JARR Kombucha—Brewer Q&A

Based in: London, England
Founded: 2015
Distribution: London and surrounding

We were thrilled to recently get our hands on JARR Kombucha, which is located in Hackney Wick, a 19th century East London industrial community-turned thriving artistic and creative hub. JARR was co-founded by a Californian named Adam Vanni, who took a leap of faith and moved to London 2 years ago to start a kombucha brand with his beer-brewing friends.  The leap paid off, and now Jarr is perhaps the most recognized kombucha brand in all of the U.K. They sell their booch in these adorable 8oz bottles (along with traditional 16oz ones), and use a 50/50 blend of Sencha and Oolong. It’s super tasty—the Ginger is delightfully robust and crisp. Read on for our fascinating Q&A with Adam, in which he shares some invaluable words of wisdom for the aspiring commercial booch brewer!

Kombucha Hunter: What is the significance behind the name Jarr?
Adam Vanni:
We’re in the business of shaking things up, sometimes shocking people out of their commonly held assumptions of what a fizzy drink should taste like. We initially chose the name JARR based on the word jarring and its connotation. I think kombucha by nature is often polarizing at first, but we chose to embrace its signature vinegary bite rather than mask it with excess water and sugar. Secondly, the life of our booch began in a small jar as it does for all brewers, so it’s a reference to its origins.

KH: Did you start brewing kombucha when you were still in the States or did you start when you moved to London? And what brought you to London?
Back in early 2015 my best friends (who own and operate a craft beer brewery in London) were traveling from New Zealand back to London with a stopover in Los Angeles. They had just been introduced to kombucha while visiting Melbourne and were equally as obsessed as me. In L.A. we sampled every flavor and brand imaginable and at the end of their trip it was jokingly suggested that I move over to London and we start a kombucha brewery together. After they left, I learned to brew; I think we all recognized an opportunity to introduce this amazing drink to the UK market so I took a leap of faith and booked a one way flight. Six months later, we opened the first kombucha taproom in Europe and six months after that we launched our first batch of bottled booch in Harrods.

KH: How did you find the regulations in the UK? Was it a difficult process to get all the necessary licenses, especially since you were setting the precedent in the U.K.?
Adam: When we opened in 2015, kombucha was a complete unknown in the UK. Local authorities and government regulatory bodies had zero awareness of it.   Luckily we had an understanding of the beer production world and running bars and could transfer a lot of the skills and implement licensing regulations across. The US has really paved the way for the booch industry though. It really has been a case of learn as you go, and along with other breweries across Europe, we’ve paving the way.

KH: What can people expect when they visit the Jarr Bar?
Our microbrewery, offices and taproom are located in Hackney Wick, a 19th century East London industrial community-turned thriving artistic and creative hub. JARR Bar is located on the bottom floor within Mick’s Garage, an old car garage turned multi-use space, with our offices located just above, inside the conversion of an old swingers club called Fun Times! The space is large enough to host all types of gatherings; from local markets to late night dance parties with food trucks often outside on weekends. We offer kombucha on draft in our three flavors (Original, Ginger and Passion Fruit) as an alternative to alcohol and in custom designed kombucha cocktails as well as craft beer.

The Jarr Bar features several flavors of booch on draft. Photo by Adam Vanni.

The Jarr Bar features several flavors of booch on draft. Photo by Adam Vanni.

KH: When you first started brewing, what was the kombucha scene in London like and how has it grown since then?
When we started brewing, there were only a couple of other brands on the market; in the past two years, we’ve seen the industry grow like crazy, with microbreweries popping up across the country. One of our goals from the beginning was to lead the charge towards making kombucha a part of the mainstream consciousness in the UK and I think we’re well on our way!

KH: Tell us about the teas you use for the base, and why?
We use a 50/50 blend of organic Sri Lankan grown Sencha and organic Taiwanese Oolong. We were introduced to the owner of an incredible organic, biodynamic, carbon-neutral and fair-trade plantation in the Uva Provence of Sri Lanka and found their Sencha to be the perfect base for our brew. After a while we decided that we craved a bit more body and mouth feel, so we spent a few months sourcing some beautiful Oolong from a single micro-estate in the Nantou Provence of Taiwan, just outside of Taipei.

KH: What advice would you give to a home brewer who is thinking of going commercial, whether in the U.K. or the States?
Be patient, scaling up doesn’t happen overnight. Its a slow and nurturing process for the scobys. Surround yourself with the right people, people who inspire and encourage you to be bold. Find or create some aspect of the process that sets you apart and makes you unique. Also, you better love vinegar because you’re clothes are going to smell like it for the rest of your life!

Stacy Gueraseva