Profile: Cotswold Kombucha, Cheltenham, England

Stephen Lee first tasted kombucha in his hometown of Fremont, California, in 2008. After meeting his English fiancee, he settled in the English spa town of Cheltenham, the gateway to the Cotswolds. He’d been brewing kombucha at home for the past three years, so when his day job furloughed him in March due to COVID-19, he took the leap into commercial production, and Cotswold Kombucha was born.

The Cheltenham Story

The town’s Latin motto ‘Salubritas et Eruditio‘ (Health and Education) is on each bottle. It’s an underlying goal of many kombucha brands to educate people about the benefits of this healthy beverage. Stephen hopes to make more people aware of kombucha as well as the history of their town.

In the 18th Century, locals believed that the beautiful clean Cheltenham water offered some therapeutic value and began drinking it. By the middle of the 18th-Century the owner of the spring, Henry Skillicone, decided to develop the area. He turned the spring into a well, adding a building nearby for people to hold dances and play cards. The water from the spring was also bottled and sold to people as a treatment for various illnesses. Over the next 60 years, the reputation of the spa grew as more people visited the area. In May 1816, Jane Austen visited Cheltenham to seek a cure for her failing health.

Launching a new company

Stephen launched Cotswold Kombucha a month ago. He ferments his kombucha in eight-liter carboys and scaled out his production at home (having passed the Food Standards Agency inspection with flying colors with a 5/5 rating ) to produce 100 liters a week.

His brand is identified with the Cotswold region, and he’s trademarked the name. His goal to become a strong regional brand with a focus on working with independent local farmers, retailers, markets, and festivals. He had a stall at the SoulCircus Festival, the UK’s leading yoga and music festival, and he’s building out several retail outlets.

He appreciated the experience of meeting other brands at the recent Virtual KombuchaKon. Plus, he was recently contacted by Adam Vanni of Jarr Kombucha who validated his “well balanced” original flavor.

Flavors

The four flavors represent different Cheltenham historical landmarks:

  • THE O.G. WELL – His original flavor, drawn from the waters that fed the spa that popularized Cheltenham.
  • PITTVILLE – A Ginger blend of named in honor of the jewel of Cheltenham’s Regency architecture, the Pittville Pump Room.
  • MONTPELLIER – A Beetroot, Apple, Ginger, Assam blend suited to the tony Montpelier district which developed around the original spa.
  • IMPERIAL – Made with organic British Bramley apples and Assam tea, The Imperial Spa, originally the Sherbourne Spa, opened in 1818 in the location where the Queens Hotel stands today.

Podcast

To hear more about Stephen’s journey as a new brand launching in the UK, click on the podcast below.

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