Profile: Moody Culture Kombucha, State College, Pennsylvania
In February 2016, John Schaffer visited the San Francisco Bay Area from Pennsylvania to watch the Broncos beat the Panthers in Superbowl 50. After the game, he took a side trip to the Napa Valley and tasted kombucha for the first time. On his return home, he’d developed quite the craving for the drink, which wasn’t available in the State College area, so he teamed up with Lisa Harpster, and within a year Moody Culture Kombucha was born.
Moody Culture is a thriving regional kombucha brand. The Health Department granted them a license to produce their ‘booch in the large basement of John’s home in late 2017. They kept their day jobs, and run the business weekends and evenings, brewing authentic, 100% raw kombucha flavored with real fruits, herbs, and roots.
True to their name, they offer an extensive range of flavors for every mood. Currently on offer: Lemon Ginger, Blueberry Ginger, Raspberry Lemon, Hopped Up, Pineapple Cayenne, Pomegranate Rosemary.
Moody Culture has addressed the challenges of the COVID-19 emergency by offering free doorstep delivery. They are also helping to raise funds for English as a Second Language students and marginalized internationals in the area who currently have no job, no money, no food, and no transportation.
The crisis has impacted sales. Yet, they report that some of the cafes and restaurants that stock their drink are managing to serve to-go orders. However, festivals such as Pop Up Ave and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which were essential ways of becoming known in the community in past years, are not happening.
Lisa acknowledges that the care and feeding of their Facebook and Instagram accounts is time-consuming. However, she attributes sales in Pittsburgh and other areas outside of their home base to people finding them online through social media. She keeps to a regular schedule, posting updates on Moody Mammal Monday (featuring customer profiles), Travel Tuesday, and more.
Lisa and John readily admit to learning several lessons as their business has grown. In the early days, they fermented in seven-gallon wide-mouth glass carboys before upgrading to a 1bbl nano brewhouse from Ss Brewtech and SsBrewtech Unitanks. John wishes they had skipped over the carboys, which didn’t hold up to being accidentally dropped onto a concrete floor, and gone straight to stainless steel.
Lisa loved the square bottles they initially marketed their kombucha in. However, they were difficult to label, since you can’t rotate a square bottle as easily as the round ones they switched to when they started selling in volume. Next up, a move to cans as an environmentally friendly option to glass.
This short video shows their brewing, bottling, and labeling production facilities.
In addition to brewing kombucha, Lisa is an accomplished artist. The website has links to her (A) Cultured Art online gallery (tagline: “Let nothing go to waste”). In addition to a range of colorful acrylics on canvas, she’s created fascinating art from repurposed kombucha byproducts. She forms dehydrated SCOBYS into faces and mounts them on a background of some of the teas and herbs used in fermentation.
Lisa writes about her work:
Each piece takes on its own personality, provides a rich texture, and invites us to look closer — something I strive to do on a daily basis. We miss so much when we don’t take the time to look closely and these masked faces beg us to linger longer. Just like the ever-changing nature of kombucha, and similar to the constant evolving of humans, this artwork is not static. Colors may change & textures may transform— how wonderful that our time on earth allows us the opportunity to embrace each other’s transformations!
Each of these unique creations is available for purchase at a reasonable price for the discerning collector!
Lisa and John share the Moody Culture story in this half-hour podcast interview. We talked about their journey, details of their production and marketing, and how they are responding to the COVID-19 challenge. Lisa describes how she creates her SCOBY mask art.