Winter Market Spotlight: The story behind Cru Kombucha
Cru Kombucha started with Red Bull. Zachary Twombly noticed that his friend, Christian Alber, was drinking a lot of the energy drink. Knowing how that can mess with your stomach, Twombly introduced Alber to the beloved probiotic, kombucha.
The two both like to try new things in the kitchen, so it didn’t take too long for them to try brewing the fermented favorite themselves. It took some experimenting, but soon Alber and Twombly had some kombucha for their friends to try.
That use of friend guinea pigs eventually snowballed into Cru Kombucha. Now they sell their tea at farmers’ markets, in coffee shops, and at Zest Kitchen. They offer eight flavors including mint lime, blackberry pear and, of course, Sencha. They also have seasonal flavors like blood orange cranberry in the winter and strawberry rhubarb in the summer.
This is their fourth market season and Twombly and Alber are now well-known to the market shoppers. They spend their Saturdays selling kombucha and making sure their customers know that they care about their product. After all, they take a lot of pride in the time and energy they put into their kombucha.
And it does take time and energy. Twombly and Alber cold-press their juices themselves. Cold-pressing takes more time and produces less juice. But it helps keep nutrients that the heat from normal presses cooks away.
Cru does their best to use local and seasonal ingredients when available. They like to be able to tell their customers exactly which farms they get their produce from. There is even a customer who brings them a big basket of rhubarb every summer.
Alber and Twombly have always done things a little out of the ordinary. At Cru’s first farmers’ market, three years ago, they stood out in the crowd. Unlike the other stands, they didn’t have a sign or even labels on their bottles. Yet people were drawn to their booth. They sold out that day. They have continued to sell out at almost every market. Though now they are easier to identify with their sign and label.
They also don’t do bottling as much as the other brewers around. They are available at a few places, Sugar House Coffee for example, but only on tap. It keeps the company’s growth under control. Growing slowly helps Alber and Twombly make sure that their kombucha keeps its handcrafted quality.
Twombly and Alber credit Cru’s success not just to the quality of the kombucha, but also to recognizability. Having a steady presence at the Winter Farmers’ Market and the Pioneer Park Farmers’ Market means that people know to look for them. Their customers seem to like seeing the familiar faces of the “Kombucha Bros.” Twombly says it’s like going to your favorite café, “you go because you like the people.”
When asked what their favorite flavor of their kombucha is, the pair laugh. “That’s like asking ‘Who is your favorite child?’” Alber says. Twombly adds, “If we kept picking only one flavor, we’d probably be doing something wrong.”
Katherine Rogers is a senior Communications major at the University of Utah. She is pretty much always in the mood for some mint lime kombucha.