If you think you don’t like kombucha, that might not be a deal breaker — Renee and Emmett Love of Love’s Kombucha have heard it before.
When the Moscow couple started selling their home-brewed kombucha at the Moscow Farmers Market last May, people stopping by regularly expressed that very sentiment. When given Love’s local variation to try, the response was often the same:
“ ‘Oh, that was not what I was expecting,’ is what they’d say,” Renee said.
Compared to what’s generally available commercially in a bottle or on tap, Love’s Kombucha tastes different because it is different.
“What sets us apart is that we don’t add any juices or flavorings after it’s brewed,” Renee said. “It’s a super simple brew.”
Kombucha is made from fermenting sweetened black tea with a scoby, the acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” The time it takes to create the drink varies based on the variety. Once the optimal flavor is reached, most producers add extra juices or flavorings to the final carbonated product.
Of course, those who buy Love’s product are welcome to do so on their own, if they choose, but it’s not available for purchase in that form. Serving it this way showcases the flavors of the brew.
“When you add the juice it hides the taste of raw kombucha, which is delicious by itself,” Renee said.
The tea blends used by the Loves contain various herbs and spices and their individual flavors are altered somewhat during the fermentation process. For example, fermenting brings out the bergamot flavor already present in jasmine green tea that isn’t always distinct in a freshly brewed cup of hot tea.
Renee and Emmett were living in Houston several years ago when Renee tried kombucha for the first time. She brought some home and Emmett got into it too. They started brewing their own, sharing with friends and then trading it for various other items, like fresh eggs or Russian chocolate.
“It’s just a fun, special drink,” said Renee, who describes herself as a sit-and-sipper, while her husband tends to be a chugger.
After moving to Moscow a couple years ago, the couple started a market garden in their backyard and added kombucha to their booth at the Moscow Farmers Market. Eventually the kombucha sales took over.
The Loves worked with a health inspector and built their own commerical brewing kitchen to ensure the product meets health and safety requirements. Most brews take a couple weeks to ferment. The Loves taste and test as it progresses. It’s something they do on the side; Renee works as adjunct faculty and an instructor at the University of Idaho and Emmett is a contractor.
Love’s Kombucha doesn’t have a storefront, but the couple opened their first tap when Palouse Juice opened in January. They’ve since added taps in Moscow at Huckleberry’s Natural Market, Moscow Food Co-op and Tapped; and in Pullman at Daily Grind Espresso and Dissmores IGA. They also have taps in Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Richland and Dayton and continue sell at the Moscow Farmers Market.
“We didn’t realize how popular and how big it would get in a short time,” Renee said.
Kombucha has become a popular drink, but it is not a new one. It’s roots can be traced to China more than 2000 years ago, Renee said. It’s often touted as a health food for various reasons. The drink contains probiotics which can help with digestion, something Renee has noticed for herself. And because the carbonated beverage is lower in calories than soda, she said, some people use it as a replacement, which can lead to weight loss.
Besides probiotics, the drink contains B vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids, Renee said. She believes this combination contributes to the energy boost she often feels after drinking kombucha. The Loves hear their share of miracle stories about the drink, but don’t sell the product as such.
The brew contains caffeine and sugar, a good portion of which is digested during the fermentation process, Renee said. And yes, the brew contains alcohol, but all commercially sold kombucha has to be below .5 percent and is considered non-alcoholic. Love’s Kombucha tests at .25 percent alcohol, Renee added, and is retested every six months in effort to maintain that level.
Given it’s popularity, some have asked Renee if she thinks it’s something that’ll die out.
“The way people are using it, I don’t see it as a trend but as a lifestyle thing,” Renee said.