Baltimore's Newest Beverage: Kombucha

Jennifer Waldera

Nestled away in a small room off of a side-street storefront in Hampden, three young, local entrepreneurs are brewing up Baltimore’s newest beverage - and it may not be what you’re thinking.

 

About a year ago, Sergio Malarin paired up with both his step-brother Adam Bufano and best friend Sid Sharma to create a business plan to brew, bottle, and sell kombucha under the name Wild Kombucha. After about a year of hoop-jumping to find a location, get licenses, source products, and refine their process, the trio is now producing the fermented tea at a steadily increasing rate and, in addition to selling to local retailers and restaurants, they’re also making appearances at some of the most popular festivals in the city.

 

Kombucha, a fermented green tea, is said to have originated in China, but its name comes from Japan. Though fermented, the final product has less than .5% alcohol, making it essentially non-alcoholic.

 

The process for making Kombucha is relatively quick (as compared with other fermented products) at only about two weeks time, or less, but requires immense precision to achieve the desired results. To start, green tea, sugar and water are boiled, then cooled and put in glass bubblers where the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) is added for fermentation. Covered with cotton cloths and stored in dark temperature-controlled rooms, the mixture ferments for 10 days and is mixed with flavors and filtered. Finally, the liquid is poured into bottles where secondary fermentation is allowed to occur.

 

But why go through all of this trouble for tea?

 

First, it’s delicious. Wild Kombucha is currently creating two flavors - Ginger Grapefruit and Mango Peach - using vegan, gluten free, natural ingredients. The ginger grapefruit, currently the most popular, has a mild nose and a slight effervescence - it is light, smooth and balanced and lacks any vinegary quality that might be expected from a fermented drink like this one. The mango peach, Malarin says, is geared toward soda drinkers with its sweeter taste and thicker consistency.

 

But beyond the flavor, kombucha is purported to have a wide number of health benefits including improvement of digestion (this is a much tastier way than most to get in those probiotics), cleansing of the liver, and strengthening of the immune system thanks to an abundance of naturally occurring vitamins and acids.

 

When asked what he would suggest using it for, Malarin said it could be enjoyed in the morning instead of coffee for a kick of energy that won’t result in a caffeine crash, or used as a mixer as it was in a spring cocktail at Birroteca earlier this year. We also appreciated his light-hearted first-hand testament to its effectiveness in curing a hangover, as well.

 

Wild Kombucha can be found on the shelves at retailers like OK Natural Food Store, all of the Eddie’s Markets locations, and Luigi’s Italian Deli as well as in restaurants such as One World Cafe, SOBO Cafe and #Foodies (the space to which Wild Kombucha’s brewing facility is attached). Bottles run between $2.37 - $4.00. For a full list of restaurants and retailers carrying Wild Kombucha, visit their website at http://mobtownfermentation.com/.

 

 

 

 

 


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