Dissecting the kombucha craze with Turtle Mountain Tea.

YOU’RE STANDING IN FRONT OF A WALL of kombucha at the Food Co-op, head cocked, an overwhelming selection staring back. That clueless, slightly lost feeling creeps in.

Eyes dart, scanning labels; you just want a little internal reboot. Can any of these deliver? What should you even be looking for?

You shuffle away, kombucha-less.

Buying the trendy fermented beverage doesn’t have to be that intimidating, says Natalie diSanto, founder of Fort Collins’ Turtle Mountain Tea, LLC. Basically, you’re looking for a label touting live kombucha culture, no added sugars in the final product, and an herbal mixture that seems exciting, she says.

The 24-year-old started her first batch of kombucha in a three-gallon crock in her Philadelphia dorm room. She needed a health tonic after a triple bout with bronchitis, strep and flu. Prescribed meds weren’t working so she started researching holistic plant treatments.

“I was trying everything I could get my hands on to fix my body,” diSanto says. “Kombucha did it. I’m sure all the herbal treatments and healthy lifestyle changes made a huge impact as well, but I remember kombucha as the one thing that stood out as an immediate sensation of ‘wow, I feel better.’”

She started out sharing samples of her kombucha at a Northern Colorado farmer’s market and, contrary to the reaction of friends back home, Fort Collins locals loved it. Turtle Mountain, LLC was officially born February 2015.

The company puts its own spin on kombucha by brewing entirely with yerba mate tea, adding sugar, then diSanto’s S.C.O.B.Y.—Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast—which kick starts the fermentation. Two weeks later, they have an original kombucha.

“With yerba mate as our base, we are able to venture into flavors that heavier kombuchas tend to overpower, such as our SageBerry, Carrot Ginger and Lavender Grape,” she says.

The Chinese drink’s beneficial powers lie in active probiotics that assist your gut in breaking down food, purging toxins and oxygenating blood. Digestive energy is saved, allowing the body to concentrate on the nervous and immune systems. The bonus, diSanto says, is kombucha’s wallop of Vitamin B, which works to reduce stress and promote happiness. A common misconception is that kombucha is alcoholic. It’s actually comparable to a glass of OJ left on the counter for half an hour, she says.

Turtle Mountain also makes raw, wild fermented sauerkrauts and kimchi packed with probiotics. The small, youthful company takes great pride in being entirely female-run, chopping, packing and labeling each product by hand.

“The alcohol production scene is dominated by burly, bearded men,” diSanto says. “I hope to be an outlet and opportunity for young women who aren’t afraid to walk in to a brewery, slap on some goggles and goulashes, and get to fermenting.”

Find Turtle Mountain Kombucha

By the Bottle:

  • Patero’s Creek Brewery
  • Mugs Coffee Houses
  • Beaver’s Grocery Store
  • The Bean Cycle
  • The Fort Collins Food Co-Op
  • Wolverine Farm Publick House
  • Momo Lolo Coffeehouse
  • Starry Night Espresso Cafe
  • Little Bird Bake Shop

On Tap:

  • American Cultures Kombucha Bar, Denver
  • Look for Turtle Mountain’s new Fort Collins kombucha taproom to open by 2018

At Farmer’s Markets:

  • Estes Park Farmer’s Market
  • Old Town Farmer’s Market
  • Drake Road Farmer’s Market
  • Larimer County Farmer’s Market
  • Loveland Farmer’s Market


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