The Dish: Q-and-A with Luluna Kombucha
We talked with Luluna Kombucha owner and co-founder, Lucy Kreger, about the fermented tea and its probiotic benefits.
We talked with Luluna Kombucha owner and co-founder, Lucy Kreger, about the fermented tea and its probiotic benefits. The local effervescent drink can be found at fill stations or on tap throughout the state at participating locations.
What exactly is kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented tea, a probiotic beverage that is naturally effervescent. We flavor it with fresh fruit and herbs gathered from around New England to mix in different flavors.
How is kombucha made?
Since kombucha is a fermented beverage, there are a few different steps involved to make it. First, we brew tea, and then, since there is a symbiotic culture of bacteria in yeast, we let that ferment. In this process, it eats the sugar and the sweet tea. We ferment ours for about three weeks, so it is quite a long process. From there, we add in the fresh fruit and herbs to give it a second fermentation. It will continue to eat the sugar from the fruit or whatever is added, which continues to reduce the sugar content as well as the caffeine content.
It seems like making kombucha is a fairly detailed process. How long does it take to complete just one batch?
We do our batches in small quantities and we do the first fermentation for three weeks. The second fermentation varies according to what ingredients are in there. Let’s say we include sweet fruit such as strawberries; the second fermentation doesn’t need to last too long because the sugars are eaten up quite quickly. So, it really all depends on the flavor, but we do small batches in one-gallon glass jars. We are really proud of this because it is not necessarily the easiest way to brew kombucha, but it is the right way. You have the best control over the batch and that is the authentic way to brew kombucha as well.
So, it is like the process of making beer?
A little bit, yes, depending on the flavor of beer. I compare it to how you make sourdough. When you make sourdough bread, you always have the starter, so you are keeping this part of the culture to use for future batches. It is the same system with kombucha, where you use the liquid in this sense to brew future batches. Anything fermented takes time and making sure the flavor is right, so there are many different factors that are involved. But yes, it can be linked to multiple beverages, including beer.
Is kombucha healthy? Does it reap any health benefits?
It is typically consumed for its probiotic benefits. I have also heard people mention that it helps give them mental clarity, energy and is good for their joints. But, the main reason people reach for kombucha is for the “gut health” aspects, as it is feeding the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Do you offer kombucha in specific sizes or flavors?
There are two different size options including the sixteen-ounce bottle and a thirty-two-ounce growlette. Both of these side options are reusable bottles, so we decided to go that route, which is great. I have a background in renewable energy so steering away from single use bottles has always been a goal of mine. The bottle that you pick up at the fill stations can be used over and over again, and when you reuse it, you can receive discounts on your purchase.
Do flavors rotate based on seasons?
Yes, they highlight what is in season in New England. We currently have a seasonal flavor called Red Hot, which includes local cranberries, dried scotch-bonnet peppers, jalapeños and this beautiful, baked leafy green tea from Warren. This flavor has some heat to it, so it appeals to those who look for a spicy variety of kombucha. Our previous seasonal was Pear Jasmine, which included pears from Apex Orchards, and jasmine green tea for a soft floral taste. We rotate the flavors every few months or so to highlight what you can find for that time of year in New England.
How did you get into the business of making kombucha?
I drink kombucha all the time. I know that a lot of companies start at home, so I started home brewing and from there, there were requests for batches of kombucha from my sisters and friends. It was a lot of trial and error in the early stages, but I have been brewing for more than five years now. The business started back then because you are formulating the recipe and gathering what people like and don’t like in regards to taste and sourness. We actually started out on Block Island, so we are a South County company that moved to the mainland in December of 2016. We built out our brewery in Pawtucket and jumped full in. The demand was there and people loved the product. Kombucha is typically described with a sour or vinegar-like flavor, but ours has a smoother taste because we use those real fruits and herbs rather than using concentrate. It is great to try different brands to find something that lines up with what you are looking for.
Where does the name Luluna Kombucha come from? Is there a specific meaning behind it?
The Lu in Luluna is from my name, Lucy. The Luna part means moon in Spanish. I am one of five kids and family is a huge part of my life. My sister was traveling around the world and she, of course, was homesick coming from a large family. I would tell her to look at the moon and I would say I’m here in Rhode Island, we are looking at that same moon. From that, she started calling me Luluna and that became my nickname. But really, it encompasses the circle of life and what you value in life.
If I wanted to pick up a bottle of kombucha, where can I find it?
There are quite a few fill stations throughout the state and it is currently on tap at a few bars as well. You can find a list of different locations where you can fill up on our website.