Health trends and products have become wildly popular in the last decade as consumers are more health-conscious than ever before. Wake Forest students Olivia Wolff and Lauren Miller are putting their own spin on a popular health drink: kombucha.
Kombucha is a “super tea,” which is comprised of healthy bacteria, enzymes, antioxidants and vitamins that promote digestive health and is perfect for detoxing and maintaining general good health.
Though they have combined forces only since the beginning of 2016, Wolff and Miller’s startup company UpDog Kombucha sold out of its first batch of products in just a few hours and is already taking orders for its upcoming batch that will be arriving soon.
Their healthy and delicious recipes have three simple ingredients: tea, sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). SCOBY has a jelly-like consistency and looks like a piece of white bologna, but it contains many friendly bacteria, like yogurt and cheese, and it plays a crucial role in the making of kombucha.
To make their kombucha, Wolff and Miller ferment the tea and sugar with the SCOBY for eight days then flavor the drink with fruit.
After this process is complete, they have created what they call a “low-sugar, carbonated super tea,” that is hand-crafted, all-natural and made only with local ingredients.
Why and how did you start UpDog Kombucha?
Wolff: Lauren and I are both into healthy living. We love yoga and all sorts of healthy foods and have been drinking kombucha for years.
Since we both practice yoga regularly, we decided to incorporate that into the name of our business because “upward-facing dog” is a yoga pose, and we wanted something catchy.
Our business began when I got tired of buying kombucha all the time and decided to start making it on my own. I made and sold a few kombucha drinks and wrote an article about it, which Lauren read. Then, together, we decided that we should start making kombucha.
We’re actually from the same town in New Jersey, have known each other a long time and have a lot of similar interests — so we knew we would be a great team. I’m a health and exercise science major and she’s an economics major. So I mainly handle the scientific aspects of making the kombucha and she does a lot of the business side of UpDog Kombucha. It has worked really well so far.
We’ve combined our passions for health and wellness, along with our majors, to create something we’re really excited about. I’m a senior, so working with her on this project has been a great way to wrap up my time at Wake Forest and to share something I love and care a lot about with the community.
What makes the drinks of UpDog Kombucha so healthy and unique?
Miller: The combination of fresh, local ingredients with a fizzy and fruity taste creates a great drink that anyone can enjoy. It appeals to people who buy kombucha from health foods stores and to those who have never heard of it and don’t even know about its incredible health benefits.
Kombucha is also a great solution for people who are trying to cut soda from their diets but still want a carbonated drink. The fruits sweeten the drinks and we make flavors like grapefruit/sage, mango/ginger and mojito, which is lime/mint. Our favorites are strawberry/mint and raspberry/ginger.
We can make tons of different flavors and we continue to use organic and local ingredients. The SCOBY is actually what eats the sugar and ferments the tea, so the only sugar in the finished product is from the fruit.
The health benefits of kombucha are especially good for the digestive system. All people have microflora in their bodies that are good for digestive regularity and health, and this drink promotes the manifestation of those good and healthy bacteria. Kombucha is special because it’s a natural, healthy and delicious drink that anybody can enjoy.
What are your plans for UpDog Kombucha
in the future?
Wolff: We want it to continue growing and to eventually become a microbrewery, a brew-bar, in Winston-Salem. We hope that in the near-future we will be producing kombucha in kegs and will have it on tap so that many people can have access to it all around the town.
It’s important to us that UpDog Kombucha remains a local brand that continues to focus on quality and always produces hand-crafted kombucha.
Sustainability is also a goal of ours. We are selling our 12-ounce bottles for $4.50, but if our customers bring back their bottles to be refilled, we drop the price to $4.oo to incentivize consumers to reuse their bottles to create less waste.
Our first batch was six gallons of kombucha which made 58 bottles. Our second batch will be 14 gallons, so if some of our first customers reuse their bottles, we could prevent many glass bottles from being unnecessarily wasted.
We are so happy with the reactions we have received from our customers so far and hope that UpDog Kombucha stays popular and loved at Wake Forest and around Winston-Salem for a long time.