By now, I'm sure you're all aware of the wonderful cold treats available from Loblolly Creamery at South Main's Green Corner Store, but ice cream isn't the only summertime refreshment they have available. Loblolly's newest treat is as tasty as it is good for you: house-made kombucha, a naturally carbonated tea-based drink with a crisp and tangy taste that's worlds apart from the mass-produced kombucha drinks sold at places like Whole Foods.
At first glance, the process by which kombucha is made might seem a little strange: lightly sweetened green or black tea is infused with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or "scoby"). The scoby feeds on the sugar in the tea, forming a large layer on top of the tea reminiscent in shape of a pancake. As the bacteria and yeast feed, they produce a variety of acids which give the kombucha what Rachel Boswell and Sally Mengel of Loblolly call "a satisfying tang." Once the kombucha has reached a reached a state of balanced flavor between sweet and sour, it is filtered and bottled. Just before sealing, Rachel and Sally add a bit of flavor to the drink: honey, agave nectar, or one of the several homemade syrups the use in the Green Corner Store soda fountain. This added sweetener allows the kombucha to bottle-condition and develop natural carbonation. Each bottle is labeled with the date it was bottled and served cold from the cooler.
Having sampled both an agave-flavored green kombucha and a citrus-flavored black, I can say that Loblolly's drinks taste like nothing else around. The green kombucha is light and crisp, with a flavor that starts tart and ends sweet. The black has a deeper flavor which reminded me of a home-mixed cola. Both made me want to come back and try more. The drinks are available in two sizes, 7 oz. for $1.50 and 12 oz. for $3.00. Both prices include a $0.50 refundable deposit, and the folks at the Green Corner Store will even make a magnet for you out of the Loblolly logo bottle caps. Loblolly is also accepting donations of empty Corona bottles, Mexican coke bottles or any other clear glass bottles that do not have twist tops - and they'll give you a free scoop of ice cream for every six-pack you bring in. And with the hot weather right around the corner, do you really need any more reasons to stop by?