CAMBRIDGE — Alok Tayi knows he will find fresh produce at the Harvard University farmers’ market. But a working beer tap? Mounted on a bike-pedaled pushcart?
This, he has to investigate.
“When you see the bubbles, it’s like, oh, what’s that?” says Tayi, 27, a university employee. The drink being poured is fizzy and fermented, but, as Tayi discovers, it isn’t beer. Instead, it is kombucha, a light and flavorful tea that, like a lager, can be served on draft.
The cart is run by Josh and Leah Danoff, a brother-sister team from Amherst, who have been introducing farmers’ market crowds to draft kombucha for the past year, pouring six flavors: ginger, jasmine, grape, lemon lime, blissberry, and the original green and black tea.
The drink is already in cities such as New York and San Francisco, where it’s served in bars and restaurants as an alternative to alcohol or soda. The Danoffs are hoping it finds similar acceptance in Boston. “We certainly do a lot of explaining and a lot of educating because it’s different,” says Josh Danoff, whose company, Culinary Cruisers, also sells fresh fruit ice pops called Ocean Ave Pops. “People get a small cup, then a large cup, then a larger container. Our customer base grows each time.”
Kombucha is purported to have numerous health benefits, but the drink’s biggest selling point may be its curiosity factor. “Honestly, I’ve never heard of it,” Tayi says as he stands in line, admittedly, for the novelty. “It’s not like bathtub tea, is it?”
A few sips later, he is refreshingly surprised. “The blissberry has a little bit of a bite. It’s interesting,” he says. “It’s a bitter cross between a soda and a tea.”
“The lemon lime is not very sweet, which is good,” says Tayi’s friend, Mathieu Gonidec, who orders a 12-ounce glass for $3. “It’s a little acidic. I like it.”
The Danoffs buy their tea from Katalyst Kombucha, a Greenfield brewer which uses only certified organic and Fair Trade ingredients. It’s made by mixing green or black tea with a yeast culture that’s allowed to ferment for a few weeks. Flavorings are then added. Blissberry tea, for example, is made with fresh-pressed Maine blueberries and a splash of ginger juice.
The kombucha the Danoffs serve is light in color, but has a fuller body than standard tea. It’s low in sugar but does contain a small amount of caffeine and a trace amount of alcohol — “like a nonalcoholic beer,” Danoff says.
You can buy pre-bottled kombucha in a number of markets, but as Leah Danoff says, it’s just not the same as getting it poured at a pushcart.
“I hear that a lot of things taste better on tap,” she says.
Find the farmers’ market schedule for Culinary Cruisers’ draft kombucha at www.culinary
cruiser.com. You can also find kombucha at Life Alive, 765 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-5433, and 281 Essex St., Salem, 978-594-4644; How on Earth, 62 Marion Road,
Mattapoisett, 508-758-1341; and Whole Foods Market, 340 River St., Cambridge, 617-876-6990, and 300 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-329-7100.