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It's no secret that the burgeoning culinary scene in Grand Rapids is paving the way for all sorts of new startups, restaurants and hobbyists turned entrepreneurs. With new restaurants popping up around town such as Donkey and Osteria Rossa, expanding established breweries (think Founders) and newcomers like Elk Brewing Co., it's no surprise that we now have our very own locally made, commercially available kombucha.
Emily Helmus, lacto-fermentation artisan and entrepreneur, is now selling her kombucha. The fermented tea just recently hit the market and can be found in participating area specialty food stores.
Helmus' ginger beverage has previously been featured on tap at Cult Pizza and at Lamp Light Music Festival, and for those who haven't tasted it yet, it's now available for purchase at places like Nourish Organic Market and Deli and Global Infusion.
Come the new year, Bloom Ferments will be selling at two new locations: Martha's Vineyard and Sip Organic Juice Bar. Helmus says she would like to eventually sell in Detroit as well. She has previously been concocting her recipe at Uptown Kitchen, a food incubator in Eastown and is now working out of the Downtown Market's commercial kitchen.
Helmus does all of the brewing, bottling and labeling by hand with the help of her uncle, who is a partner in the business.
"We do it in the same way that homebrewers bottle their beer," says Helmus.
Helmus is working with the same recipe she started with two years ago, which is a mild ginger blend. In the coming weeks she is planning on making a chai flavor and come summer anticipates a cherry blend made with Michigan cherries.
All of Helmus' ingredients come from Global Infusion. Her local entrepreneurial practices allow for her to come full circle.
"It's really fun. I get to go in there and buy my tea and then I get to turn it around and sell it back to them as kombucha," says Helmus.
Kombucha is a fermented tea purported to have many health benefits.
Kombucha is what's called a living food, which means that the micro organisms are still alive upon consumption. This introduction of healthy bacteria to the body is precisely what is said to benefit an individual's health. Claims of the health benefits of kombucha include immune system, digestive tract and detoxification aid. According to Helmus, it is "best known for its probiotic content."
Helmus' initial experimentation with fermentation went beyond tea to include foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and sourdough bread.
"I became obsessed and started fermenting everything," says Helmus. These days though, she has focused nearly all of her efforts on the craft of kombucha making.
Eric Tank lives with his lovely wife and daughter in the East Hills area. He is a photography enthusiast and supports local art, food, and entertainment.