Put away the teapot and start your new year with one of the latest trends— home-brewed kombucha.
The popular fermented drink made from tea, hot water, sugar and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (scoby) is now brewed at home by many kombucha lovers. Despite it being sold at the local grocery store, the trend has become more popular due to its health benefits and the ability to save you a few extra bucks.
“The primary benefit of making it at home is that it saves you money,” said Jodine Penev, co-founder of Fine Feathers Kombucha, Co., a tea company in Long Beach. “People’ll say it’s so expensive and difficult on the pocket....but it’s because it takes a lot to make it.”
Her husband and co-founder, Jay Penev, teaches the workshops held at the Fine Feathers Kombucha store on Long Beach Boulevard. Classes are typically one-and-a-half to two hours and include everything needed to start your first batch from scratch: a one-gallon glass jar with scoby and starter liquid, sugar, tea and the recipe. On the other hand, Jodine teaches about the flavoring.
Over the years, they think of new ways to break down and simplify the workshops so attendees get the most of it. By taking a workshop before diving into homebrewing, people can learn the basics and get any questions answered rather than relying on an online tutorial.
“Ever since the beginning, [our workshops] have sold out,” Jodine said. “We keep them pretty small, under 20 people a class, but we always have a waiting list, and I’ve noticed that more and more people want to do this.”
It’s the people who drink it who want to make it, just like Jodine and Jay when they started Fine Feathers Kombucha, Co.
“We really loved teas and I think it really evolved from that,” Jay said. “Once you get in the process of that, it’s like creating anything.”
Both with do-it-yourself mentalities, they began to experiment at their past home in Portland. However, when they moved to Long Beach, Jodine’s hometown, they started selling it to friends and noticed there was not much of a kombucha market in Long Beach.
“So we just started taking those baby steps, putting a little money here and there, before working at a professional kitchen for about a year,” Jodine said. “It was a shared kitchen space with too many people coming in and out.”
Because it needed to be fermented in a secure temperature-controlled setting, they realized they needed their own place. Although it was never intended to be retail and played it by ear, the company grew organically through baby steps.
“It was very organic, just like the kombucha-making process,” Jodine said.
Kombucha is a natural probiotic that helps aid in digestion, which is another reason for its popularity and homebrewing trend.
“As far as the benefits go, the primary one is digestion,” Jay said. “It improves and optimizes digestion for people. The secondary is increased immune function. If your immune system is stronger, you’re more resilient to colds and so on.”
He mentions it is something not only Jodine and he experienced personally, but many customers always point out they do not get sick often.
When they first started the company back in 2012, Jodine recalls her voice going hoarse from explaining what kombucha is over and over at events.
“I feel like we don’t really need to do that now,” she said. “Occasionally, someone will come in or you’ll meet someone. But usually they’ve heard of it by now and it’s definitely more mainstream than it's ever been in existence.”
Individuals from all over the world like Czech Republic, France and Brazil stop by the store. Some visit with the intention of wanting to explore the option of opening a kombucha company in their own country.