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Kombucha Hunters: On The Road

As we travel about the country, we are always searching for new kombucha brewers and anxiously tasting new flavor combinations. One vendor called us “kombucha hunters” which seemed to perfectly sum up our interest in kombucha — so it stuck.

Most recently our travels have been predominantly in the United States. Since we have been intrigued by kombucha for several years, we wanted to share our overview of the changes we have observed in the landscape of kombucha.

Here are our current observations:

  • Kombucha started in many communities with vendors at farmers markets. As these vendors grow, they get into local stores or open a taproom. Think Panacea Brewing in Wilmington, NC (thankfully, they survived the hurricane), going from two markets to a taproom. Recent visits to the Hollywood Farmers Market and Santa Monica Farmers Market were surprising in that there were no kombucha vendors at either market. What that tells us, though LA is a very progressive market, is that kombucha is part of the local lifestyle and available beyond farmers market and similar outlets. Given that it is now available at Starbucks, that trend will probably continue. That doesn’t mean new vendors won’t start at local markets. Once such market vendor is Sanctuary Kombucha, in Round Rock, TX. They sell their apothecary goods as well as food products at the Wolf Ranch Farmers Market on Saturdays in Georgetown, TX.
  • Geographically, as we work on updating our directory, the number of brewers is growing. The map had many gaps when we first started two years ago and some states had no vendors at all. But these market opportunities are beginning to be met. A notable example is the new brewer, BareBucha available on a truck, in Waco, TX. Also, Phoenix, AZ had no local brewer until All About the Booch opened. It is exciting to see small business people with a passion for health jump into the market. It will continue to be, in most cases, a small market product given the challenges of producing and transporting kombucha while maintaining quality.
  • We cannot ignore the fact that big beer vendors are seeing the benefit of adding kombucha to their beverage lineups. The purchase of Clearly Kombucha by Molson Coors is a good example where the distribution network of a beer vendor is perfect for expansion. The challenge is successfully transporting a refrigerated beverage in some parts of the country with excessive heat. Bottling kombucha in cans will help address some of the transport issues. It also will broaden the market opportunities, allowing it to go to the beach, boating and other outdoor activities where glass is forbidden.
  • Existing brewers are adding new blends and varieties, including drinking vinegars, shrubs, and kefirs to name a few. Live Soda, here in Austin, TX, has several offerings in its product line after starting with kombucha. GT’s has added kefirs and coconut yogurts to its offerings. The kimchi flavor kefir is a definitely unique (and delicious) flavor offering. GT’s is fueling its growth by placing local brand ambassadors promoting their products in select parts of the US.
  • Alcohol content continues to be an issue for kombucha brewers. Controlling the quantity of alcohol in a kombucha requires careful management of the production process. One way to deal with that is to sell hard kombucha. Kyla Kombucha is a hard kombucha with two flavors. The alcohol content is 6.5% and adds kombucha to a range of alcoholic beverage offerings. We first saw it in Southern California (of course) and then happened to be in the mothership Whole Foods location the day it launched in Texas. There will likely be more entrants in to this market opportunity. We have noted that various states label kombucha differently when they contain more alcohol. We have seen a black label for some GT’s products in Florida that specifies higher alcohol content.
  • Millennials, aren’t they great? They drink kombucha with their meals, as their all day beverage and seek it out on tap in restaurants. DIY kits are now readily available in natural food stores, home brewing stores and online. When we first started brewing six years ago, it took a long time to find a starter kit at Wheatsville Coop in Austin. Now, that store has three flavors of kombucha on tap. We recently purchased a starter kit for our millennial, an avid kombucha drinker. She placed the first batch on the shelf next to a Sonos speaker, just above the vintage vinyl collection. Not sure if it was the music, or the light, or the good feeling of being in Southern California — but the brew was perfect and better than any of our recent ones.
  • Kombucha will continue to find acceptance in the mainstream grocery store as more people become exposed to it. In many outlets, it still requires a scavenger hunt to find where it is located, although many stores are beginning to have a cooler dedicated to kombucha offerings. First Starbucks, What’s next? 7-11?

To conclude, those are our current thoughts and observations from the road as we continue our hunt. Follow our travels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Please share with your thoughts and ideas.

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Around the Web, August 20, 2018

Apparently, a new Netflix rom-com, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” mentioned kombucha, and now its all the rage.

Take a look:

One Twitter person with the odd handle Celine Dijon Mustard said:

Roxy! (she had to add a bang sign to differentiate from other Roxies) is enamored:

To scare off those who are psyched to brew kombucha but have no idea what a scoby is, Insider Food proudly displays one in its full glory.

By the way, Starbucks has launched its own line of kombucha. People seem pleased.
Body by Jessica likes it:

Mad Magazine had an appropriate reaction:

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News Roundup for June 19, 2018

Been a while since we have been on the daily beat, but here goes with a quick update:
I never remember the difference between horizontal and vertical integration, but Happy Kombucha, based in the U.K. obviously does. This company understands that the market is flooded with kombucha brewers, so they are making its mark as a supplier of all things fermented. This means that Happy will be providing supplies and equipment to home brewers and fermenters, in addition to supplying commercial brewers. From the tools to make fermented vegetables to kefir, if it is related to this healthy brand of eating, they have it.

A spokesperson for Happy Kombucha told Digital Journal they are now offering their wares at sale prices to stimulate interest in this popular trend: “Here at happy Kombucha we love to hold sales where possible, and this sale has definitely been incredibly popular. The fermenters available on our website are all incredibly high quality allowing for people to make their very own perfect fermented foods and are long lasting too. Anyone requiring more information or interested in purchasing fermenting equipment and the lowest possible prices should visit our website today.”

Happy Kombucha also sells the popular UK kombucha brand Love Kombucha. A five-pack of mixed flavors go for 12.25 GBP ($16.14).


I have no intention of ever moving to Buffalo, but it sure is tempting when a developer called The Barrell Factory—a new loft community in the city’s Old First ward–is touting the eateries and bars in the new development and one of the pillars happens to be Snowy Owl Kombucha.

Snowy Owl won “best tasting station” in 2017 Best of WNY competition. (That’s Western New York, FYI). Current flavors include Tart Cherry Coconut and Strawberry Lemonade.


The U.S. is not alone in its inability to develop proper uniform regulations for acceptable alcohol levels in kombucha. The issue is not setting guidelines, but more the inability for effective enforcement and monitoring. One brewer in Australia (who goes to great lengths to keep his alcohol levels low) maintains the government needs to do random checks on kombucha for sale in retail.
Jeff Low, a brewer in New South Wales told ABC News in Australia that Food Standards Australia and New Zealand need to be more proactive in its monitoring. “[They need] testing for alcohol, testing for probiotic, making sure it’s still alive, that it is a living product and it’s not pasteurized.”

Here are a few Tweets worth a second look:

Invoking the heavens:

From a London brewer sampling its wares at Taste of London

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News Roundup for May 6, 2018

We’re a day late, but not a drink short, as we find a great recipe for making margaritas for Cinco de Mayo using kombucha. (Heck, they sound good for any day).

This combo from the music pub Paste Magazine adds a nice touch by adding a probiotic chia seed. Not sure what it does to enhance the result, but it makes the adult beverage a bit healthier.
There are other recipes that all sound like a fun tribute to the Mexican holiday that commemorates our neighbors to the south, holding off the French who were trying to support the South during the Civil War. Look it up.


There’s nothing like an endorsement from the Mayo Clinic to get people to pay attention.
In the Rochester (MN) City Newspaper, there’s a piece about Katboocha, a kombucha produced by Kat Schwarz which is available at Fifth Frame Brewery and other locations in the area that Mayo calls home. In the article, there’s a comment from the renown medical center that says:

“…there is evidence to suggest that drinking kombucha may produce similar effects to taking probiotic supplements, including improved digestion and immune function.” Broadly applied, the comment can refer to kombucha but also to other probiotic beverages (Jun, for example) and foods such as pickles and sauerkraut.

Schwarz pointed to kombucha being favored by millennials because of its appeal as an alternative to heavy alcoholic beverages. “Young people are thinking more about what they’re putting in their bodies,” Schwarz said in the article. “They want it to be something special.”


Speaking of recipes and uses for kombucha, here’s 61-year-old Abha Appasamy, an Indian woman who uses kombucha to make a special hummus. She sells her fermented version of the popular dish by adding liquid from her fermented sauerkraut to the chickpeas for an up-to-date version of this creamy delight.
Appasamy sells her line of kombucha and other one-offs after feedback and interest from fans of her products on Facebook.

“I just wanted to see what sauerkraut juice (fermented for six weeks) added to the hummus might taste like. But then everybody who tried it seemed to love it,” she said in an interview with Indian Express.


Via Twitter, here’s a video post from the BBC about how to make kombucha as well as the reaction from a few folks about whether they fancied this probiotic beverage.

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News Roundup for April 24, 2018

Good news for the kombucha industry—it’s a hit with millennials.

Bravo’s Alesandra Dubin checked in from the annual Coachella music and all-things-cool fest to say that the kombucha bar was one of the best food-related things she found at the California event.

Durbin writes: Maybe it’s the L.A. girl in me, but I just love me some kombucha — nothing makes me feel more refreshed and detoxified than a swig of the stuff, even if most of the benefit is psychological. This year’s new curated on-site program featuring kombucha sommeliers, and I was pretty psyched to try some of the brews made just for the festival.

Cool down with an ice cold bucha @wacofarmersmkt

Here in Austin, as this article from the Baylor Lariat points out, we have about four or five kombucha brewers, but poor Waco (96 miles north of Texas’ capital) was probiotic beverage free until the launch of Bare Bucha. Sold from a van that makes its way around town to various markets, Bare Bucha also can be found at some local store.

“We are the only people in Waco who make our kombucha here, and sell it here,” Kelly Doolittle, manager of operations at Bare Bucha said in a recent interview. “There are several Austin companies that sell it here; Austin has at least five to six big companies that all sell nationwide.”

Doolittle goes on to expand on the claim that everything is bigger in Texas—including kombucha: “Because of Austin, [the state of] Texas is one of the biggest consumers and sellers of kombucha in the United States,” Doolittle said. “There’s a market for kombucha here, and we’re not necessarily trying to create it, but strengthen it. There are a lot of people who are adventurous, who are into this health-type stuff. Even if they don’t know what kombucha is, they’re very willing to try it.”


Perhaps it’s the influence of its new master, Amazon, but Whole Foods released some data that shows what its top sellers are in various regions.
In the Midwest (as tabulated from a store in Cincinnati), Live Soda (a probiotic beverage) is listed as an “up and comer.”
In the Northeast (as tabulated from a store in Piscataway, N.J.), KeVita Master Brew Kombucha is a top-selling beverage.
In the Northwest (as tabulated from a store in Whitefish, MT), GT’s Kombucha takes the top two spots followed by KeVita Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic Elderberry.
In the Southwest (as tabulated from a store in Sierra, AZ), the top up and comer is Wild Tonic Kombucha, on tap in the store.
In the West (as tabulated from a store in Concord, CA), GT’s Kombucha came in second in the beverage category.


From our best of Twitter:
You must love this Tweet from Wild Kombucha


And anyone who loves the beach will adore this Tweet featuring a bottle of Big Easy kombucha against the backdrop of a large, tantalizing stretch of sand (presumable somewhere along the Gulf).

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News Roundup for April 12, 2018

Newton’s Law of kombucha states that, for every five people that love this probiotic beverage, there are one or two who hate it. Hate it with a passion. Seems that those who truly dislike kombucha love to shout their displeasure from the mountaintops.

Sarah Weinberg, an author for Delish, lists five reasons to avoid kombucha. Let’s either debunk or verify each claim:

1. The sugar content is scary. Weinberg says that a bottle can contain up to 20 grams of sugar. True enough, but most have 10 grams or under. Personally, I’d never touch one that has so much sugar. BTW, some sugar content is per serving and some are by a bottle, so check before imbibing. All this is not to say that some of the sugar levels on the label are incorrect; that is another story for another day.

2. It’s possible to overdose. I guess that’s true, but it’s also possible to overdose on soda pop and a few zillion other things.

3. There is a bit of alcohol in each bottle. That is a specious argument and one that is made irrelevant by various state laws that require ID to buy any kombucha containing a high level of alcohol. In fact, some Dijon mustards and cooking sprays also have alcohol.

4. The yeast content can mess with your body. Weinberg says that the yeast levels can mess you up if you have candida or a yeast infection. Seems to me that anyone with such an ailment would ask his or her doctor what food and beverages to avoid. And also drink the beverage in small doses to make sure it helps, not hurts.

Wait. That’s only four. The headline says five yet the story lists four. Maybe too much kombucha impacts headline writers and editors.


Time to grab one of those Southwest Airlines low fares and head to Baltimore. BevNet reports that Mobtown Fermentation is releasing a new flavor that sounds amazing—Tart Cherry and Ginger Juice. We’ve tried tart cherry from some other kombucha brewers, and the taste has been wonderful.
“I’m excited to be adding a spring flavor to our line,” Sid Sharma, Owner of Wild Kombucha told BevNet. “Cherry is one of the most popular flavors there are, especially in the warmer seasons, and pairing it with ginger has created a unique kombucha that I think people are really going to enjoy.”
Sounds like a refreshing summer brew.


Et tu Trader Joe’s?
Trader Joe’s has been added to the lawsuit against kombucha bottlers who, plaintiffs argue, mislabel the sugar and alcohol content in their brews.
The suit is being brought by Kombucha Dog, a Los Angeles-based brewer. Kombucha Dog’s kombucha has a level of alcohol which makes it an alcoholic beverage and subject to taxes and shelf placement for such beverages. The claim is that other brewers, including Trader Joes, mislabels theirs to avoid the tax and shelf placement.
Kombucha Dog, according to the article in the San Francisco Chronicle, has 1.4% alcohol which is more than twice the .5% which is the cutoff between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

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News Roundup for April 6, 2018

Kombucha as a job perk? You heard that right.

Seems that Goldman Sachs has a new office in San Francisco, and to appear hip is offering all sorts of cool perks to perspective engineering employees. The buttoned-up look so familiar on Wall Street? Forget about it; jeans and t-shirts are cool (I think footwear is required). And, you got it, kombucha on tap in the break room.

A piece in Bloomberg, attempting to make Goldman Sachs seems relevant, profiles new manager Jeff Winner as a man who cares more about what’s inside a candidate than his or her appearance. The bank still has a “significant amount of stuffiness, but they’re getting rid of it,” Winner said in a phone interview with Bloomberg.

Seems like a healthy approach to hiring.


Anyone who lives in the Los Angeles area or lands on one of those $49 Southwest Airlines fares should mark May 28th on the calendar. That’s the day of Eat Drink Vegan 2018 at the Rose Bowl in sunny Pasadena.
Dubbed the “Vegan Coachella,” the event is a plant-based lollapalooza with more than 250 beverage vendors on display. Think kombucha will be flowing? (That’s a rhetorical question).


That’s a lovely kombucha scarf you are wearing. No, that’s not a joke.
Arizona State University students are going fashion forward, and as part of that exercise, there are experiments will all sorts of new materials being used. Kombucha is one of them.
“For waste pollution, we wanted to find a different type of material to use,” Cindy Tran, a design student told The State Press. “We used kombucha … It can be an alternative material that can be used in textile. It’s also very sustainable by taking the waste product of the kombucha drinks and turning it into something that people can wear.”


Need some probiotics in your life and are turned off by the price (not to mention the taste) of probiotics liquids and tablets, Mens Health has eight foods that will give you all the probiotic coverage you need.
The eight include kimchi, yogurt (please, the non-dairy kind), sauerkraut, pickles (make your own), tempeh, miso (try the chickpea version if you want to avoid soy) and kombucha.
Not only does kombucha give you probiotics, the magazine reports, it also has a healthy helping of B-vitamins.

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News Roundup for April 5, 2018

To juice or not to juice, that is the question. And we’re not talking about pro athletes taking steroids to enhance their performance. Adding juice to kombucha at some stage of the brewing process is an issue debated among brewers that separates the purists from the more adventurous.

Case in point is Emmett and Renee Love of Love’s Kombucha in Moscow, Idaho. Going from home brewers to sampling and selling their brew at a local farmers market. For this pair, adding juice or other flavorings to their kombucha is a no-no.

“What sets us apart is that we don’t add any juices or flavorings after it’s brewed,” Renee Love said in an interview with the Lewiston Tribune. “It’s a super simple brew…. It’s just a fun, special drink.”

With Love’s Kombucha, the brewers believe added flavor comes from the various teas they use in the initial part of the brew. The Love’s kombucha is not available in any stores but can be found on tap at Huckleberry’s Natural Market, Moscow Food Co-op and Tapped; and in Pullman at Daily Grind Espresso and Dissmores IGA.


And for some great Tweets:

Tim Spector, forced to take antibiotics, hopes kombucha will even things out

From Kinoko Kombucha, a new brewer



And from Nutra Kombucha

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News Roundup for April 4, 2018

The trend of offering kombucha on tap is growing. As this piece in the San Jose Mercury News points out, cocktails infused with the probiotic beverage were the next logical step. At Corona del Mar’s Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, the “cocktail guru” Anthony Laborin began trying his hand (well, both hands) at using Bootstrap Kombucha as a part of some imaginative cocktails.

In the case of “Mama Needs a Nap,” Laborin tops the mixture of lemon juice, honey syrup, local aquavit, Jardesca Rouge and passion fruit-infused Peychaud’s Aperitivo with kombucha. The ingredients are put into a cocktail mixer, shaken and poured into a martini glass. The fizzy kombucha provides a nice complement to the sweet adult beverage.

Yes, it makes total sense that a music festival in California would be serving kombucha.
At the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a kombucha bar will be front and center among the offerings. The probiotic beverage will be part of the fare at a special refreshment pod that will also include freshly pressed juices.


Even after a life of working in market research, I am skeptical when I see forecasts for trending beverages such as kombucha. If you’d like to plunk down some money to read Markets World Reports on the future of this beverage (financially that is), go for it. Here are the two major issues I see with attempting to forecast this market:

• While major brewers make a big name for themselves, it will be an industry dominated by medium-sized, regional companies. The inherent issue of needing to keep kombucha refrigerated while in transit will limit national market potential. Those companies that choose to use copackers run the risk of losing control over their brand.

• Rules and regulations about sugar and alcoholic content are a long way from being resolved and vary from state to state.

Want to know more? Email me and we can chat.

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News Roundup for April 3, 2018

And you thought tech folks only invested in cool new virtual reality stuff and snack foods that replaced greasy potato chips. In the case of GloryBucha, a kombucha brewery in Arlington, WA., co-owner Lowell Profit (a great business name) has teamed up with Debra Charapty to open a taproom in the downtown of this Snohomish County city.

Profit began brewing kombucha to end his cravings for soda. After testing its popularity at a local athletic club, Profit knew he was on to something—that something being the rise in popularity of this probiotic beverage. After running into Charpaty, who brings experience in working with startups, the two knew they had found a business opportunity.

“I was drinking a lot of kombucha because I was drinking wine, and I wasn’t feeling my best, so I decided I was going to change my lifestyle,” Charpaty told the Arlington Times in a recent interview. The big change was eliminating high-sugar beverages and alcohol.

“I became a fanatic, and started brewing in my kitchen,” she added. “Not very good, just enough to make my family hate kombucha.”

According to the article, GloryBucha is the first commercial kombucha brewer in Snohomish County.

While I am not quite sure I understand it, those who dislike, or even profess to hate kombucha, enjoy waxing eloquently about their displeasure.

Take this opinion piece from a writer for The Link—a publication that appears to be either a college paper or indie pub that serves Concordia University which is outside Montreal:

Elaine Genest writes: And so, one day I was strolling around the aisles of Jean Coutu and came across that beautiful, tall, colourful bottle. It just had that look of something that was sure to revive my internal organs and give my body a fresh start.

Made up of only water, tea, sugar, and bacteria, I thought this would be the best way to truly take care of my body; I’d let the little army of germs clean my insides like the scrubbing bubbles from the bathroom cleaner ad with a bunch of little blue squid-like creatures wiping away all of the dirt in your bathroom.

However, when I poured myself my first glass of lemon and ginger kombucha, the clumps of weird alien residue at the bottom of the bottle came out all at once into my cup.

I stared at it for a couple of seconds and sulked. “Am I supposed to drink this?” I thought to myself. I took the glass and brought it up to my nose. I didn’t have very high hopes for the smell, but it was not at all what I was expecting…

Not only does kombucha look like it belongs in a science lab with a shelf of alien-like creatures floating in some liquid, but it tastes like it too.

If you’re looking to improve your health by drinking kombucha, don’t.
If you feel like you need to ingest millions of bacteria in a bottle of disappointment, just eat some expired yogurt and save yourself the trouble.

Well put. More for me.