May 22, 2014
I started drinking kombucha a few years ago. Maybe you’ve seen it in your nearest health food store. It’s a beverage fermented from black tea, sugar and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). I like the tart flavor and refreshing fizziness. The probiotics and nutrients are great, too. But the $4 a bottle price tag makes me cringe. A friend gave me a starter SCOBY (it looked like a flat mushroom cap) to brew my own, but I was too nervous. I’d heard rumors of people dying from bad homebrews.
That’s why I was excited to find Cultures for Health, a website headquartered in Sioux Falls with an abundance of fermentation information and products. Founder Julie Feickert became interested in healthy living after her first child was born. “I took a class on living sustainably and learned about eating a whole foods diet and the amazing number of fermented foods you could make at home,” Feickert says. She purged her cupboards of processed foods and started making her own yogurt, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut. And the more she made, the more she realized the need for a website with quality instructions, recipes and starter cultures.
“Meanwhile, I was facing a decision to go back to work teaching at night,” Feickert says. “My son was still quite young, and I really didn’t want to leave him, so I was looking for a way to work from home.” In 2009 she built a simple website and stocked a few products. “It took off beyond anything I had ever imagined.”
Cultures for Health now offers over 350 products for at-home fermentation and has a staff of 20. Feickert moved her business headquarters and her family from Portland, Oregon, to Sioux Falls in 2012. “We needed to be more centrally located to better control the quality of shipping perishable products and keep shipping costs and transit times as low as possible for our customers,” Feickert says. “Sioux Falls had a great mix of excellent shipping conditions, affordable living and a safe place to raise our young children.”
I haven’t made my own kombucha yet, but I feel more confident to try. Feickert’s website has a wealth of “how-to” videos and articles and sells pH indicator strips for the squeamish to test when the beverage is ready. And besides kombucha, they have products for yogurt, kefir, sourdough, buttermilk, cheese and more to help people ferment confidently.