Natalie's Craft Kombucha—Brewer Q&A
Based in: Bloomsburg, PA
Distribution: Pennsylvania, NYC and online
File this under: One of the very best kombucha brands we've ever tried. It’s hard to believe that Natalie’s Craft Kombucha has been on the market for less than two years, because it is so refined and well-crafted, and we are as impressed by the brews as we are by the brewer herself. Read on for a profile of this wonderful brand and a detailed Q&A with founder Natalie Lynn.
The flavors nothing short of magical. Mango Peach is subtle, but it’s there, just caressing your palate. You can smell the tangle of the fruits when you open the jar, and then…absolutely perfect fizz. The bubbles just kept rising and rising, like a beautiful reverse waterfall. It's a gorgeous, breezy drink. The Lavender Rose has a soft, floral flavor with citrusy notes. Rose is an ingredient that appears in another one of Natalie's brews, which makes us happy, because we love rose in kombucha. Rose Berry has actual rose right in the jar! How cool—and romantic—is that? This particular rose is called Earth Song, and it has a delicate flavor that marries well with others, including ginger, which this brew also contains.
Floral Blues (below) was one Natalie's seasonal flavors, and this particular batch contains: calendula, borage, pansies, lemon verbena, lychees, lavender, rose, lilies and currants. What an amazing list, right? All of these ingredients combine to yield a very soft, silky kombucha with delicate citrus and lavender notes, with an herbal/floral accent that makes it such a satisfying booch to sip on during the summer. Apart from the lychees, all of the ingredients come from Gib’s Farm, which is located within a mile of Natalie’s brewery in Northeastern PA, and which is the source for so many of the blooms, roots, veggies and herbs that Natalie uses in her brews.
Natalie Lynn is the creator and brewer of Natalie's Craft Kombucha. She began brewing at home in 2013, after she scored an extra scoby with starter liquid from a friend. Within a month, she was making five gallons, and friends started meeting her at a gas station on the way to work to get some of her kombucha.
In 2015, she took her kombucha to a local health food store, which gave her two rows for two of her flavors. Within a day, they sold out completely. Today, Natalie brews 12 regular flavors, with some rotating seasonal ones.
Natalie is endlessly experimenting with different flavor combinations, and her close relationships with local farms helps her get the freshest herbs and produce. In fact, the experimenting started all the way back in childhood. “I was always mixing things together as a kid,” she recalls. “And had a definite fascination with digestion. I wouldn't eat anything unless someone gave me a firm answer, ‘This is easy to digest.’” Seems like kombucha was always her destiny.
We chatted with Natalie about her journey as a kombucha brewer and how she has grown her brand in just a couple of years.
Kombucha Hunter: Do you think there was anything in your past experiences that kind of predisposed you to becoming a kombucha entrepreneur?
Natalie Lynn: I can look back at my life and see so many things that come together and make all of this make so much sense. My love for science at a young age (and endless experiments) mixed with growing up in an entrepreneurial family definitely impacted me a lot. I really always loved mixing things together to see what would happen or grow, and once I put two and two together in terms of food=belly aches or belly "happies," my interest in digestion was the next to really take hold. It's crazy to think at four years old I had already become interested in what would ultimately become my career!
KH: How many batches of home brews would you say it took before you felt like you had created something special?
NL: I have to be honest here, I was pretty obsessed with the first batch I ever made. It definitely wasn't what it is now, and certainly needed some tweaking, but the excitement that I still feel was there in that first brew. It felt destined, sour as it may have been, and I knew that I wouldn't wait until I got it right where I wanted it to be. Part of what makes kombucha so fun for me is that it's this amazing process that involves you heavily, and also doesn't. It's a two part deal. I knew that if I could step up to the plate on my end, the kombucha would too... and we've been together happy ever since.
KH: Who were your earliest taste-testers?
NL: My earliest taste tester was my Mom, and she was so amazing about it. She watched my very first batch grow, since I started at her house (thanks, Mom!) and had some questions, but wasn't reluctant and helped me flavor and brainstorm so many times. After that, I was the lady driving around with kombucha everywhere I went. My sister's, my Dad, my stepdad and friends... Everyone was getting booch during that time!
KH: You brew up a lot of flavors. How many of them go back to when you first started, and which ones are your personal favorites and why?
NL: I do have a lot of flavors, and I just keep adding more! Most of the flavors I have are original flavors that have been around for over two years! When I first started, I was doing a new flavor every week, for a year—so I had to get super creative. My customers were drinking it daily, and so was I, and I think we all liked the variety! My favorite is Lavender Rose, which has been around for 2 years, and then there's Mango Peach... definitely a favorite of mine too, and one of the first flavors I ever did!
KH: We profiled you last year, when you were at the start of your commercial journey. What are some of your most exciting recent updates?
NL: Time flies! There have been so many exciting things happening in the past year, and recently we got NCK into NYC at an amazing juice bar called Juiceology. Expanding has been so much fun, and over the past year we have really filled in more of Pennsylvania with the booch. Also: shipping! That was one of those “Best Day Ever“ types of feelings. It's so fun to know that people all over the US can sip the booch wherever they are! The thing that has stayed the same though is that we still bottle to order, so when the deliveries go out every Friday, they are literally brewing up until they hit the road!
KH: As a small business owner, what have been some of your most significant learning experiences?
NL: Being a small business owner is a constant learning experience in and of itself. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn, and was very resistant of, was asking for help. I would be waking up at 4am some mornings just to get hand written labels done and bottles filled and then driving hours to a market to work there before driving back to work more. Once I learned to ask for help (which so many family members and friends had offered), it was amazing! Over the years, there have truly been so many big and small situations that have taught me so much. I've had different opportunities to grow quickly and distributethrough different companies, co-packers and investors... but after years of working jobs or places that I didn't love, I just value every moment of what I do right now too much give it up for anything. It's long days, and a lot of work...But I truly love every part and every job.
KH: What advice would you give to a kombucha home-brewer, who is contemplating going commercial?
NL: For anyone thinking about taking the leap from a home brewer to commercial brewer, my advice would be: Do it! It's an epic amount of work, and a lot of it will be unfamiliar territory, but if your heart is in it—you will have so much fun along the way. The people I have met through kombucha, whether brewers or customers, have added so much to my life.