Mandy Warren learned to brew kombucha — a fermented tea drink believed to have originated in China and touted for its health properties — years ago and used to make it for family and friends when they would come over. People loved the healthy drink and some said they would buy it if it were commercially available.
Warren, a chiropractor, had been working part time in practice with her husband, Denny, since their children, Jude and Rae, were born, and she started brewing the kombucha commercially and selling it in the office and elsewhere about a year ago, she says.
JR’s Kombucha gets its name from the kids’ initials, and Warren said she joked that the business “would be their college fund.”
Access to the innovation kitchen at the University of Arkansas has made it possible for her to brew and bottle the drink.
“It’s nice to have access to that facility, to use the big equipment,” she said, noting that it’s all FDA approved.
What is Kombucha?
Let’s get the basics out the way first. Kombucha is a fermented tea product made with yeast, sweetener and, in the case of JR’s Kombucha, flavorings. Grape, apple, pineapple and cherry are regularly available, as well as a seasonal offering (which right now is apple cider).
Warren says the base of her drink is sweat tea made with reverse osmosis water, organic sugar and black tea, to which the kombucha culture is added.
The culture goes by several names, including the acronym SCOBY, which means symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It can also be called the mushroom or the mother.
Sometimes a little mother finds its way into the bottles, and it’s fine to drink, she says.
“It’s just extra probiotics,” she said, noting that one of her children loves it and the other does not. It’s fine to drink or filter as you like.
Once the mother is added to the mixture, it ferments, then a second fermentation happens when the flavoring (made with organic juice) is added and the product is bottled.
Why Drink it?
The concoction, like all fermented foods, offers probiotics that can help aid in digestion and are good for the immune system.
Warren says they’ve had patients who tried it who reported that it makes a difference in their digestive health.
It’s also sweet, fizzy and refreshing on a hot day, and can be a healthy replacement for soda (she advises drinking only 8 to 16 ounces a day).
I sampled the apple tree flavor and found it to be sparkly and sweet, like the sparkling juice we’d drink on New Year’s Eve before our parents let us have champagne.
The products are available by the bottle at the Warrens’ chiropractic office, Generations Health and Wellness, located in Evelyn Hills Shopping Center in Fayetteville.
The drinks are also sold at the Farmer’s Table, Nomad’s Music Lounge (where it’s used as a mixer) and Hill City Popcorn Co. Warren said her next step is getting the product into local grocery stores.