Last Sunday was a cold and sunny day in San Antonio, with a biting wind slicing through the crowds of people and dogs visiting the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers market. Reluctantly pulling myself away from the Humble House Foods booth (that cilantro pesto, though!), I fixed my course toward a colorful booth with psychedelic branding: Buddha’s Brew.
Buddha’s Brew of Austin, purveyor of a craft-brewed fermented tea, or kombucha, sets up shop at the farmers market in New Braunfels on Saturday mornings and the Quarry on Sundays. Their pleasantly sweet, slightly effervescent fermented tea teems with gut-loving probiotics, live microorganisms essential to human nutrition and healthy digestion. At the market, you can buy a bottle to sip (my favorite flavor was ginger) or a small growler to take home.
Kimberly Lanski founded the company back in the fall of 2006 at what is now the Barton Creek Farmers’ Market in south Austin. She joined forces with John-Paxton Gremillion the next summer and built a microbrewery along Williamson Creek in Austin’s Oak Hill neighborhood. Gremillion, a University of Texas-Austin liberal arts/philosophy grad who works in the educational publishing industry, described Lanski’s background: “Kimberly spent many years in a spiritual community meditating and living a holistic lifestyle. [She] came from that experience wanting to offer something special to the world and Buddha’s Brew is that something special.” Today, the Buddha’s Brew team includes 14 people.
The company bottles around 15 flavors of kombucha and produces three to four rotating seasonal varieties by the pint. Both Whole Foods stores in SA, as well as Urth Juice Bar and a few New Braunfels stores, sell the brews. You can also find a special variety of the beverage on tap at Tuk Tuk Tap Room, a “lychee lemongrass flavor that is phenomenal!” according to Gremillion. A full list of retailers is available on their website.
“We use a simple and authentic homebrew approach,” Gremillion said of their process. “The simplest is often the best: brew tea, add kombucha culture, ferment, harvest and bottle.” Buddha’s Brew ferments an organic, fair-trade tea blend in open-top stainless steel wine tanks with large, living SCOBYs (short for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”—yum). They add fresh, organic fruit juices for flavor. “We recently tested our probiotic count and verified that we have four times the probiotics of our nearest competitor,” said Gremillion, “and 10 times that of many other commercial brands.”
As Gremillion said, “[Kombucha] was very new to most people when we started.” While the Buddha’s Brew team has seen an increase in awareness over the years, “a big part of the excitement at farmers markets is introducing it to people for the first time.”