Monthly Archives: March 2014
Written by Jon Lane, Demogod
So, amidst all the talk about the finer points of home brewing, and minuscule details of fine tea that I can’t even fully wrap my brain or my palate around, I’m gonna break from the course, a bit. Now seems like an ideal time to introduce you to present-day KBBK’s most unsung hero, and probable loudest brand ambassador:
Meet the Buchmobile.Well… actually, that’s her occupation. Those of us who know her best know her as Buchina (or, Boo-CHEE-na, if you’re into the whole phonetic thing).
I first came to Kombucha Brooklyn as a part-time delivery driver,so my days were almost entirely spent piloting the Buchmobile around the city (we weren’t on a first name basis, yet), slinging kegs and bottles to all our direct accounts… and learning very quickly that driving a fluorescent beacon of Brooklyn ‘buch was a slightly different experience than I’d expected.
While it was immediately apparent to me that there could be no possible better vessel for a company called "Kombucha Brooklyn" than a van that looks like the offspring of Brooklyn graffiti culture and the Scooby-Gang's Mystery Machine, It takes a little time to get used to being stared at constantly…. I’m a fairly laid back guy, almost to a fault, but found myself having to stifle the “what the hell are you looking at?” reflex more than a few times… for about three seconds, before I’d realize (with a reasonable helping of sheepish embarrassment) that they were quite obviously eyeballing the van, rather than the driver…. I’ve undoubtedly had my picture taken over a hundred times, at the wheel, in the last year and a half, and have had 5-10 folks come up and pantomime ‘tagging’ the hood, at a stoplight -- starting with one in my first hour of driving her, on my first day. He scored extra points for using his ‘breath freshener’ spray, for added authenticity. Chuckle….
But I’m at risk of straying from the point here. In the last few years, since having been rescued from the inhumane drudgery of life as a white cargo van, this little thing has schlepped an almost unfathomable amount of Kombucha, and hauled a pretty ridiculous list of other random cargo… all of which I’ll spare you.
She’s got all the little ticks and idiosyncrasies you’d expect from a 25 year-old Chevy Astro. I’ll spare you most of them too. For a brief example, throughout the entirety of my employment here, the place where her radio should be has been occupied only by a little stuffed Pound Puppy in a Santa hat. I’ve never asked why. Sometimes you just roll with these things. She’s got a pretty mean overbite, as the result of being sandwiched between a poorly-driven minivan and a predictably unappreciative NYPD van. One door doesn’t open from the inside, one doesn’t unlock from the outside… you get the idea. And sometimes things go rather dramatically awry...
But, semi-miraculous as it is that she keeps on charging forward, with scant complaints, the awesome thing about this little van is the reactions it gets from people, every day, everywhere. Whether I’m in a sketchy Brooklyn neighborhood, or in the prime-rent section of the upper west side, people of every hue, every crowd, every age and every income level break out into smiles, grab cameras, walk up to the window and start conversations, or just throw a thumbs up, or shout approval from across an intersection.
Hell, I met the Buchmobile’s first dedicated driver, AJ, in the middle of Times Square, after he spotted the van and skated up to the window to introduce himself (he kept pace with me for a few blocks, then went back to being noticeably faster than the traffic). He incidentally now drives a fluorescent green delivery machine around town, for our friends at Runa. Coincidence? ;)
At least one person has given us an artistic rendering of the van… somewhere we’ve got a picture of a freshly married couple posing together, standing on her back bumper. I've even snuck her into a rock video. The only real downside is having to constantly explain to people that I have less artistic ability than the average tree squirrel, and am not personally responsible for the paint job (they always ask). But it’s worth it.
It's particularly worth it, in that it changes the way *I* act, when I drive. You can’t stare at smiling faces and jubilantly bewildered kids, all day, and not have it improve your outlook on life. Sure, it’s lovely when people spot the KBBK logo on the hood, and throw up their fists and cheer (yeah. that happens too), as you trundle towards them, but it’s a lot more fulfilling when you find yourself smiling and waving back, rather than being annoyed by traffic, honking horns, deadlines, tickets, and all the other things that weigh on you, when you do this for a living. You find yourself waving pedestrians and other cars ahead, rather than racing them through an intersection, or bullying your way through a crosswalk (you also find that it usually works out better that way, anyway). And nine times out of ten they’re visibly appreciative. Then they look at the van, and smile even more brightly. It’s like driving 4,000 lbs of weaponized good karma around the city.
It’s maybe the only sad aspect of the fact that KBBK has very definitely begun to outgrow the Buchmobile, in its past/present role. We’ve handed the reins of our keg delivery program to our new friends at Phoenix / Bee Hive, which is a really exciting move for the company, and our customers… and possibly my back. So Buchina is down to one weekly patrol of the city, to make sure our bottle program is running smoothly, and the occasional trip to set up a new account, or do whatever else is necessary to bring a smile to the face of someone who probably has no idea what kombucha even is. I’d expect she’s looking forward to Spring Smorgasburg as much as a van can possibly look forward to a thing.
So there you have it. If you see her on the street, give her a pat on the hood, or a low-five on the gas cap lid (yes. it’s always open), or just throw the thumbs up… or better yet, just smile. It’s kinda what she does to people. ;)
Her name’s Buchina. Every Chevy Astro may have been made in Baltimore, but she was very definitely Born in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn rock band and avid KBBK drinkers The End Men called in Buchina (and, more dubiously, her driver) for a cameo in the video for "Work," their ode to the struggle of surviving in the city. She was more than happy to oblige.
In Part 1, I discussed the use of teas alone as a basic and powerful method of kombucha flavoring. Now, I'd like to take a look at one variety of tea that often gets overlooked in the West...
Among the most alluring aspects of tea is its ability to elicit the sensation of feeling like you are somewhere else, in time or space. It can, beyond words, call forth a sort of sensory tableau, akin to déjà vu.
The sensory details of each day's occurrences are connected by our experience, and accrue as a sort of personal encyclopedia. These details inform and even alter the manner with which we perceive our world and recall our personal history. And in the same way our minds build perceptions and experiences into memory, so can our minds retrieve memory (or illusion) from similar sensations and events. These can include cues such as sights, smells, sounds, feelings etc.
Not only is the flavor, body and aroma of a tea an immediate sensory experience, but it also can call forth recollection and imagination. Consider this as I talk about one of the most alluring, evocative and enigmatic of them all - pu-erh.
Pu-Erh, Caviar of Teas
When you drink a pu-erh, a (dry) fermented, aged, tea, a whole host of impressions can be stimulated in striking fashion. You might re-experience acute sensations you’ve had in the forest - the smell of sweet notes of earth, tree bark and mushrooms - along with a little stimulation, possibly from the surprise nature of revelatory sensation, like a rush of adrenaline. These flavors sound strange to find in a tea - but pu-erhs are as complex and nuanced as a fine scotch whiskey - as a memory itself. And like caviar, pu-erhs are highly revered - but can also be polarizing.
What’s this have to do with kombucha?
In fermenting a fine tea, you’re supercharging its nutritive potential, contributing to its flavor, and of course making it additionally refreshing (with refrigeration and carbonation from a nice bottle conditioning). Pu-erhs are considered highly medicinal - supposedly helpful in weight loss, cholesterol reduction and cleansing the blood. At KBBK, we love to drink pu-erh kombucha to give us a great boost of energy, detoxify our bodies, and provide a very unique and conversational experience.
Types of Pu-erh
Pu-Er was the name of a Chinese town of antiquity which was known for being a center of commerce from which this type of tea was regularly exported. Of pu-erhs there are two distinct categories - the one photographed above is a "shu," or ripe pu-erh. Specially conditioned to recreate long-aged teas, it is "cooked" - tea handlers essentially compost the leaves in a very controlled environment. Tea producers began to utilize this process to attempt to satisfy the high demand for aged pu-erhs - the original, singular style of pu-erh - until the "cooking" process was developed in the late 20th century. While in cooking the result isn't exactly the same as you would achieve through aging, it creates, no less, a very distinct and unique product that isn't really so far off from "sheng" pu-erhs.
Sheng pu-erhs are considered raw - the tea is not composted or fermented quickly, but over time and through closely-guarded methods. This is a style of the old days, long pre-dating the Mongol invasion of China, and it is still considered an integral part of the culture. It is well known among enthusiasts that the best pu-erhs are consumed after decades of aging. The one pictured above has seen nearly a quarter of a century pass.
In our experience, longer-aged sheng pu-erhs are much mellower and less astringent than are younger examples of the style (though still remaining enigmatic, startling, and delicious).
However, when we are brewing our pu-erh teas into kombucha, we need not worry about bitterness. This is due to the unique ability of the culture to eliminate the tannic bitterness you might notice in a tea before fermentation. So, out of a pu-erh kombucha you are left with a complex, highly medicinal and refreshing beverage, a giant and healthy SCOBY; not to mention a chance to step into a distant memory or illusion elicited by the tea's terroir, processing, and especially in the case of pu-erhs, age.
If this sounds enticing, you simply must taste for yourself. A great place to start exploring pu-erh kombucha is with our office favorite, the sheng Silver Bud White Pu-erh. While usually made from older leaves, this unique variety has been made with the buds of the tea tree. And while only aged for 11 years, you'll notice a distinct fruitiness in this tea that is strongly reminiscent of sweet prunes, tobacco and honeydew. For a convincing pu-erh brew, look no further, and remember - this is kombucha flavoring at its simplest and most effective. So, brew up some pu-erh kombucha, sip with your eyes closed, and see where the tea and your imagination can take you!