Senior Patrick Prom started making his own kombucha during Winter Term of his junior year after rediscovering his love for the homemade beverage, which he feels is better tasting than what is available in stores. He wanted to find an alternative for soda that was similar enough to substitute, and found homemade kombucha to be just as good, but also cheaper and healthier.
When making it himself, Prom has much more control over the taste and substance of the drink. He knows exactly what he is putting into each batch of kombucha, and can choose how sweet he wants to make it by varying the fermentation time and adding different flavors, such as fruit.
Kombucha also has health benefits, according to Prom. It benefits the digestive system because it has probiotics that provide bacteria that helps the system, which is similar to the health benefits of yogurt.
Prom buys black tea in bulk and uses organic cane sugar for the fermentation process. He fills the fermentation vessels with black tea and adds the correct amount of cane sugar depending on the amount of tea in the vessels. He then mixes the tea and sugar and adds SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to the mixture, which acts as the means of fermentation.
He noted that it’s important to use a jug with a wide mouth, so that he can later remove the SCOBY if it gets too big or if it gets contaminated. After a few hours, the mixture increases in acidity, which prevents the formation of mold. Prom noted that the length of time it takes to complete the process is subjective, depending on factors such as the size of the container, the temperature and his personal preference.
While Prom consistently produces his kombucha every two to three weeks, he doesn’t have consistent sales. He mentioned that he has a few people who buy from him regularly, but otherwise it differs from week to week. Despite the inconsistency of the profit he makes from selling, he continues to produce the beverage regularly for his own personal benefit.
“I don’t think that it’s something I can just stop. I’m used to it. I’ve gotten a year and a half of experience doing this,” Prom said. “And it’s something that I really think helps me. It eases my stress and it’s healthy for me to do.”
While he doesn’t drink his own kombucha as much anymore, he discovered a drink similar to kombucha called Jun Tea, that he now prefers. He described it as much lighter and more effervescent than the kombucha he drinks, and added that it’s more suited to make use of green tea and honey, as opposed to black tea and sugar.
“It takes a lot less time to ferment. People describe it as the champagne of kombucha,” Prom said.
Prom added that since discovering Jun Tea, he has shifted away from making kombucha for his own consumption and instead makes it with the intention of selling it. He noted that he experimented with different fruit flavors, but stopped selling flavored kombucha due to a lack of predictability. Some of the flavors he made in the past are pomegranate, strawberry, blueberry and apple.
“If I made 16 containers and four flavors, everybody would want one of the flavors and none of the others. I would have a bunch left over that nobody wanted. That’s why I stopped doing the flavored kombucha because more often than not I would have to end up drinking it. But then that’s lost profit,” he said.
Prom plans to continue making his own kombucha, but doesn’t have any plans to expand his space or the equipment he uses for production. He hopes to network with people in his hometown with the intention of selling it around his neighborhood. He also mentioned plans to use the profit he makes from selling kombucha to make a trip back home to Oregon after his mom and grandmother attend his graduation.
“I want to spread the word about homemade kombucha and the difference it has to store-bought kombucha. I feel like they’re completely different even though one of them is just kombucha that has continued to ferment for a longer period of time,” Prom said.