Words by Marléna Ahearn
Photos by Julia Merrell
Drinking a sizable cold brew in her own to-go cup, with a personality as effervescent as her kombucha, Katarina Schwarz's eyes light up when she talks about how she navigates the science and creativity of making a delicious brew.
Though she went to school for music, once she discovered her affinity for making kombucha, experimenting, and developing flavors, she started her own business as the first kombucha brewery in Rochester, NY: Katboocha.
Katboocha, which opened in 2018, is located in Rochester's Public Market District, inside of Rohrbach Brewery. There, she started brewing small five gallon batches, which slowly turned into 60 gallon tanks, which she inherited a friend who makes kombucha downstate.
“I liken making kombucha to taking care of a plant. You can’t just start mass producing, you have to take small steps to make sure the plant is being cultivated right first,” says Katarina. “You are working with a live thing.”
Katarina says making good kombucha is more science than people may realize, but once you understand the rules of what's happening you can start to get creative with it. The various teas used in making kombucha are wildly different in flavor, and when you ferment them unique flavor profiles emerge, brighten, and strengthen.
Someday, she hopes Katboocha will be a larger presence in Rochester with a storefront for people to enjoy her products and where people can commune. Instead of spending her days trying to mass market her product, she’d much rather create a place of community.
A natural teacher (she taught music lessons throughout her music career), she decided to start sharing her knowledge and passion for kombucha. Her first class is called Make Your Own Kombucha where people can learn how to make their own beverages at home. This summer, she’ll be teaching secondary classes at a local farm about flavoring kombucha.
“The creativity and community aspects of teaching classes and creating a space where people can enjoy is my priority going forward,” says Katarina.
Explore the science and creativity of kombucha at one of Katarina's upcoming classes.