You see it on the shelf in more and more grocery stores. It seems maybe yoga-related? Something to do with fermentation, maybe? Kombucha is an increasingly popular drink that’s crossed into the mainstream from its crunchy origins. Now, New Orleans has its own kombucha brewery, Big Easy Bucha, in a bright, wide-open space at 4040 Euphrosine St. in Mid-City.
The brewery is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday — try products, fill growlers, purchase bottles, and learn about the kombucha-making process while you’re there. After all, says co-founder Austin Sherman, “We want to be the Abita of kombucha.”
Sherman and his partner Alexis Korman began their business in 2014, using a local shared commercial kitchen before moving into their own large space. Sherman is a former bartender, and Korman is a writer and kombucha lover. They realized that there weren’t any other kombucha breweries in the region and got to work. Big Easy Bucha is the first (and only, so far) commercial kombucha brand in the state of Louisiana.
But what, exactly, is kombucha?
At the heart of it, kombucha is a fermented, sweet tea. The tea is mixed with organic sugar, and then a variety of yeasts are set upon it to eat the sugars, leaving behind carbonation and healthy bacteria. If that sounds a lot like brewing beer, it is — however, the open fermentation tanks allow oxygen to interact with the chemical changes, which converts the alcohol byproduct into organic acids. (This is a simplified explanation of the process, but basically… science!) As a result, kombucha is a tart, refreshing beverage with only trace amounts of alcohol.
It can also be an acquired taste, albeit a healthy one. The probiotic active cultures present in kombucha aid in digestion, boosts immunity, and some say it improves liver function, sleep patterns, and promotes detoxification. It’s low-calorie and low-sugar, making it a healthier alternative to juice and soda.
Sherman and Korman spent a year experimenting to settle on the perfect tea blend of green, white, and black tea leaves for their kombucha base. To create the fruit-flavored final product, they use local ingredients like strawberries, mayhaw berries, blueberries, honeysuckle, satsuma, and other citrus. They work with local farmers and foragers to find the perfect flavoring ingredients and steep the finished kombucha tea with the fruit and herbs; it’s infused, not blended into the mix, which cuts back on the amount of sugar ingested by consumers.
Big Easy Bucha’s natural fruit flavors are infused, not blended into the mix, which cuts back on the amount of sugar ingested by consumers.
Packaged bottles and growlers are available throughout the Gulf Coast in grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants; specifically, you can find it at Rouses, Breaux Mart, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Fairgrinds Coffeehouse, St. Roch Market, Stein’s Deli, and all Louisiana locations of PJ’s Coffee, as well as Whole Foods, New Orleans Food Co-Op, and Good Karma Cafe.
Big Easy Bucha also supplies roughly a dozen taps around the region with about 100 kegs a month, so there are places where it’s available on draft, like at NOLA Brewing Company, which has a designated tap for one of Big Easy Bucha’s products.
Both Korman and Sherman are dedicated to an all-around approach to health and wellness that extends beyond the touted benefits of kombucha. The two support the local economy by working with local farmers and vendors as often as possible, and they give back a portion of their profits to charities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Grow Dat Youth Farm. The brewery also regularly hosts yoga and fitness classes.
On Jan. 30, Big Easy Bucha holds its largest event, free and open to the public, called “Geaux Vegan, Get Fit!” In addition to a wide variety of vegan foods and kombucha available for purchase, the night also includes barre and pilates classes, a DJ, giveaways, and donation opportunities for the Humane Society of Louisiana. Check out the event registration page for more information.