Profile: Aqua ViTea, Middlebury, Vermont
Aqua ViTea (rhymes with Mighty) Kombucha was founded in 2007 by Jeff Weaber who had relocated from Oregon where he’d first brewed kombucha at home in 2002 at the dawn of the commercial kombucha age. He bootstrapped the business from a small farmhouse, focusing on distributing in kegs. As a pioneer in the kombucha-on-tap delivery model, Aqua ViTea was available on draft from 700 outlets from Pennsylvania to Maine before the pandemic closed many taprooms.
The company operates from a 60,000 sq ft facility on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Middlebury in the bucolic landscape of west central Vermont. The home of poet Robert Frost, and the renowned Middlebury College, it offers, according to Jeff “a great place to start a business.” Vermont has a rich entrepreneurial history–ranging from the world-famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to a multitude of cheese makers, craft beer and cider companies, and artisans of all kinds.
Their facility was built by Vermont’s leading apple cider company, who outgrew the space. It was ideal for Aqua ViTea, being structurally suited to beverage production.
Aqua ViTea is available in a wide of flavors
- Blood Orange
- Blueberry Social
- Hibiscus Ginger Lime
- Strawberry Sage
- Pineapple Lemonade
- Turmeric Sunrise
- CBD Chaga Chai
- CBD Green Tea
They also market a line of Afterglow Hard Kombucha which comes in at 5% ABV.
Verified Alcohol Extracted
Aqua ViTea is one of the few kombucha brands that have invested in Flavourtech Spinning Cone technology to extract excess alcohol and stay under the legally mandated 0.5% ABV level. They process their brew following primary fermentation to distill off alcohol under vacuum conditions without applying excessive heat. Inside the floor to ceiling column, atmospheric pressure is reduced to the point where ethanol (i.e. the alcohol in the kombucha) atomizes at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This takes a beverage from 3.00% ABV to under 0.5%.
Their in-house microbiologist performs regular testing using a headspace gas chromatograph to analyze their product at the molecular level and confirm the authenticity of their ‘booch.
The company evaluates the environmental impact of their business decisions. They source the finest quality ingredients and work with regional providers whenever feasible. Their giant 12,000-gallon fermentation tanks generate over 72,000 pounds of excess SCOBYs per year that are sent to an anaerobic digester that combines cow manure from a large diary farm with food waste to create Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) for Middlebury College.
To hear the story of Aqua ViTea Kombucha in Jeff’s own words, listen to the podcast. This was a delight to record, since I was on-site at their Middlebury facility while on a family vacation, rather than sitting in my home office talking on the phone.