Fermented Foods

Spotlight on Aqua ViTea

This week’s  Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Aqua ViTea! All of their non-alcoholic Kombucha and Selzer are 20% off for member-owners from September 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this unique local business with humble beginnings on a Salisbury Farm!

 

History

Aqua ViTea began in 2007 in the Salisbury, Vermont farmhouse of Jeff Weaber and Dr. Katina Martin, based on the naturopathic principle of “food as medicine.” Weaber and Martin had just relocated to Vermont after 9 years in Portland, Oregon, where Katina pursued medical degrees in Naturopathy, Midwifery, and Acupuncture and Jeff served as the brewer for The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. Honing the craft of fermentation at work and learning about functional foods and the governing role of the digestive system from Katina at home led Weaber to discover the wonders of Kombucha.

Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber with his wife Katina Martin at their Salisbury home where they first began brewing kombucha

By 2007, he was selling his Kombucha to the happy crowds at the Middlebury Farmers Market under the Aqua ViTea brand and in 2008, he began bottling his product and selling wholesale to our Co-op and a handful of other local markets. By 2014, demand began to outpace production capacity, and plans to move Aqua ViTea’s production off the farm began to ferment. They first moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Bristol, VT, followed by yet another upgrade in 2017 to an even more impressive facility — the former home of Woodchuck Cider just off of Exchange Street in Middlebury. Today, the rapidly growing company is the largest Kombucha producer on the east coast, employing a team of 30 full-time employees proudly brewing low sugar, alcohol-free, organic kombucha with naturally abundant probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants, whose balanced blend of sparkling refreshment and bold flavor makes it the perfect substitute for juice or soda. 

Giant vats of kombucha brewing at Aqua ViTea’s state-of-the-art facility in Middlebury

As the business grew, Weaber called on Mike Kin, who was a close friend of Weaber’s in Oregon, and convinced him to move to Vermont with his family to become the company’s brewer. If you dig the artwork on Aqua ViTea’s packaging and materials as much as we do, you’ve got Mike to thank for these. He sketches each one by hand, creating the funky, colorful, amazing signature artwork that you see on all of AquaVitea’s products!

Mike Kin creates the signature Freshketch artwork for Aqua ViTea

 

Commitment to Authenticity

Many commercially available Kombucha brands have been found to contain significantly more sugar and alcohol than their labels disclose. Additionally, some large-scale Kombucha products are being manufactured in a lab setting, force carbonated, and even pasteurized, with the probiotic cultures added artificially as “ingredients” to the end product.

The Aqua ViTea family

Aqua ViTea, since day one, has shown a deep commitment to authenticity. This begins by sourcing the highest quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced organic tea from Middlebury’s Stone Leaf Teahouse and organic cane sugar to feed the ferment. Their Kombucha is the product of a live, active fermentation, which allows the live cultures and enzymes to develop naturally and delivers the tangy effervescence that Kombucha drinkers love. They are one of only two kombucha makers in the country who have invested in a spinning cone column, which allows for the extraction and recovery of volatile compounds, including alcohol, without the need for excessive heat. And since the alcohol is removed at the end of fermentation, the active cultures can grow at their own pace, which results in authentic, delicious, and non-alcoholic Kombucha. They even employ an in-house microbiologist to analyze the safety and purity of their products.

A tour group from Addison Central Teens visits Aqua ViTea and learns about the cone extractor, which removes the alcohol from Aqua ViTea’s kombucha

 

Aqua Seltzer

The newest addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is Aqua Seltzer! Better than your average bubbles, Aqua Seltzers, infused with organic kombucha, are refreshing better-for-you offerings packed with probiotics for immune & gut health. Weaber shares that the idea for a seltzer line was born when he looked at the ingredients list on a can of the seltzer that his teenage kids love to drink and realized that there was nothing much to them. He wondered if there was a way to create a seltzer that also offered functional nutritional benefits aside from simply providing hydration. After months of research and development and countless hours of taste testing, a new, bubbly, better-for-you beverage was born. It’s infused with kombucha, providing 5 billion probiotics per serving, along with amino acids and antioxidants, with only one gram of sugar and 15 calories. They’re thirst-quenching refreshers filled with goodness for your gut!

 

After Glow

Another exciting addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is AfterGlow Hard Kombucha. This is a smooth, tasty alternative to beer and cider and a more natural option than spiked seltzers. It’s organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with only the finest sustainably sourced ingredients. While they do extract the alcohol from their traditional Kombucha, that alcohol is not used in creating AfterGlow. Instead, they let AfterGlow’s natural alcohol mature through fermentation and into the can – resulting in a mindfully made adult beverage.

 

 

 

 

Fiesta Roja Dog

While it’s tough to beat a classic hot dog with all the standard fixings, it can also be a lot of fun to merge a traditional hot dog with the flavors of other favorite comfort foods. With that in mind, we introduce you to the Fiesta Roja Dog, featuring the flavors of classic Latin American cuisine. Our weekly sale from July 1st – 7th features Applegate Farms Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs and Bakerly Brioche hotdog buns, so pick up a pack of each and give the Fiesta Roja dog a try! 

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is perhaps the best-known style of fermented vegetable in our country and also happens to be one of the simplest to make at home. The ingredient list is short, the steps are simple, and the margin for error is extremely low. In fact, famed fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz points out that the large population of lactic acid bacteria present in the ferment handily outcompete any incidental pathogenic bacteria, and the acidity that rapidly develops in fermented vegetables destroys any remaining pathogens. Lactic acid bacteria are present on cabbages and all other raw vegetables and they’re largely responsible for the magical transformation that takes place when you pack cabbage and salt together into a jar. 

Our ability to use microbes — fungi (yeasts) and bacteria — as a method of food preservation dates back to the dawn of recorded history. Prior to refrigeration, it was the only way, short of sun-drying, to preserve food. It is a process that is inextricably linked to our culture as human beings. It is, in large part, responsible for our survival as human beings as it allowed our earliest ancestors to preserve and store food to get through long winters and periods of famine.

Fermentation also makes our food more nutritious, more flavorful, and easier to digest. Fermented foods deliver a healthy dose of living probiotic bacteria and enzymes to our overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of our gut microbiome. Even though the practice of fermentation has been around for centuries, we are just beginning to understand, from a scientific point of view, why fermented foods are so important for our health. The forty-odd trillion microbes that live on and in our bodies allow us to digest food and produce key minerals that nourish us and protect us from disease. They guide the development of our bodies, are key to the healthy functioning of our immune systems, and influence our behavior. They even modulate the expression of our genes, bind with and remove toxins from our bodies, prevent or lessen the effects of food allergies, and communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages to the brain (the Gut-Brain Axis). They secrete a profound number of chemicals, many of which are the same chemicals used by our neurons to regulate our mood and signal appetite clues like hunger and fullness.

Our weekly sale from April 21st – 27th celebrates foods that promote gut health, so what better time to try whipping up a batch of your very own probiotic-packed sauerkraut? 

Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread)

Injera is a soft, thin pancake-like flatbread made from fermented teff batter. A staple food in Ethiopia, the bread is typically used for scooping stews, meat, and vegetables like Doro Wat, Gomen, and Kik Alicha (all three of which are featured on our blog this week!). Our weekly sale from April 7th – 13th celebrates the cuisine of Ethiopia and you’ll find Bob’s Red Mill teff flour featured in the sale, which is all you’ll need to make this traditional flatbread. Much like sourdough bread, injera is a product of fermentation, so while the steps and ingredients are simple, you’ll need to plan ahead by starting the fermentation of the batter 4 days before you’d like to prepare the injera. The resulting bread is naturally gluten-free and the fermentation process improves the digestibility and bioavailability of the nutrients present in the teff flour.

Spotlight on Sunja’s

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on Sunja’s this week!  This local business has been keeping our shelves stocked with authentic Korean kimchi since the early 1990s. In fact, their team tells us that our Co-op was one of their very first retail accounts! All of Sunja’s nutrient-dense, probiotic-packed products are 20% off for member-owners from March 17th – 23rd, so it’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about the inspiration behind this local woman-owned business carrying on the Korean kimchi-making tradition for Vermonters to enjoy:

The seed for Sunja’s Oriental Foods was first planted in 1993 when Sunja Hayden began offering cooking classes in her small Northfield, Vermont community. Participants couldn’t get enough of her healthy, delicious traditional Korean foods, which inspired Sunja to began producing food for a retail market. Another motivating force was her awareness of the fact that so many foods we consume contain unhealthy chemical additives and preservatives. Sunja understood the critical role of all-natural, preservative-free, non-GMO foods for health and wellness and wanted to share more of her traditional foods with her community. 

According to Sunja, “I started my company in 1993 because of my affection for healthy eating and my desire to serve my family and friends good, real, healthy food. My love for preparing delicious and healthy meals soon transformed into a desire to do the same for others. I believe in the importance of natural foods with live enzymes, which help the digestive process.”

Sunja making a batch of kimchi in the early days of launching her business.

Here at the Co-op, you’ll find a lineup of several varieties of Sunja’s kimchi. This traditional fermented Korean dish is typically served as a condiment at every meal and there are hundreds of varieties of Korean kimchi depending on regional and family preferences. Kimchi is raw, living food that is rich in flavor, high in nutritional value, and naturally fermented to create rich probiotics from the live beneficial bacteria present on the vegetables. The fermentation process also makes the nutrients in the vegetables more bioavailable and easily assimilated by our bodies. The end product offers a robust source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, C, B1, and B2.  It also boasts a long list of potential health benefits including improved gut health, digestion, and immunity. 

Sunja’s kimchi is produced in Waterbury, VT, and the fresh vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible. Sunja is proud to support local farms and is very particular about how the produce is grown for her kimchi, specifying that her kimchi is made with the freshest vegetables and does not contain any preservatives, sugar, MSG, or additives of any kind. Sunja’s products are also naturally gluten-free and vegan and are third-party verified by the Non-GMO Project

 

Whether you’re new to eating kimchi or a seasoned pro, we think you’ll love the recipes on Sunja’s webpage! They’ll provide plenty of inspiration for ways to enjoy this Korean superfood!

Spotlight on Aqua ViTea

This week’s  Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Aqua ViTea! All of their non-alcoholic Kombucha is 20% off for member-owners from September 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this unique local business with humble beginnings on a Salisbury Farm!

 

History

Aqua ViTea began in 2007 in the Salisbury, Vermont farmhouse of Jeff Weaber and Dr. Katina Martin, based on the naturopathic principle of “food as medicine.” Weaber and Martin had just relocated to Vermont after 9 years in Portland, Oregon, where Katina pursued medical degrees in Naturopathy, Midwifery, and Acupuncture and Jeff served as the brewer for The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. Honing the craft of fermentation at work and learning about functional foods and the governing role of the digestive system from Katina at home led Weaber to discover the wonders of Kombucha.

Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber with his wife Katina Martin at their Salisbury home where they first began brewing kombucha

By 2007, he was selling his Kombucha to the happy crowds at the Middlebury Farmers Market under the Aqua ViTea brand and in 2008, he began bottling his product and selling wholesale to our Co-op and a handful of other local markets. By 2014, demand began to outpace production capacity, and plans to move Aqua ViTea’s production off the farm began to ferment. They first moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Bristol, VT, followed by yet another upgrade in 2017 to an even more impressive facility — the former home of Woodchuck Cider just off of Exchange Street in Middlebury. Today, the rapidly growing company is the largest Kombucha producer on the east coast and proudly brews low sugar, alcohol-free, organic kombucha with naturally abundant probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants, whose balanced blend of sparkling refreshment and bold flavor makes it the perfect substitute for juice or soda. 

Giant vats of kombucha brewing at Aqua ViTea’s state-of-the-art facility in Middlebury

As the business grew, Weaber called on Mike Kin, who was a close friend of Weaber’s in Oregon, and convinced him to move to Vermont with his family to become the company’s brewer. If you dig the artwork on Aqua ViTea’s packaging and materials as much as we do, you’ve got Mike to thank for these. He sketches each one by hand, creating the funky, colorful, amazing signature artwork that you see on all of AquaVitea’s products!

Mike Kin creates the signature Freshketch artwork for Aqua ViTea

 

Commitment to Authenticity

Many commercially available Kombucha brands have been found to contain significantly more sugar and alcohol than their labels disclose. Additionally, some large-scale Kombucha products are being manufactured in a lab setting, force carbonated, and even pasteurized, with the probiotic cultures added artificially as “ingredients” to the end product.

Aqua ViTea Kombucha has kid-friendly ingredients you can trust

Aqua ViTea, since day one, has shown a deep commitment to authenticity. This begins by sourcing the highest quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced organic tea from Middlebury’s Stone Leaf Teahouse and organic cane sugar to feed the ferment. Their Kombucha is the product of a live, active fermentation, which allows the live cultures and enzymes to develop naturally and delivers the tangy effervescence that Kombucha drinkers love. They are one of only two kombucha makers in the country who have invested in a spinning cone column, which allows for the extraction and recovery of volatile compounds, including alcohol, without the need for excessive heat. And since the alcohol is removed at the end of fermentation, the active cultures can grow at their own pace, which results in authentic, delicious, and non-alcoholic Kombucha. They even employ an in-house microbiologist to analyze the safety and purity of their products.

Laura Smith from Aqua ViTea tells a tour group from Addison Central Teens about the cone extractor, which removes the alcohol from Aqua ViTea’s kombucha

 

After Glow

An exciting recent addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is AfterGlow Hard Kombucha. This is a smooth, tasty alternative to beer and cider and a more natural option than spiked seltzers. It’s organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with only the finest sustainably sourced ingredients. While they do extract the alcohol from their traditional Kombucha, that alcohol is not used in creating AfterGlow. Instead, they let AfterGlow’s natural alcohol mature through fermentation and into the can – resulting in a mindfully made adult beverage.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Aqua ViTea

This week’s  Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Aqua ViTea! All of their non-alcoholic Kombucha is 20% off for member-owners from September 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this unique local business with humble beginnings on a Salisbury Farm!

 

History

Aqua ViTea began in 2007 in the Salisbury, Vermont farmhouse of Jeff Weaber and Dr. Katina Martin, based on the naturopathic principle of “food as medicine.” Weaber and Martin had just relocated to Vermont after 9 years in Portland, Oregon, where Katina pursued medical degrees in Naturopathy, Midwifery, and Acupuncture and Jeff served as the brewer for The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. Honing the craft of fermentation at work and learning about functional foods and the governing role of the digestive system from Katina at home led Weaber to discover the wonders of Kombucha.

Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber with his wife Katina Martin at their Salisbury home where they first began brewing kombucha

By 2007, he was selling his Kombucha to the happy crowds at the Middlebury Farmers Market under the Aqua ViTea brand and in 2008, he began bottling his product and selling wholesale to our Co-op and a handful of other local markets. By 2014, demand began to outpace production capacity, and plans to move Aqua ViTea’s production off the farm began to ferment. They first moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Bristol, VT, followed by yet another upgrade in 2017 to an even more impressive facility — the former home of Woodchuck Cider just off of Exchange Street in Middlebury. Today, the rapidly growing company is the largest Kombucha producer on the east coast and proudly brews low sugar, alcohol-free, organic kombucha with naturally abundant probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants, whose balanced blend of sparkling refreshment and bold flavor makes it the perfect substitute for juice or soda. 

Giant vats of kombucha brewing at Aqua ViTea’s state-of-the-art facility in Middlebury

As the business grew, Weaber called on Mike Kin, who was a close friend of Weaber’s in Oregon, and convinced him to move to Vermont with his family to become the company’s brewer. If you dig the artwork on Aqua ViTea’s packaging and materials as much as we do, you’ve got Mike to thank for these. He sketches each one by hand, creating the funky, colorful, amazing signature artwork that you see on all of AquaVitea’s products!

Mike Kin creates the signature Freshketch artwork for Aqua ViTea

 

Commitment to Authenticity

Many commercially available Kombucha brands have been found to contain significantly more sugar and alcohol than their labels disclose. Additionally, some large-scale Kombucha products are being manufactured in a lab setting, force carbonated, and even pasteurized, with the probiotic cultures added artificially as “ingredients” to the end product.

Aqua ViTea Kombucha has kid-friendly ingredients you can trust

Aqua ViTea, since day one, has shown a deep commitment to authenticity. This begins by sourcing the highest quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced organic tea from Middlebury’s Stone Leaf Teahouse and organic cane sugar to feed the ferment. Their Kombucha is the product of a live, active fermentation, which allows the live cultures and enzymes to develop naturally and delivers the tangy effervescence that Kombucha drinkers love. They are one of only two kombucha makers in the country who have invested in a spinning cone column, which allows for the extraction and recovery of volatile compounds, including alcohol, without the need for excessive heat. And since the alcohol is removed at the end of fermentation, the active cultures can grow at their own pace, which results in authentic, delicious, and non-alcoholic Kombucha. They even employ an in-house microbiologist to analyze the safety and purity of their products.

Laura Smith from Aqua ViTea tells a tour group from Addison Central Teens about the cone extractor, which removes the alcohol from Aqua ViTea’s kombucha

 

After Glow

An exciting recent addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is AfterGlow Hard Kombucha. This is a smooth, tasty alternative to beer and cider and a more natural option than spiked seltzers. It’s organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with only the finest sustainably sourced ingredients. While they do extract the alcohol from their traditional Kombucha, that alcohol is not used in creating AfterGlow. Instead, they let AfterGlow’s natural alcohol mature through fermentation and into the can – resulting in a mindfully made adult beverage.

 

 

 

 

Fiesta Roja Dog

While it’s tough to beat a classic hot dog with all the standard fixings, it can also be a lot of fun to merge a traditional hot dog with the flavors of other favorite comfort foods. With that in mind, we introduce you to the Fiesta Roja Dog, featuring the flavors of classic Latin American cuisine, including the namesake Fiesta Roja fermented curtido slaw made by our friends at Sobremesa and fresh tomatillo salsa made by our friends at Sonia’s Salsa. Our weekly sale from July 1st – 7th features Applegate Farms Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs and Bakerly Brioche hotdog buns, so pick up a pack of each and give the Fiesta Roja dog a try! 

Kimchijeon (Kimchi Pancake)

According to Chef and food writer Samin Nosrat, who adapted this recipe, Young S. Kim’s golden kimchijeon are a revelation. Tart with pungent kimchi, the pancakes are both satisfyingly chewy and shatteringly crisp. Nosrat suggests serving it to a crowd as an appetizer or enjoying it on its own as a filling meal. You’ll find local Sunja’s kimchi featured in our weekly sale from April 22nd – 29th, so it’s a great time to experience this Korean comfort food!

Spotlight on Rhapsody Natural Foods

Rhapsody Natural Foods is basking in Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their fabulous fermented foods are 20% off for member-owners from April 22nd – 29th. Read on to learn more about this family-owned local business hailing from the heart of Cabot, VT, and their quest to bring you traditional plant-based foods produced in harmony with nature:

Sjon and Elysha Welters moved to the US from the Netherlands in 1983 with their 1-year-old daughter in tow in search of a place to build a homestead from which they could carve out a sustainable lifestyle. Their family eventually landed about a mile from Cabot Village in central Vermont and began setting down roots, raising their three children, and starting a business. 

Sjon Welters on the family homestead in Cabot, VT standing between the Rhapsody production facility and office

Their initial venture was a restaurant in Montpelier, which would serve as a test kitchen of sorts for the line of Rhapsody products that we know and love today. Their ultimate dream, however, was to be able to produce these foods on their homestead, cutting the commute and allowing the family to decrease their carbon footprint and dependency on imported food. The 2011 construction of a small production facility on their homestead allowed this dream to come to fruition, rooting the Welters family more deeply into the rural Vermont landscape where they were able to focus on improving the soil, maintaining their large vegetable gardens, and tending to the fruit trees and fields.

Sjon Welters in the Rhapsody production facility on the Welters family homestead

The Welters family is committed to producing foods that uphold their traditional value to nourish the health of their community. They understand that traditional foods can hold solutions to many modern-day problems. They are particularly passionate about fermented foods, which contain beneficial probiotic bacteria, are full of digestive enzymes that aid in digestion, support immunity, and help nutrients and minerals assimilate more easily. 

Rhapsody is committed to supporting a sustainable local economy by sourcing from local and regional producers as much as possible, buying organic, and minimally processed, clean ingredients, and avoiding all GMO foods. They are constantly seeking opportunities to collaborate with local farmers so that more of the ingredients in their products can be sourced closer to home. They experimented with growing rice on their homestead for 7 years, proving that rice production in Vermont is possible. They hope to someday be able to source the rice for their Koji (starter culture for their miso) locally. They are also hoping to find someone who is excited to grow organic natto soybeans locally as those are only available from a very limited number of suppliers. Rhapsody’s products are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers and their goal is not to only meet the organic standards but to exceed them, as the national standards of organic become less representative of the intention on which it was based. Additionally, in October of 2020, all of Rhapsody Natural Foods’ products became certified kosher.

Sjon Welters planting rice on the homestead

 

Presently, their three children and their families (7 grandchildren) live on the same property and support the business in their own unique ways, making it a true family affair. According to their webpage, the Welters family is “committed to running a sustainable business that supports a natural lifestyle where the days and weeks of our lives are engaging, dynamic, inspiring, challenging, and fulfilling. Production, sales, marketing, distribution, and bookkeeping are all divided up according to skillset and interest. We get it all done with a sense of purpose and satisfaction! In the face of the health, economic, and environmental crisis that our community, both local and global, faces today we are committed to actions that contribute to positive change. Our work towards meeting this challenge is in part by sharing our passion for high-quality fermented local food!”