In addition to Valentine’s and Presidents’ days, we highly encourage you to celebrate World Kombucha Day this month. The probiotic drink, which has all sorts of health benefits, is more popular than ever. To find out what all the buzz is about, we spoke to expert kombucha brewer Adam Benziger, owner of Laughing Gut in Poughkeepsie.
More and more health-conscious consumers are looking for alternatives to sodas and other sugary drinks. They’re seeking functional beverages that contain nutritional benefits. As a fermented product, kombucha promotes overall gut health with probiotics, organic acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins.
Kombucha has been described as the “elixir of life” or “tea of immortality.” It’s a by-product of fermentation—an ancient technique used to preserve food. Yeast and a culture (good bacteria) break down sugars, which are converted into ethyl alcohol, organic acids, and probiotics. A starter culture called SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is the magic that turns sweetened tea, the main ingredient in kombucha, into an entirely new, healthy beverage.
Probiotics are extremely important for keeping the digestive system balanced and well-functioning. Kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt all contain live bacteria that act as natural probiotics to help regulate the digestive system. Recent research on the gut microbiome indicates that these living microbes play a role in supporting physical and mental health.
I have a degree in hospitality management with a special interest in fermentation science. I started brewing beer at home and then worked at a few craft breweries, but I was simultaneously struggling with stomach issues and discovered I had a problem digesting gluten. Since beer was no longer a viable career path, I transitioned to brewing kombucha as the healthier alternative and never looked back.
I noticed the increased demand for kombucha, and since there were only a few local producers in the Hudson Valley, the timing seemed right to launch Laughing Gut in 2018 as a family business with my parents. We joined a shared commercial kitchen (Poughkeepsie Open Kitchen) for two and a half years before outgrowing the space and making the move in late 2020 to our own production facility and taproom at 289 Main Street in Poughkeepsie. The taproom was created to provide the community with a non-alcoholic destination. We have as many as eight flavors of kombucha on tap, including our six core flavors (lavender, chamomile & mint, rooibos ginger, green tea, star anise & orange zest, and butterfly pea flower with rosemary) plus frequent limited releases like chai spice. We also sell a selection of packaged loose leaf teas in the taproom, along with an expanded menu of hot and flash chilled tea, matcha shots, and matcha lattes.
We’re sold in many locations around the Hudson Valley, including grocery stores, coffee shops, and cafés—and we are expanding our territory to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We’re also working on an online shop. Kombucha needs to stay cold during shipping so we’re researching the best and most economical packaging options. In the meantime, customers can get in touch with us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or submit a form on our site laughinggut.com by clicking on “contact” and we will do our best to accommodate a request.
Order a quality SCOBY—there are a few reputable companies that we recommend, such as Kombucha Brewers International and Kombucha Hunter. We grow our own SCOBY at the brewery, so you can purchase one at our taproom for $10 (for a one-gallon batch). Tips for success: When brewing kombucha, use organic loose leaf/full leaf teas (instead of tea bags), filtered water, and either a glass or ceramic container covered with a cotton cloth and tightened with a rubber band. You can find instructions for brewing online, and there are also a lot of great books on the subject. Some breweries offer classes—and that’s also in the works for our taproom this year.