Kombucha has a new poster girl in Louise Avery, founder of L.A Brewery. Her sustainably brewed, nature-inspired, non-alcoholic drinks are making kombucha the connoisseur’s choice. From delivering her home brew from the back of her bicycle, to creating her own kombucha brand, Louise chats to us about her love of botanical brewing.
What is kombucha and can you tell us about its origins?
Kombucha is a naturally sparkling fermented drink, made from adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to tea sweetened with sugar. The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and then the bacteria converts the alcohol into beneficial acids. The end result is a tart refreshing non-alcoholic drink.
The first recorded origins of kombucha are from China over 2,000 years ago where it was referred to as the ‘tea of immortality’.
Where did your love of kombucha come from and how did that turn into starting a company?
Lots of things happened at once, in that I quit my job, moved to the Hebrides, and started experimenting with fermentation as I felt I was drinking too much at the time. Kombucha became a natural alternative for me and I saw the possibilities as endless. When I returned to London, starting a business just evolved from my kitchen when I started selling it in the restaurant I was waitressing in. That was 11 years ago now, and I would go on and brew and deliver drinks on my bike for 3 years before launching L.A Brewery in 2017.
What makes a good kombucha?
There are many great kombuchas like there are many great wines. My own focus is to create tart, clean, crisp kombucha which feels refreshing, light and similar to a sparkling wine but without alcohol.
I also love the much heavier stronger kombucha drinks that you find in microbreweries in Vermont.
It’s very personal to the individual, but I like a tart, lightly sweet character profile and I avoid sweeteners at all costs as they undo any live properties the drinks offer.
Where do you get the inspiration for the flavours?
Usually from the garden. All of our drinks have a very nature/garden led taste profile. Our Sparkling Rose contains rose petals and elderflower so is similar to a wildflower champagne. With our Blush, I wanted to emulate the soft fruits of a rosé but also included the floral notes from hop flowers. I once tried an incredible Hops kombucha in Maine in the US and so spent a couple of years creating our own. That has become one of our most popular drinks.
How has the market for no or low alcohol drinks changed since you launched and where do you see it going?
The market has exploded since we started, but it has also been largely populated by the huge spirit brands. I think what is changing is that now we all want drinks that taste good with no bad ingredients (not a chemically processed liquid), and to buy from environmentally sustainable companies. Attitudes are changing towards new styles of drinks and I would also like to think that there is an exciting future in mixed fermentation in the wine space.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day really but I am a pilates fiend so usually I start with that, followed by morning meetings in London or I drive to Suffolk to spend the day with the brewery team. I am involved across the whole business from branding all the way to brewing which means a lot of travel as our team is quite spread out.
What’s next for LA Brewery?
I would like to bring out more limited edition wine style products with more experimental ingredients. Making special editions for our loyalists who buy direct really appeals to me.
What are your favourite bars / spots for alcohol free drinks?
A lot of restaurants offer wonderful non-alcoholic drinks now but I think Little Duck / The Picklery in Dalston is quite special for creative home-made fermented drinks.
Where are you happiest?
The Isle of Mull
What are your favourite spots for foraging?
Again Isle of Mull, Somerset and Hackney Downs
Place you find the most inspiration
The Scottish Hebrides
Who would you most like to see play at Glastonbury?