What is kombucha? The founders of Mobtown Fermentation in Hampden think you should know.
Out of their brewery on Hickory Avenue, the owners—Adam Bufano, 27, along with stepbrother Sergio Malarin and friend Sidharth Sharma, both 25—mix up and ferment barrels of bubbly kombucha, a beverage made of fermented tea that originated in China.
Their company’s beverage brand, Wild Kombucha, follows a natural tradition of mixing tea, water, and a culture known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that ferments for ten days.
“It’s like chemistry the way you make kombucha,” Sergio Malarin said.
After ten days, in what’s known as a “double fermentation” process, the culture is removed, the flavoring gets added and then the mixture gets bottled, capped, and left to sit for two more days, which gives the drink its natural carbonation.
The results are not only delicious, they also boast health benefits.
“Kombucha has a lot of probiotic enzymes in it,” Malarin said. “It helps your metabolism, it helps with digestion, helps with liver function and it can give you a boost like coffee. It has the same caffeine equivalent as a cup of green tea, but it has a lot of vitamin D so it doesn’t give you the jittery energy that can come from coffee or energy drinks.”
It’s a science that was passed down to brothers Bufano and Malarin from their parents. Growing up in Park Heights, the brothers participated in family fermentation experiments where they helped with preparation and learned how to ferment things like kimchi, sauerkraut, and of course, kombucha. Their parents moved to Peru while the young brewers were still in college. Bufano inherited the family’s fermentation and brewing equipment and later began experimenting with childhood recipes.
These early experiments were so good that Bufano began selling them through social media and eventually gained a following among Johns Hopkins University students. To meet the needs of the business’ growing popularity, he teamed up with Malarin and Sidharth Sharma to grow the idea.
This summer, the trio left their corporate jobs behind to brew and bottle Mobtown Fermentation’s kombucha full time. And they’ve got their hands full. All of their beverages are bottled by hand at the Hampden brewery, with flavor options including elderberry, mango-peach and ginger-grapefruit.
Their hope is to raise awareness about the benefits of kombucha.
“Our mission is to make this affordable and available to anybody in Baltimore, not just the niche crowd that tends to be associated with kombucha,” Malarin said. “It’s a wealthier, health conscious crowd. We want to make this something that the average Joe in Baltimore can wake up and go to a local store nearby, grab it on his way to work and substitute it for a Red Bull or even a cheap coffee.”
The gospel of kombucha is already spreading. Their 12 ounce bottles are sold at more than 30 locations across the Maryland area, with more stores being added to the company’s roster this year. They’ve even
made plans to branch out to a larger location near Patterson Park early next year to make room for an increase in production.
“We’ve all grown up in the Baltimore area and we love this place,” Malarin said. “We love the city and feel like this is an awesome way for us to not only make a living pursuing something that speaks to us, but it’s also a way that we can give back and make this a better place and a healthier community.”
To find out where you can purchase your bottle or case of Wild Kombucha, visit www.mobtownfermentation.com, or stop by the brewery to sample their flavors on tap.