Sweet On Kombucha

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Story by Dave Eckert    |    Intro photo by Daily Culture Kombucha

Like it, don’t like it, or don’t know much about it, kombucha is carving out a sizeable niche for itself. The global kombucha market size stood at $1.84 billion in 2019. It’s projected to reach $10.45 billion by 2027! In the U.S. alone, annual kombucha sales are expected to top $7 billion by 2027.

The drink, with roots in China, Russia, and Eastern Europe, is commonly made by fermenting sugared tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, creating a probiotic drink that’s often enhanced with spices, fruits, and herbal additives. Many believe kombucha affords a broad range of health benefits, including relieving arthritis and diabetes and improving digestive health.

Photo courtesy of KANbucha

I’m not here to confirm or deny those claims, but to give you a sense of the kombucha scene in Kansas City.  I start with the appropriately named KANbucha, a combination of Kansas and kombucha, started by Elliot Pees, who says he fell in love with fermentation, which led him to kombucha. “We strive to make the tastiest and healthiest kombucha possible. We only ferment in glass vessels. We use premium organic tea from KC-based Hugo Tea Company. We incorporate flavors to meet all types of our customers’ palates, and we offer reusable eco-friendly packaging -such as refillable growlers,” Pees shared.

KANbucha is available in Kansas City at all three Whole Foods, Nature’s Own Health Market, and Enjoy Pure Food and Drink, along with several locations in Lawrence, including The Merc Coop, Hy-Vee, and The Lawrence Farmers Market.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Elixir Kombucha

Lucky Elixir Kombucha has been making kombucha commercially since 2015. Headquartered in North Kansas City, the husband-and-wife team of Amy Goldman and Sean Galloway also began  as fermentation enthusiasts who home-brewed kombucha. “We decided we wanted to share the wonderful health benefits and great taste with the rest of the Midwest. We began selling at farmers’ markets in the Kansas City area. By the end of our first season, we knew we were onto something,” Goldman shared.

Goldman says she and Galloway brew traditional raw kombucha in a variety of flavors packaged in 12-ounce cans. And she says Lucky Elixir kombucha has a one two punch of being good for you and tasting great. “That’s the magic of fermentation, taking a flavor through the process, enhancing it, and creating something entirely different!” Goldman exclaimed.

I asked Goldman where consumers can find Lucky Elixir. “We sell our canned product at a number of grocery and retail locations in the greater KC area. On tap, you can purchase Lucky Elixir Kombucha at Fetterman’s Deli in Platte City, The Made in KC Marketplace on The Country Club Plaza, and on Thursday evenings, at the Mission Farmers Market. In addition, Market Wagon carries our products for home delivery,” Goldman stated.

Photo courtesy of Artisan Kombucha

Another fermentation fan, Ben Bash also started Artisan Kombucha out of his home. “We used to brew small batches and hand them out to friends and family. I’d brew ten gallons of all sorts of flavors just for fun,” Bash remembered.

Like the others, Bash promotes the authenticity of his kombucha. “All our kombucha is flavored with real fruit with no flavor additives or chemicals. If you buy our strawberry ginger kombucha, it’s flavored with soaked and mashed strawberries and raw ginger. We also brew at slightly cooler temps, which adds more probiotics. We try to buy local produce whenever possible to get the best quality and keep small farmers and growers running and thriving. We offer the best prices, and you can find us at multiple locations.”

Lastly, I spoke with Chris Boyle, founder of Daily Culture Kombucha. “I started Daily Culture in my basement in 2021 after a friend talked me into making a fermented tea I’d already been drinking for years as a healthy alternative to drinks full of sugar and chemically-engineered ingredients,” Boyle shared. “I quickly was producing too much, so I started giving bottles to friends, family, or anyone brave enough to try it. The response was generally positive, and a light bulb went off. I could turn this into a real company and make a positive impact in the community.”

You can find Daily Culture Kombucha in four seasonal flavors in cans and bottles at some 30 small businesses in the metro. “On our website, you can also order limited release flavors along with the seasonal ones and have them delivered to your doorstep,” Boyle told me.

Boyle says he loves kombucha, but he loves the lessons it’s taught him and his family even more. “Showing my kids how to   run a business, and creating a product from scratch has been amazing. I come from the nine-to-five corporate world. I want them to know there are other ways of making a living-that your dreams and ideas can come to life and sharing them with the world can be your career,” Boyle stated.

Like kombucha or not, you gotta love that.

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