff in that precious SCOBY is what makes this drink, “booch.” Proponents say it helps your gut, supports your immune system and your overall well-being. Feeling bloated? A kombucha might help you with that.
It has a slightly off-putting smell (my kids think it smells like feet). But I personally love it and it definitely tastes better than it can smell. It’s lightly effervescent and a much better alternative to soda. Technically, it does have a trace amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process, but if you’re interested in kombucha for health reasons, you should only look for the super low-alcohol versions found where the natural juices live in the produce section of most stores. Check the label.
I spoke with some local women who see making “booch” as their calling and we are already seeing their product on Triad shelves and in restaurants.
Coming up on their one-year anniversary, Lauren Miller, 22, and Olivia Wolff, 23, started their kombucha business at Wake Forest University.
“I first tried it because my friends were drinking it in yoga class and decided to start making my own,” Miller said. “Olivia had written an article on how to make kombucha. We were simultaneously experimenting and traded ideas and we started selling it to our friends. They started an Instagram account and it took off from there. We were brewing it in our dorm kitchen and just took over the space and people would have to come pick it up at our dorm on campus, it was crazy.”
Miller and Wolff realized there was a market for kombucha here. Now, just a year later, UpDog has a full-fledged facility where the brewing and fermentation process takes place. In addition to the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market, UpDog is now in many local shops in Winston-Salem including Let it Grow Produce, Village Juice, Colony Urban Farm Store, Wiseman Brewing and some local restaurants. They’ve expanded to parts of Greensboro, Summerfield, Charlotte and Southern Virginia. Miller said the work over the past year has been exhausting but she’s exactly where she wants to be.
“I had an internship at a huge corporation in Denver and I just realized that even though I was in this awesome city, I wanted to have my own business in Winston-Salem,” Miller said. “We took our savings and any money we’ve made, and boot-strapped it to fund this business on our own. I don’t live lavishly because I just want to focus on growing this business. We may work 12-hour days, but it’s a happy tired. At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done some good.”
UpDog offers a variety of flavors. Some are standards, like Lavender and Hibiscus, and others change out seasonally, like the current Strawberry flavor as well as Blackberry Mint.
Maggie Infield just completed her first official month at the Greensboro Curb Farmer’s Market after making her own kombucha for the past two years.
“I struggled for many years with digestive issues,” she said. “I had terrible reflux due to a bad gall bladder. Lost the gall bladder. But no matter what I ate, my body rejected it. I love good, clean food and couldn’t even enjoy that.”
Infield said a friend gifted her a SCOBY so she could make her own kombucha.
“I tried it, started incorporating it into my daily habit,” Infield said. “It gave me my life back. I could cry thinking about it.”
After making kombucha for herself, Infield then started to sell to friends. Then opportunity struck: Kitchen Connects Greensboro is an entrepreneurship program that allows business start-ups to utilize their shared kitchen. In partnership with the Curb Market, Out of the Garden Project and the Greensboro Cooperative Extension, the grant allows new businesses to get some footing and set up shop at the farmer’s market before they “leave the nest” and strike out on their own. Infield has now started her own permanent booth at the market and is now on the shelves of the Wallburg Emporium & Coffee Shop and most recently landed shelf space at The Traveled Farmer.
So if you’ve never tried Kombucha, but you’re interested but a bit unsure? It’s bubbly, tart and just a kiss of sweetness. Infield said to try just a little at a time to see how you like it. If you like it, drink a small amount per day and work your way up.
“Everyone is different,” she said. “So you need to see how your body reacts. Some folks can drink more, some require much less. If I don’t drink a pint a day, my body feels off.”
Most kombucha makers and drinkers agree, either you like it or you don’t. Infield said, “I don’t sugarcoat it. But if it’s made properly it’ll be wonderfully balanced.”
Infield said she’s blown away by the interest in her kombucha.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom juggling this business,” she said. “I am a small-batch maker who does everything by hand and just had no idea how fast it would grow. It’s really been a dream come true. For the first time in my life, I’ve found my groove and I think it’s reflected in my product.”
For more information about these local kombucha makers, visit updogkombucha.com and zenfieldkombucha.com.
They’re awesome quite active on Facebook and Instagram if you’d like to follow them on social media.
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.