Central Nebraska business generating interest in Kombucha

Ensign Beverage is a company in Hastings that's now producing low-sugar to no-sugar carbonated beverages and brewed teas.

"We started with a fairly popular beverage on the coasts, and we are seeing a lot of it in Colorado right now. It's called Kombucha," Ensign Beverage owner Jessi Hoeft said. "Kombucha is a slightly fermented tea, that has a probiotic nature to it. The live culture that lives in the tea is similar to what you would find in yogurt."

Some say Kombucha has many health benefits. "It's something that I've been brewing since 1995. I've had a little bit of history with it," Hoeft said. "As I've lived across the country in different places, I've seen it pop up again. And then when my husband and I moved here to Hastings in 2012, we opened the brewery side of things called the 'First Street Brewing Company', and we knew that we wanted to have a non-alcoholic side of things as well. In 2017, we launched Ensign Beverage."

The business works with the University of Nebraska at the food processing center at Innovation Campus. "They do some DNA sequencing on our cultures, so we do kind of have a chemistry side. My husband picks that up easily, and he monitors the beverage," Hoeft said. "I feel this is a good time to introduce Kombucha to the state. I think Nebraskans are ready, as people are looking for healthier beverage options."

The company is also involved with an initiative to raise awareness about groundwater. "We have an initiative and we've labeled it "Cha Cha Cha". We are beginning to work closely with the Nebraska Groundwater Foundation and the National Groundwater Foundation. Our goal is for a percentage of our sales to go toward those organizations to help educate the public about water conservation, water health, and water access.

Nebraska Kombucha is only being sold on draft right now. Go to ensignbeverage.com for a list of businesses where it is on draft.