ARLINGTON — Lowell Profit Jr. traded sugary soda for kombucha years ago because he has diabetes. Now he co-owns one of the first — if not the first — kombucha bars in Snohomish County.
GloryBucha held a grand opening Jan. 27 at the brewery and taproom in downtown Arlington, where the owners offered tastings of the carbonated, fermented tea drink with fruity flavors like lemon ginger, strawberry blonde and apple pie.
Kombucha, an afterthought in the beverage industry five years ago, has become mainstream thanks in part to its booming popularity among millennials and those looking for a healthy alternative to soda. The drink is lower in carbs and sugar than wine and beer and is made with probiotics that are proven to aid in gut health. It contains a small amount of alcohol because of the fermentation process.
As the beverage gained momentum culturally, Profit turned to kombucha to cut down on his sugar consumption and lose weight. He fell in love with the tea and dove head-first into brewing the beverage.
He has a history in food preparation, not brewing, so his early results weren’t promising. At least they weren’t according to his harshest critic — his wife.
“It was a struggle in the beginning,” he said. “I failed the first three times. It was really disgusting.”
Once Profit dialed in the brewing process, he experimented with different fruits and spices to make his kombucha more flavorful. A number of styles he created during that experimentation are now part of GloryBucha’s flagship lineup.
Profit had his kombucha commercially tested and started setting up a brewing operation out of his garage. It became his dream to open a kombucha brewery. But that dream was put on hiatus when he learned that building a commercial kitchen in his Arlington home wasn’t feasible.
But then he met Debra Chrapaty. She is a former executive for startup companies in Silicon Valley who also had dreams of opening a kombucha brewery. Though she doesn’t brew it herself, she has been drinking and enjoying it for the last five years.
“I couldn’t brew anything that anyone would want to drink,” she said jokingly. “My kombucha is the type of stuff that made my family hate kombucha.”
He’d only been brewing for a couple of years, but Profit’s kombucha blew Chrapaty away.
“When he brought out some of his kombucha to taste, I was like, ‘Yep, this is it,’ ” she said. “It’s the best kombucha I’ve ever tasted. Still is. It’s the only kombucha I drink now.”
With her knowledge of building startups, Chrapaty, now a Bellevue resident, teamed with Profit to create a business plan for a kombucha bar in Arlington. They found a large space on Fifth Street in downtown recently vacated by a beer brewery, and Chrapaty asked a marketer and graphic designer in New York to design a logo for GloryBucha.
The result is a vibe that is as fresh and colorful as the kombucha coming out of the tap.
“He was my dream come true, too,” Chrapaty said of Profit. “You can have all the capital and business acumen in the world, but if you don’t have a good product, you’ve got nothing.”
Kombucha is an emerging beverage business, having grown more than 40 percent over the past year, according to Beverage Industry magazine. But most of that growth is taking place in large cities like Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C.
That doesn’t scare Chrapaty and Profit. They anchored GloryBucha in Arlington for two reasons: proximity to fresh, organic ingredients and outdoor activities.
“Being lodged as a central hub to a growing community is really important to us,” Chrapaty said. “Centennial Trail runs right past us and outdoor activities and kombucha are a natural combination. We want people to walk in here and feel good.”
GloryBucha plans to install bike racks outside and local art on the walls, and invite food trucks to the parking lot.
Though it’s easy to sell kombucha on its health benefits and refreshment, for Profit and Chrapaty it all comes back to taste. They’ve found that once they introduce their kombucha to folks walking in the door for the first time, they leave blown away.
“Once they taste it, they love it and want to come back,” Profit said.
“We want to make it easy for everyone to make healthy choices,” Chrapaty added. “We say we’re prescribed by your taste buds.”
If you go
GloryBucha brewery and taproom is at 116 E. Fifth St., Arlington.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.
For more information, visit glorybucha.com.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented drink made from black or green tea. It is sweeted with sugar or honey that’s sometimes augmented with organic fruits, veggies or roots for added flavor. The tea blend is fermented using a SCOBY or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The process creates a drink that is low in sugar and rich in probiotics and antioxidants.
Because it’s a fermented beverage, depending on how it’s processed, kombucha has varying low levels of alcohol. It can range from .05 to 2 percent. GloryBucha’s tea has enough alcohol that you must be at least 21 to buy it.