Minden drink manufacturer Sierra Kombucha Co. was named 2014 rural business of the year by the Nevada District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Winners will be recognized at a luncheon on May 22 in Las Vegas.
Although Kombucha tea has been in existence for more than 2,000 years, the Sierra Kombucha Co. of Minden is just over a year old.
Co-owner Margaret Jackson was motivated to get into the business by her fondness for Kombucha’s health benefits. There was also the fact that her brother’s company makes it in California. Jackson’s husband Mark worked with her brother when employment in Nevada was scarce during the recession, and he learned the process. Back home in Nevada, he experimented for nine months until developing Sierra Kombucha’s own process and recipe.
So what is Kombucha, and how is it made? It starts with organic tea leaves which are brewed at a specific temperature. Organic sugar and probiotic cultures are then added to the brewed tea, and it is allowed to ferment, absorbing the sugar in the process. After fermentation, organic juice is added, and the finished product is bottled and refrigerated, ready for shipment. Sierra Kombucha flavors include Purple Lake Grape, Alpenglow Orange, High Desert Prickly Pear, Pinnacle Pineapple, Peak Pomegranate and Granite Ginger. Three other flavors are in development.
The company got its health certificate in June 2012 and immediately began production in Minden.
Stohlgren Brothers helped the founders set up a distribution network in Reno, Truckee and Lake Tahoe, while Margaret began self-marketing in Douglas County and Carson City. She approached the Raley’s store in Gardnerville, and parlayed that connection into a nine-store deal in Carson, Reno and Lake Tahoe. Sierra Kombucha is currently sold at Scolari’s as well, and approximately 70 stores all told in northwestern Nevada and California border areas. Margaret plans to expand business along the 395 corridor, and is also looking for a distributor for northeastern Nevada.
Currently the company is run by Margaret, Mark, two part-timers, and one contractor. The operation is run by hand without help of automation, but Marks says that they can triple their output in their current location. They have recently purchased a “kegerator,” which is installed at the Great Basin Food Co-op in Reno. “It’s a cheaper and greener way to deliver our products,” says Margaret, who plans to expand the offering in the local service area. The kegerator eliminates the need for bottling and reduces waste.
A percentage of sales in April will be donated to Douglas County Search & Rescue in honor of Shalene Hillbrick, who succumbed to cancer earlier this month.
Mark and Margaret do much of their marketing and product awareness outreach through local farmers’ markets and special events. To learn where to find Sierra Kombucha teas, visit http://sierrakombucha.com.