Fizzy drinks business is brewing up a storm
- Credit: Ollie Mills
A microbrewer who has created 'a drink that can be anything' is looking to grow her business further and spread the word about kombucha.
Louise Avery, who runs LA Brewery in Rendlesham, describes her popular soft drink as "tart, mildly sweet, fizzy and really tasty”.
She explains that the drink is made by fermenting sweet tea, and she first tried it about 11 years ago in America.
“I tasted it and had one of those foodie moments you probably have once a year when you try something completely different and it’s like a taste explosion," she said.
“I loved fizzy drinks and it was sour and sweet and fizzy and really delicious. It tasted like nothing I had ever had before.”
When she came back to the UK she looked eagerly in shops to find kombucha but to no avail.
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“There was nothing like it,” she said.
At the time she was feeling unfulfilled in her job in London so moved back to her childhood home in the Hebrides.
“I got a job in a weaving mill and I started making kombucha and baking. I started learning about fermentation.
“I worked out very quickly that you can manipulate kombucha to taste like anything from a champagne to a beer or a cider depending on the way you fermented the tea and the fruits and the flavours you added.
“I thought 'oh my God', I’ve discovered this drink that can be anything.”
Ms Avery moved back to London and began to sell her homebrewed kombucha in a restaurant she was working in.
At the time her product had neither a bottle or a label.
“I just started selling my product in unlabelled milk bottles,” said Ms Avery.
“People just started ordering it more and more. Very organically more restaurants would start approaching me.
“I would bottle my homebrew and I would cycle and deliver them to various places.”
For several years Ms Avery continued to make kombucha in her kitchen, coming up with new and exciting flavours from plants and fruits gathered in her mother’s garden.
“I started to learn what flavours people would like. Before I knew it, I had something.”
Even at this point, Ms Avery was working three other jobs to keep her business going.
“This idea that you start a business and it takes off is not my experience,” said Ms Avery. “I was literally broke.”
On the up
Despite this, her business was still providing opportunities.
Ms Avery was asked by publishers to write a book of kombucha recipes.
“It was an amazing thing for me at the time. It has proved to be a great asset.”
With a loan from Virgin, she moved out of her kitchen and was determined to grow her business.
Through a friend she was then introduced to Suffolk-based food entrepreneur William Kendall and his business partner Mark Palmer.
“For one reason or another they decided to help me,” said Ms Avery. “Which was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. Together we started a brand-new company in 2017.”
Moving to Suffolk
The new business started in a tiny microbrewery on the old air base at Rendlesham.
Within two months the drink was being stocked in the chain restaurant, Leon.
Within six months they had reached capacity at their original site and have now opened a second brewery on the same site.
“We’ve managed to get 300 independent stockists across the UK,” said Ms Avery.
“We’ve got an online shop and we’ve launched on Ocado. We are expanding now.”
The company has also recently completed a £2million fundraising campaign to keep the business growing.
“It’s been an amazing time,” said Ms Avery.
Getting to know Suffolk
For Ms Avery, it was her experience at Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival that helped her decide on Suffolk as the location for her business.
“I just had the most amazing time,” said Ms Avery.
“People were so kind and generous. I got the most wonderful response.
“I just had the time of my life. I just thought this is where we need to be.”
Ms Avery said that moving the business to Suffolk was the best possible decision; both in terms of the local support and the food scene in the county.
“I wasn’t aware how buoyant it was and how diverse. It seems to be growing constantly. There’s Fishers Gin, there’s Fen Farm Dairy, there’s so many of them.
“There’s something really special about the Suffolk group of foodies.”