Brewers Ready To Celebrate Fermented Tea Sunday — World Kombucha Day

Teya Vitu The Santa Fe New Mexican

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Hannah Crum is the founder and president of Los Angeles-metro-based Kombucha Brewers International. She is also the creator of "World Kombucha Day" which celebrates the fermented sweetened tea which is processed with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Santa Fe

Give a toast to World Kombucha Day.

In its second year, the Feb. 21 celebration created by Kombucha Brewers International is another way to promote the fermented tea beverage that has grown in popularity over the past decade.

Kombucha's rise has coincided with many Americans' desire to live healthier lives, said Hannah Crum, founder and president of Los Angeles-metro-based Kombucha Brewers International and creator of World Kombucha Day.

"People are waking up to the fact they need to be healthier and kombucha is the health choice," Crum said. "Kombucha is a really great nuanced beverage for those wanting to cut back on alcohol and reduce consumption of soda."

Kombucha is fermented sweetened tea processed with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, known in the trade as scoby. Crum said 90 percent of kombucha is considered nonalcoholic, with a legal limit of 0.5 percent alcohol.

But there is an emergence of hard kambucha with a higher alcohol content, such as produced by Santa Fe kombucha firm HoneyMoon Brewery. "Sometimes people are looking for an alternative," HoneyMoon founder and CEO Ayla Bystrom-Williams said. "We are totally gluten free, made with natural organic acids. People are looking for that option."

Bystrom-Williams launched HoneyMoon Brewery in 2014 in an abandoned artist warehouse in Madrid and opened a taproom/production space on West Alameda Street at the end of 2018. HoneyMoon kombucha has been available since November 2019 at Whole Foods in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and for about six months at The Cellar in Taos.

HoneyMoon produces about 1,400 bottles of kombucha per month, she said. "The taproom has given us a sense of who our customers are and what their habits are," Bystrom-Williams said. "Because of COVID, our foot traffic is down to practically nothing. By the end of 2020, moving into Whole Foods was our most sustainable business activity."

HoneyMoon Brewery's early years sound more like a startup tech company. Bystrom applied for small-business assistance from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a microbiologist and bioorganic chemist helped establish the scientific protocol for HoneyMoon. The company also received assistance from ABQid, which provides entrepreneurs with the knowledge, power, resources and network to succeed, and in 2016 won the Miller Lite Tap the Future competition, where a Shark Tank judge was a guest judge. The Kombucha Project owner Katlyn Jennings, also based in Santa Fe, has her own national presence as lobbyist and outreach coordinator for Kombucha Brewers International.

The organization has about 210 brewer members around the world, including New Mexico Ferments in Albuquerque, and HoneyMoon, The Kombucha Project and Stargazer Kombucha in Santa Fe. Leaf & Hive Brew Lab is another local brewer.

Jennings has been doing outreach around the country for a potential introduction of legislation Monday in Congress to increase the nonalcohol level of kombucha from 0.5 percent to 1.25 percent.

Jennings said kombucha brewers want the higher level to achieve more flexibility in brewing, as the fermentation process itself takes the alcohol level to 0.6 to 1 percent and brewers must find ways to lower the level. Jennings launched The Kombucha Project in February 2016, the first of the recent surge of local kombucha brewers.

"When I started, there was no kombucha in any restaurant, cafe or coffee shop in Santa Fe," Jennings said. "It's much more likely for me to encounter people who know what kombucha is now. But it's still pretty difficult to get kombucha in food service locations here. Coffee shops have caught on, but cafes and restaurants are more behind. The more progressive restaurants and cafes are more interested."

During the coronavirus pandemic, Jennings' sales have been almost entirely through her website, kombuchaproject.square.site.

Stargazer Kombucha, made in Santa Fe by Alison Schmitt, is available at REMIX Audio Bar, Iconik Coffee Roasters and Terra Verde Organic.

Schmitt started Stargazer in a shared kitchen in July 2019.

"People have taken to my product very enthusiastically, and it didn't take long to build a fan base," Schmitt said. "I feel Santa Fe is a city that enjoys embracing [small] business. People really seem to love it. They try and experience it. They like it and keep coming back."

Crum selected Feb. 21 for World Kombucha Day because 221 B.C. is one of the years mentioned as when the beverage was first produced in China. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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