It’s Kombucha Time in La Jolla!

Bird Rock shop owner ferments probiotic tea for sale throughout San Diego


A shop in Bird Rock at 5652 La Jolla Blvd. is home to Anne’s Kombucha where the organic, fermented probiotic tea is brewed and distributed by owner Anne Smith, a health-conscious entrepreneur whose bottled teas are sold in more than 2-dozen stores across the county.

“I started making Kombucha in my home five years ago with two test tubes and it grew to this,” Smith said, with a wave of her hand.

Smith has studied health and nutrition for the past 30 years and holds more than a dozen certificates in topics such as botanical research and clinical herbology.

She said she first learned about Kombucha during a class on fermentation at Self-Heal School in Ocean Beach. The fermentation process creates a naturally carbonated probiotic beverage after sweet tea is mixed with a raw, live Symbiotic Culture of friendly Bacteria and Yeast known as a SCOBY.

Kombucha is believed to have originated in China during the Tsin Dynasty (2221 B.C.) when it was called the “Elixir of Immortality” for its health benefits, according to Smith.

Some of those benefits include an increase in metabolism and energy, detoxifying effects, immune system boosting, mood enhancement and cell regeneration.

Smith said she was fascinated by the bizarre tasting sweet-and-sour sparkly tea, and soon began drinking it daily. Her instructor told her she could make it at home inexpensively, compared to the $3-$4 price per serving of Kombucha at health food stores.

“Online I bought two little test tubes of organic cultures that are the starters,” she said.

For the next three years she worked in her kitchen at home, fermenting, tasting, blending and refining her own recipes that included adding flower essences into the elixir.

She said the first step is to boil water and sugar, steep several tea bags, then let the mixture cool before adding the culture to the jar of tea and covering it with a muslin cloth.

After about seven days of growing in a dark, ventilated area, the “mother” SCOBY produces a “baby” SCOBY.

“This is the nursery phase,” Smith said.

The two organisms can then be detached and moved to separate containers where they expand exponentially.

“I was fermenting, and every so often, I’d have to buy another 2-gallon container. It got to the point that I had 25 containers in my hallway,” she said.

When her husband tired of the constant aroma of vinegar in the house, Smith said she decided it was time to find a shop.

About two-years ago Smith opened the shop in Bird Rock where she brews and bottles 1,500 to 2,000 bottles of Kombucha each month.

“Everything is done in the building — from the fermentation to the strain, to the blending, to the bottling, to the delivery. I self distribute and I stock the shelves,” she said.

Smith has 250-gallons continuously fermenting on the shelves, and her shop can accommodate production of up to 10,000 bottles per month.

About Anne’s Kombucha

• Made in three flavors: cranberry lime, blue-green algae and ginger.

• The probiotic content in each 16-ounce bottle is 1 billion organisms of Lactobacillus.

• Anne’s Kombucha Blue Green Algae has 40 calories per serving, 9 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of sugar, and the blue-green algae comes from Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon.

• Due to the natural fermentation, each batch of Anne’s Kombucha has a trace amount of alcohol, but is tested to be a non-alcoholic beverage and conforms to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that requires a beverage to contain less than or equal to .5 percent by volume alcohol content to be considered a non-alcoholic drink.

• Kombucha is not recommended for lactating or pregnant women.

• Anne’s Kombucha makes no formal claims about the benefits of Kombucha, and the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated any of the wide-range of professional claims regarding Kombucha’s health enhancing properties, according to Smith.

• Sold locally: Jonathan’s Market, 7611 Fay Ave., Whole Foods Market, 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive, Anne’s Kombucha, 5652 La Jolla Blvd., $4 per bottle. (858) 412-6212,