An Interview with

 

Elizabeth Spehar

 

Owner

 

The Snooty Fox Tea Shop 

What does kombucha mean to the snooty fox tea shop? Why is it important.

 

Our kombucha represents a lot of hard work, care, and creativity. We put so much of ourselves into it. To be able to share it with our community is an absolute joy.

When the tea shop opened, we were not brewing our own kombucha but it was a clear and important goal for me to chase down because it was a way for us to lower the environmental impact of our presence. Locally-produced kombucha cuts down food miles and reduces the waste associated with national brands in single-use bottles.

"Kombucha is cyclical and rhythmic and I see our booch-drinkers as integral participants in the process. "

How has the community responded to your kombucha?

 

I’m really thankful and happy to share that the community has responded with a lot of support. Up to this point, producing kombucha is our most significant endeavor as a team. It means a lot to us to have it received so warmly and kindly by the tea shop community and, going forward, the wider community too. We have experienced the growing pains that come along with business expansion and our people have been understanding and supportive of us through those times. For example, while ramping up production, we were down to one or two flavors on tap in the shop instead of the ideal four. Folks were patient with that and excited for our expansion. Keeping it fresh and exciting with new flavors while also maintaining consistency has been a challenge. People become devoted to a certain batch, come back for more a couple days later, and then the flavor is already gone. Some flavors have lasted less than a day in fact.

 

Kombucha is cyclical and rhythmic and I see our booch-drinkers as integral participants in the process. You take a growler of kombucha home, drink it, share it, wash the growler out and then return it to the shop to be used again by someone else. You get a fresh growler that was also thoughtfully returned by another person and repeat that process. Kombucha must be harvested and consumed in order for it to keep moving in the rhythm it wants to. Without someone to drink it, kombucha dies. But with someone to drink it and someone to care for it, kombucha is able to constantly restore itself and be abundant. We are grateful to our customers for the role they play in the ongoing cycle of kombucha.

"I’m not in favor of growth for its own sake, so making our kombucha more widely available is a goal I’d like to move towards slowly and with intention."

Where can you get snooty fox kombucha? How is it served?

 

We are now available on tap at both Whole Foods Co-op locations–Hillside and Denfeld. You can get kombucha by the glass or in reusable bottles and growlers. The co-ops have a new flavor on tap every one to two weeks and usually have different flavors than we do in the tea shop. It has been a great partnership and we hope people seeing us there for the first time come into the tea shop to learn more.

 

We are also available at Blush. The goal is to be available on tap so as to reduce single-use materials, but Blush didn’t have extra space for kegs. Wanting to work with another young business, we created a custom bottled flavor for them called Blushing Berry and made arrangements to reuse the bottles, so that’s pretty cool. We’re also planning a fun new flavor for Blush to celebrate their upcoming one year anniversary!

What is different about the snooty fox kombucha in 2018 from other options? How is snooty fox kombucha different in 2018 than in 2016?

 

We are coming up on two years of brewing in house this August. We purchased our first barrel in early summer of 2016 and began our first large batch. It was with help from my brother and sister in law that we launched our in house label. They brought a lot of experience with fermenting and helped establish processes and practices. Their family has since grown and they have stepped back from brewing. That was a challenging transition because they were doing such a fantastic job. I needed to keep a really close tab on the brewing and so I took over the brewing with the help of Joanna. She and I both had experience with brewing kombucha, but there was a lot of learning on the job. Something cool about Jo is that she contributes from her herbalism studies. She knows how to work with plant matter and knows how to break down plant matter and get flavor out of it. How do you get honeydew flavor out of a honeydew or how do we best infuse a certain herb? You never quite know how a new flavor is going to translate. Kombucha has a much quicker turnaround than other fermented beverages, but it’s always exciting to tap and taste a new flavor.

"To be able to share our kombucha with the community is an absolute joy."

How does the kombucha itself compare to kombuchas you used to have?

 

We drew inspiration from many of the flavors and recipes that tom and sophie created. we have ultimate recreated our own recipes and now the flavors are decided by me with input from joanna, customers, and peg. i love asking customers if they have any requests. i get a lot of help from jo. we share the duties and joys of producing the kombucha.

we have added locally harvest fruits and herbs like lavender and ginger. we create juice out of fruits and vegetables we want to try. we use wild harvested goods sometimes to flavor the kombucha and we adjust the tea brew itself.

 

through experimentation, we have carried on with trying new things. but going forward one of our goals is to develop seasonal flavors with seasonal ingredient that customers can expect consistently. we still want to leave some room for experimentation. we plan to have standard flavors and schedules.

 

One time we were making kombucha and a customer called the tea shop the house of cups. making kombucha reminds me that tea is the basic elements of water, heat and leaves, or plants, and its really simple. its fun to be reminded of the simplicity of it. even though the flavors can be really fun and diverse the core elements are grounding.

its meditative and cyclic. you’re pouring water and and carrying water. you feel the weight, highly sensory.

What can you tell me about your kombucha barrels?

 

We have three barrels: a 30 gallon Bourbon barrel named Bucky, a 60 gallon Chardonnay barrel named Jolyon, and we added the crown jewel to our operation in early May. Venus, who is a 90 gallon Cognac barrel, doubled our brewing capacity and she’s doing great.  The Bourbon was built in Minnesota and was used to age both Bourbon and Rye whiskey before returning to MN for our kombucha.

What does the next two years hold for snooty fox kombucha?

 

Going forward, I’d really like to experiment more with bottling and canning in order to become more widely available. I’m not in favor of growth for its own sake, so this is a goal I’d like to move towards slowly and with intention. In pursuit of that goal, we are also working on creating a kombucha calendar, mapping out things like seasonal favorites, flavors in honor of events or even things like the moon cycles. We will also take into consideration which local ingredients are abundant at various times of year as we work on more sustainable brewing operation.

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