May 18, 2015
by Char Nolan
on April 9, 2014
Meet Inspired Brews, Philly’s Newest Small-Batch Kombucha Purveyor
Kombucha is an interesting beverage, to say the least, but a few years ago, I’d never even heard of the stuff. Kombucha is an age-old elixir made from fermenting sweet tea with a “unique culture.”
Some time ago, I was at a meeting where all of the attendees were sipping on this intriguing beverage. Wanting to be hep and cool, I decided to take a few swigs…but after one hearty sip, my tongue stopped in its tracks because I thought I was drinking salad dressing. It wasn’t enjoyable.
With many brands in the coolers of local grocery stores, recently, my interest piqued. I started to notice a brand called Inspired Brews, as I was attracted to this product’s beautiful bottles, artistic labels, and the fact that this brew was a pretty, clear pastel color. After sampling it, I was even more attracted to its mild, fruity flavors. And no, it did not taste like salad dressing.
If your interest about kombucha has been similarly piqued, here are some specific questions with responses from Jessa Stevens, who is the face behind “Inspired Brews,” a local kombucha company. We recently met in Center City when we were grabbing some juice for an afternoon pick-me-up.
The Town Dish: What is kombucha made of?
Jessa Stevens: We brew our kombucha in glass barrels, using organic black and green teas and organic cane sugar. Once it is lightly carbonated and pleasantly tart, the kombucha is bottled for a second fermentation along with selected fresh raw juices or purees, herbs, and spices.
What is a “SCOBY?”
“SCOBY” refers to the culture which is made up of a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”—the acronym for it is SCOBY. It is like “starter.”
How did you get started making kombucha?
When I fell in love with kombucha’s taste and benefits I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman, Jennifer Snow, who was brewing it on her counter. I walked into her kitchen and whispered to my husband, “I think it’s kombucha!!” I was so excited. I always wanted to learn, but didn’t know where to start. She was so glad I was interested, gave me a culture, and taught me how to brew. That was two years ago and I’ve been brewing ever since. Jennifer had an amazing vision for a kombucha company and we decided to go for it, starting Inspired Brews.
How long does it take to “brew” a batch?
One batch of kombucha typically takes about a week to brew. There are two stages of the fermentation process. Initially the brew ferments for about five days with the unique culture aerobically (covered with a linen). The second fermentation lasts one to two days in swing top bottles (anaerobically) soaking up our fresh raw flavorings. The temperature of the brewing area will change the brewing time though, so if it’s warmer than 72 degrees, the total brew time will be faster.
How does Inspired Brews vary from other kombucha companies?
We’re doing everything on a very small scale, which means small brewing vessels, small secondary fermentation jugs, small amounts of fruit juice, and hand-filtering, bottling and labeling. We necessarily use glass bottles because kombucha can leach toxins from plastic vessels. Our kombucha is more of a hand-crafted brew. We are inspired by local, seasonal fruits and create fun flavor combinations that you won’t find with other brands. We want the people who choose our kombucha to feel and taste a difference and to have a new experience when they drink our unique and high-quality “booch.”
What would you say to someone who’s never tried kombucha?
Kombucha is tart, flavorful, and refreshing. Its acidic component balances and brightens up a range of flavors, including fruits that might be too sweet on their own (i.e. banana). That said, it is an acquired taste for some. Personally, we have grown accustomed to the vinegar component in the flavor and have come to crave it daily.
Jessa is passionate about her brewing prowess and wants everyone to sample her delicious brew. It is available in amazing flavors like banana-cardamom, pear amandine, strawberries and cream, orange-honey-hibiscus, original, and pear-herbamate. Locally, you can find it at Burlap and Bean in Newtown Square (Route 252).
If you’re headed to your local grocer, places like Whole Foods Market, Mom’s Organic Market, Giant Stores and Kimberton Whole Foods carry wide varieties of kombucha. Personally, I’d start with the more “mild” brands like Inspired Brews, or the newest arrivals from Celestial Seasonings, which are fruity and mild.
For more info about Inspired Brews, contact Jessa via Inspired Brews Facebook.
Or, meet me at Burlap and Bean and we can share a bottle of Inspired Brews and talk about spring’s arrival.