Buffalo Mountain Kombucha—Brewer Q&A
Based in: Floyd County, VA
Distribution: VA, NC
Named after the highest point of Floyd County in Virginia, Buffalo Mountain Kombucha is the product of a married couple, Cassie and Scott Pierce, two self-proclaimed "food renegades" who sling their "medicinal moonshine" all over Southwest VA and neighboring North Carolina.
The renegade factor is definitely owed, in part, to them brewing their booch with Yerba Mate instead of the traditional black and green teas. They also use local water that flows directly from the Blue Ridge plateau, and is infused with the energy of quartz crystals, which rest deep beneath the layers. The couple, who strongly emphasize community building through their business, also source their ingredients from local farmers and and brew in five-gallon micro-batches at their Kombuchery—the first in Southwest Virginia.
The result is a wonderfully clean, smooth and flavorful brew that tastes uniquely theirs.
Ginger Fizz is true to its name: It's very fizzy! When we opened the bottle, the bubbles kept rising and rising. It's one of the best Ginger brews we've ever tried. It's got honey notes and is really smooth. Hot Lime is superb. You definitely feel the heat in this one, but it's beautifully balanced; there is just enough heat, but not too much. It's clean and smooth with excellent fizz.
We are seriously impressed with this brand, and chatted with founder Cassie about their story and process.
Kombucha Hunter: Tell us why you chose Yerba Mate as your choice of tea base, and how that's made your brewing process different from others'?
Cassie Pierce: Around our community, yerba mate is affectionately known as "yerbs." Yerba Mate's healing properties have been so profound, we practically refer to mate as our personal plant friend. Our first home brews began with all types of teas, bagged Yogi teas, green, black, rooibois, but when we began brewing with yerba mate, we knew we found our jam. The brewing process is no different with yerba mate. We support the Mate Factor in Asheville, NC. The care and intention they take in selecting fair trade, organic fresh yerba mate from Brazil, aligns with our mission to source the cleanest ingredients that we can find for our kombucha.
KH: We love the art on the labels. Can you tell us a bit about who created them?
CP: Scott! Behind the scenes, Scott has always tinkered with art. A decades old sketch book, a talent put on the back burner, Scott's drawing came from his heart, an unrealized passion and a purpose to put it towards. His folk art mandala style drawing of our beloved Buffalo Mountain quickly became the pride of our label. The star on the buffalo's tail represents our community's geographical location in relation to the mountain - right at the base. Our dear friend Julie Lewis took Scott's drawing and created our label. Actually, she's probably clicking away at her computer right now creating our new labels to be released at the new year!
KH: As the first kombuchery in Southwest Virginia, what were some of your challenges in setting up the business? How familiar was the community with kombucha when you started?
CP: We were the first commercial brewers in our neck of the woods. However, we weren't the first brewers in Virginia. Companies like Central VA's Barefoot Bucha paved the way with the Virginia Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and for that we are grateful. Folks around here grow their own food and recognize the benefits of fermentation—they already had crocks on their countertops. When we began selling in stores, we were sharing shelf space with Synergy and High Country Kombucha, both from the west coast. Our community was thrilled to support a local business, especially when their homebrew was left unattended during a busy summer garden season.
KH: Who is the Master Brewer in the partnership, and do your two kids help out too?
CP: Scott is the master of brewing. He takes such pride in his brewing operation and the fermenting mothers. I handle sales and marketing, working from home two days a week, at the kombuchery 1-2 days and hitting the road every other week, I love the variety in my schedule. Running a business with your spouse takes a certain something something, we are never not talking about Buffalo Mountain Kombucha! Our kids are so invested—just by proximity alone: "Dad, who was that phone call from?" "What store is carrying our kombucha?" "My teacher had a bottle of our kombucha at school today"—they are so proud!
KH: What was your background before becoming commercial kombucha brewers?
CP: Prior to 2012, we lived in Greensboro, NC. Scott managed a Sherwin Williams store and I was teaching yoga full-time. It became clear to us around that time that a shift was needed. We had been visiting Floyd on and off for a year and soon heard its beckoning call. We sold our house in the suburbs, quit our jobs, cashed in our 401K and moved to the mountains. After a year of homesteading and dreaming, it was time to take it to the next level. The night after uttering "let's start a kombuchery," we got to work.
KH: Do you plan on staying local or would you love to see your kombucha become available in other parts of the country?
CP: Good question! We are so proud of our kombucha, we want to shout about it from the rooftops! For now, we are invested in small batch brewing, hand packing and self delivering. We personally know all of our customers, we run our own demos and even deliver by coolers now and again. But, we want abundance. Abundance for our family, our employees, our community and beyond. We are dreaming big, leaping high, and manifesting to the moon.