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September 18, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Belly up to Cross Culture Kombucha, first taproom of its kind in state

Photo by Jessica Meade.

The kombucha craze is continuing apace, and a Danbury couple is hoping to capitalize upon it by opening Cross Culture Kombucha at 52 Division St.

Officially opened on Sept. 20, the seeds for Cross Culture began about six years ago, according to Ian Ceppos, who founded the company with his wife, Liz.

“I got sober nine years ago,” he said. “About three years into my sobriety I was looking for something to drink besides seltzer water. I was never really into sugary sodas and juices, because I wanted to stay with something healthy.”

Around that time Liz’s brother showed up at the Cepposes’ home with a couple of bottles of home-brewed kombucha. “That was my first real introduction to it and I thought it was really good,” he said.

Ceppos began brewing his own at home and when Liz began considering a career change in 2016 — she’d been a project manager, most recently at Argyle Project Management in Norwalk — the pair began researching the idea of opening a kombucha taproom. Although such establishments can be found around the country, Cross Culture is the first in the Nutmeg State.

For the uninitiated, kombucha is tea, usually brewed with sugar and additional flavorings, then fermented with a kombucha culture known as “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast); the end result includes several organic acids, carbon dioxide that adds fizziness and a trace amount of alcohol.

Lest one think that alcohol’s the last thing Ian Ceppos should be involved with, he quickly noted that it’s an infinitesimal amount; the Cepposes mention its inclusion in their final product to ensure that the hyper-sensitive or allergic are aware of its presence beforehand.

According to a report by FoodNavigator-USA, U.S. retail sales of refrigerated kombucha and similar fermented beverages like switchel — a water-vinegar concoction seasoned with a number of natural ingredients — and apple cider vinegar grew 37.4 percent last year to $556 million.

Liz Ceppos samples kombucha at her and her husband’s Cross Culture Kombucha in Danbury. Photo by Jessica Meade.

Part of kombucha’s growing appeal is the fact that it is naturally rich in beneficial bacteria, antioxidants, healthy acids and B vitamins, Liz Ceppos said.

“People like the health benefits and also the way it tastes — especially since you can make so many different flavors,” she said.

Cross Culture — the name derived in part from the aforementioned SCOBY — will offer four core flavors: jasmine, Earl Grey, green tea and a mixture of black and white teas along with six revolving flavors like ginger, mojito and watermelon-jalapeno. The revolving flavors will depend on the availability of products from local farms, which regularly supply the Cepposes with a variety of plants.

Cross Culture has been selling its wares at farmers’ markets in Fairfield and Westport — something that Liz said they planned to continue to do, at least for the short term — as well as at about 50 stores and restaurants in Connecticut and New York, for the past year-plus. Partly to avoid time conflicts with the farmers’ markets, Cross Culture will be open Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Adding an unusual touch to an unusual drink is the use of stickers featuring the likenesses of such late ’80s/mid-‘90s hip-hop acts like Lauryn Hill, Beastie Boys, Ice Cube and The Notorious B.I.G. on its fermentation vats. “I grew up listening to rap of that era, and this is my way of paying tribute to old-school hip-hop,” Ian explained.

But the Cepposes’ overriding concern, he added, is more pragmatic.

“We want to provide a healthy, nonalcoholic alternative to everybody — young, old and everyone in between,” he said.