ARLINGTON – Bring together an exacting Arlington brewmaster and a retired Silicon Valley tech transplant with a shared taste for kombucha, let their idea ferment, and you’ve got something new brewing in Old Town.
GloryBucha, Snohomish County’s first handcrafted kombucha brewery and taproom, opened in downtown Arlington in January, offering customers a flavor-infused line of the fizzy, fermented tea drink with names like strawberry fields, Marley ginger and berry mix-a-lot.
The billion dollar kombucha industry has boomed over the past decade as a low-sugar, low-carb healthy alternative to soda pop and alcoholic beverages.
Kombucha is the fastest growing beverage market in the U.S. and is projected to grow to a $1.8 billion industry by 2020.
While the product has been on grocery store shelves across the country over that time, kombucha’s popularity has taken hold on the West Coast with a wave of craft bars and brewery openings, just like microbrews, wine and coffee before them.
Co-owner Lowell Profit said he got the bug for kombucha when he was trying to lose weight and cut back on the soda he was over-consuming.
Profit liked the flavor and health benefits so much, he started experimenting with brewing kombucha in his garage in 2014. There were days where he almost gave up but wife Kasie kept him on task. He eventually perfected his own operation by mixing different fruits and spices as the last step in the process.
Initially, he gave away kombucha for free to eager friends and family, and his test market was the Stillaguamish Athletic Club where he worked out, Profit said. He found a welcome customer base, and decided that this might just turn into a business.
Last year, Lowell met Debra Chrapaty, a former tech executive who worked with startup companies, who now lives in Bellevue, and is an avowed kombucha love.
“I was drinking a lot of kombucha because I was drinking wine, and I wasn’t feeling my best, so I decided I was going to change my lifestyle,” she said, getting rid of high-sugar beverages and alcohol.
“I became a fanatic, and started brewing in my kitchen,” Chrapaty said. “Not very good, just enough to make my family hate kombucha.”
Profit hadn’t been brewing for long, but when she tried his product, she was floored.
“When I tasted his brew, I said ‘let’s do this thing,’” said Chrapaty, and they went into business together.
“I think it’s great that there is something as unique as a first kombucha brewery in Snohomish County here in Arlington,” Larsen said. “It’s something different for the city.”
Kombucha is a 2,000-year-old process of taking tea – black or green tea – adding a little sugar and honey, then fermenting using something called Scoby, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. So you grow, you put mushroom tea on top and you let it ferment. The process consumes a lot of the sugar, and … probiotics.
With her knowledge of building startups, Chrapaty, now a Bellevue resident, teamed with Profit to create a business plan for a kombucha bar in Arlington. They found a large space on Fifth Street in downtown recently vacated by a beer brewery, and Chrapaty asked a marketer and graphic designer in New York to design a logo for GloryBucha.
During a visit to learn more about the new business and brewing process, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. said he was impressed with the startup company’s goals.
Larsen said the business’s location along the Centennial Trail gives cyclists and walker easy access to a first boost of kombucha in the morning to get them going.
Larsen tried several flavors, with Marley Ginger his favorite.