Kombucha Town launched in Bellingham just a few years ago with a product so delicious and popular, the company has already expanded several times. Kombucha Town brews Kombucha (not a big stretch there), a fermented tea that’s full of body-loving goodness like amino acids, antioxidants and natural bacteria that aid digestion. Kombucha has a slightly sweet, slightly tangy taste that goes down easy and gives you little energy lift—without a major caffeine rush. Good for you and good tasting? No wonder Kombucha Town is growing like crazy!
I was recently treated to a behind-the-scenes look into how Kombucha Town products are made, and to hear how owner Chris McCoy and his crew are keeping busy brewing, canning and distributing their yummy beverages, as well as serving healthy food and drinks at the new Culture Café. Both businesses are located in the Bellingham Herald building, and after the expansions, are now using about 5,000 square feet of space.
Chris learned how to brew kombucha from a roommate way back in 2007. Realizing how great it made him feel, and how much better his was than the brews commercially available, he decided to make the leap into entrepreneurship. As an economics and environmental studies grad, he wanted a business with growth potential and minimal impact from its production process that was also good for people. Kombucha fit his requirements and in January 2013, he started commercial production. His first product was an alcoholic (about 1.5%) version, sold in reusable bottles.
Kombucha Town brewers typically come from the culinary world, and many got their start at local breweries—which makes total sense, given the overlap between brewing beer and kombucha.
The two alcoholic offerings are now Signature, made with black tea, and Gold, brewed with black tea and blended with house-brewed ginger ale. Most of their production is non-alcoholic and sold in cans. Current capacity is about 2,000 12-pack cases per month, but by the end of the year, that will increase to between 5,000 and 10,000 cases. Flavors include Gold Light, Blueberry White, Guayusa Mint, Lavender and Green Jasmine. A hopped kombucha is next on the list, and I can’t wait to try it.
Deciding that a food venue was the best way to sell the company’s products, Chris opened the Culture Cafe, a full bar and restaurant with a 100-person capacity. “It’s a great way for the community to get together, plus we’re doing private events, live music, karaoke and game nights, too,” said Chris.
In the bar, the specialty cocktails include The Herald, the Cucumber Refresher, the Kentucky Mule, The Morning After and The Workhorse. Most include a variety of kombucha, and all are made with Washington-made spirits. On tap, you’ll always find seven or eight kombuchas, as well as several craft beers and ciders. They also serve a house-made ginger beer. Weekly events include game night on Wednesdays and karaoke on Thursdays. An outdoor patio will soon be open, expanding seating capacity by about 20.
Chris’s lofty future plans include a second, larger brewery in San Diego. Why SD? Because California consumes two-thirds of the kombucha produced and sold in North America. Also in the works: a documentary that will tell the story of how Kombucha originated in Mongolia around 2,000 BC, and other interesting tidbits, such as how it contributed to Russian soldiers’ vitality during World War II.
The Culture Café features beautiful salads, soups, crostini, tacos, ceviche, pickled veggies and paninis. No red meat is served, and vegan and gluten-free options are available.
For now, Kombucha Town cans are sold in restaurants, retailers, grocery stores and coffee shops throughout the region–but it’s possible that the born-in-Bellingham brand could soon take over the world!
About the Author: Teresa Schmidt
Teresa Schmidt, a copywriter who owns and operates Sprout Creative, comes from a long line of brewers, bootleggers and saloonkeepers. She moved to Bellingham 13 years ago to write, hike, ski and paddle—but it was the beer that really sold her. She also loves wine. And cocktails. And good food. To work it all off, she runs around in the woods at every opportunity.