Local Vendor Profiles: Tap Into the Kombucha Craze

Among the unique staples of our Mount Airy store is the Kombucha Kegerator, a tap upstairs in the Bulk Department where shoppers can fill their bottles with an ever-rotating selection of the finest fermented flavors Philadelphia has to offer. Our draft kombucha comes courtesy of Inspired Brews and Food and Ferments, two small businesses dedicated to perfecting the art of fermentation.

Inspired Brews

Joining the growing number fermenters is Inspired Brews, a small-batch kombucha company founded by Jessa Stevens and Jennifer Snow. Inspired Brews traces its roots back to the kombucha concoctions Jennifer created in her kitchen in Dallas, where the two future business partners first met in 2012. “I remember distinctly walking into her kitchen and seeing a vessel filled with an orange fizzy brew,” Jessa recalled. “I whispered to my husband, ‘I think it's kombucha!’ Jennifer sent me home with a SCOBY — the bacteria-yeast colony that makes kombucha what it is — and has been a mentor to me as our friendship grew. We began experimenting with flavor combinations and sharing them with each other.”

Before Inspired Brews, both Jennifer and Jessa had already established themselves as successful professionals, Jennifer as a lawyer and Jessa as graphic designer and founder of the Philadelphia letterpress company Squeeze My Hand. Combining their respective talents and passion for fermentation and healthy food, the two women founded Inspired Brews. “I took on my first product design and absolutely loved it — choosing bottles, colors, logo, and packaging. It all felt really purposeful,” Jessa said. “Inspired Brews became a dream of sharing these flavorful beverages with our friends and community.”

The past two years has seen that community expand from Dallas to Philadelphia, Jessa overseeing the Philly-based branch while Jennifer runs the Texas branch. Inspired Brews recently moved from a shared Center City kitchen to their very own storefront at 263 N. 3rd St. in Old City.

“There are two stages of fermentation for kombucha,” explained Jessa. “The first stage starts with tea, sugar, and a unique culture, or SCOBY. These ingredients all ferment for five to seven days. The second stage is when the flavoring is introduced to the brewed kombucha. The brew can take a total of seven to nine days from start to finish.” Among Jessa’s favorite flavors are Yerba Minte, Salted Watermelon with Honey, and Harvest Matcha, which combines the tastes of Pennsylvania grapes and matcha tea.

Jessa and Jennifer have big plans for their new storefront. “We will have kombucha on draft with current flavors, as well as a kombucha membership program where subscribers can fill up growlers. Eventually we will offer some grab-and-go food items from other small businesses that we love. We also plan to use the space as a venue for events and workshops that we hope will nourish the community.

“We are grateful to be in such a beautiful space, and we hope our fellow kombucha-lovers will enjoy stopping by frequently for tastes and neighborly conversation.”

Food and Ferments

Carly and Dave Dougherty are the founders of Food and Ferments, one of the first Philadelphia-based businesses to offer naturally fermented food and drinks. Foodies from birth, both Carly and Dave have spent their lives working in the food world in one way or another: The couple met while working at A Full Plate, a now-closed BYO in Northern Liberties, and soon after discovered their love of fermentation together. After experimenting in their apartment, Carly and Dave decided to enhance their fermentation skills by undergoing formal training in 2012.

“We decided to go to California, where we spent a few months at a culinary program,” Carly said. “Learning fermentation was one of the components of that program, and we came back knowing how we wanted to proceed.”

What followed was the creation of Food and Ferments, now a rapidly expanding business that provides eclectic brews of teas, spices and herbs to grateful kombucha enthusiasts. Flavors such as blueberry lavender, ginger lime and spiced apple are carefully crafted by Dave, who Carly calls a born mixologist.

“Dave is the one who does the brewing,” she said. “With our kombucha, it usually takes anywhere from one to four weeks, and keeping a steady temperature is important. We do a blend of black and green organic teas, which are infused with spices and herbs once the fermentation process is complete. Then we keg it and bring it to you guys.”

After a successful start in Philadelphia, Food and Ferments relocated to Carly’s organic family farm in Truxton, NY, last year. The Doughertys now sell their products from upstate New York down to Philadelphia, spreading their love of fermentation to fellow foodies everywhere.

“We’re planning to continue to grow our connections with local farmers, hone our fermentation and business skills, and introduce the soul warming/cold fighting Fireside Tonic,” said Carly. The new drink from Food and Ferments will be made with organic apple cider vinegar, local horseradish, jalapeños, and raw honey, amongst other ingredients, and Weavers Way hopes to bring this tonic into stores this winter.

“This is something that we love to do,” she said. “We love making something we feel really good about.”

Though the health benefits of drinking kombucha have been subject to debate, both Carly and Jessa maintain it offers several health benefits. “Kombucha contains profuse amounts of beneficial bacteria and powerful antioxidants, which help in shielding the body from oxidative damage,” Carly explained. “It’s also high in enzymes and organic acids, significantly lower in sugar than soda alternatives and chock-full of probiotics and B vitamins.”

— Nikolai Fomich, Weavers Way Chestnut Hill Grocery Staff