Tapuat Kombucha Builds a Culture of Good Health
BY SHEILA JULSON APR. 10, 2018 1:37 P.M.
For ages, people have been making kombucha, a fermented, lightly carbonated black or green tea beverage. Information varies on exactly when and where kombucha originated, but today the drink is enjoying the spotlight as a refreshing probiotic health drink. Tapuat (pronounced tah-pw-aht) Brewing Co. in Sister Bay, Wis., has been making kombucha since 2008 had has enjoyed success as people seek healthy alternatives to soda and sugary drinks. Nick and Mary Deviley, the husband-and-wife team behind Tapuat, had been drinking kombucha before most people had heard of it. Mary said they drank GT’s, a popular national brand, but with a price averaging about $3 per bottle, that got expensive, so she started making her own. When the couple settled in Door County, they opened The Getaway Car juice bar, where they sold their kombucha by the glass and in smoothies. Their smoothie, The Stranger, was made with kombucha, frozen raspberries, ginger and lemon. The slushy, tart drink became popular, despite the fact that kombucha still mystified many in Northern Wisconsin in 2008, Mary said. With Door County’s short tourist season, the Devileys brainstormed ways to generate income year-round. They started selling their kombucha, which they named Tapuat, the Hopi symbol for life, connection and renewal, at farmers markets. By 2010, they were selling Tapuat directly to Woodman’s in Green Bay. They eventually partnered with a distributor and business grew from there. Mary’s description of the kombucha brewing process sounds like a fun science experiment—with tasty results. “It’s fermented using sugar and tea, and the culture is what is referred to as kombucha, so it’s a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” Mary explains. “Some people call that the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The probiotic bacteria and the yeast actually grow together, unlike any other culture in the fermented world. The growth is what’s called a zoogleal mat, which grows as a protective barrier between the fermenting liquid and the surrounding air.” The fermentation leaves probiotics and beneficial enzymes in the liquid, as well as some bubbles, which makes kombucha slightly effervescent. Tapuat brews 12 kombucha flavors on a large scale, and another 10 varieties available in growlers and kegs at the Kitschinn Juicery in Sister Bay, their juice bar and tap room that opened last year. The additional varieties are also available to establishments serving Tapuat kombucha on draft. Despite kombucha’s touted health benefits, some people are deterred by the slightly sour taste. Those new to kombucha might enjoy Tapuat’s pear, which is slightly sweeter. “I joke that it’s a starter kombucha. If you don’t like tea, or the tart flavor of kombucha, that’s an easy one,” Mary said. Other Tapuat flavors include ginger, a classic flavor for most kombucha brands. Grape has become popular, as well as blueberry and Bee Power, with oolong tea and raw Wisconsin honey. The new coconut lime, which tastes like a lime margarita, has become a taproom favorite and may make its way into pint bottles for retail sale, Mary said. Tapuat is appearing on tap at Milwaukee-area establishments such as Cloud Red. Bars are adding kombucha to their cocktail menus, since kombucha doesn’t overpower the flavor of the alcohol, and it’s not overly sweet or heavily carbonated. Mary, along with an area female tattoo artist, designs the eye-catching Tapuat label illustrations. The Devileys sponsor the Peninsula Pacers, a group that organizes bike rides and marathons in Door County. Tapuat can be found throughout Milwaukee at Riverwest Co-op, Outpost Natural Foods, Pick ’n Save, Piggly Wiggly and Woodman’s stores.