It’s a typical occurrence when they are driving in the car together and feeling frustrated or stressed: Either Alex or Sarah North will open their mouth and release a reverberating “Aaaaaa—uuuuu—-mmmm.”
Sarah, 31, is big on practicing yoga, and Alex, 34, has incorporated it into his fitness, so the chant of “Om” is a good de-stressing default.
“If we feel like we need it, we’ll just start it off,” Alex said. He added: “We’re a good team.”
The couple just celebrated their four-year wedding anniversary. They met in Austin before moving to Charlotte, where Sarah is now a server at Fahrenheit and Alex is a server at the Cheesecake Factory. Together, they are the owners of SUM Bucha, a local kombucha company they launched in October 2017.
It was when they were living together in Austin around 2010 that kombucha, a fermented tea beverage with probiotics, first worked its way into their relationship. Sarah had always been into health and wellness, on top of dealing with illnesses like hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. And her first taste of the GT brand Gingerade kombucha prompted her to try making this drink herself that’s entered the health craze with possible benefits like improved digestion and mental clarity, reduced harmful yeast and enhanced mood stability.
“I have always been an experimenter,” she said. “I was a biology major and then I taught preschool.”
She ordered a SCOBY (the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast needed to brew kombucha) online and got started.
Kombucha brewing became part of Alex and Sarah’s life together, from flavor experimentation to bottling in all sorts of random bottles. They got to Charlotte and started taking orders by email, and delivering kombucha bottles to coolers on people’s porches all over town.
Along the way, they have been consuming plenty of their own product — Alex drinks at least 24 oz. per day and Sarah drinks about 36 oz.
“We have to test everything, first off,” Sarah said, laughing.
SUM Bucha officially debuted at The Barn, the farmers market space behind Pure Pizza at 1911 Central Ave., last fall. In spring 2018, the couple started placing their bottles in local retail shops, including The People’s Market in Dilworth, Rhino Market in Wesley Heights, Legion Brewing in Plaza Midwood and other locations.
All of their kombucha is brewed with unsmoked yerba mate, and flavored with as many local ingredients as possible. Right now, their most popular flavor is Flower Power, which features the organic ingredients hibiscus, rose buds, St. John’s Wory, Holy Basil and blue agave nectar. Other flavors include their seasonal Strawberry Basil and their newly released Morning Glory with orange, rosemary, turmeric and ginger.
They now distribute their refreshing goods in durable glass bottles with white plastic twist tops that can be washed and reused. Pricing is around $5.50-7 for a bottle depending on THE retailer. Customers can even get discounted kombucha refills at The Barn on Saturdays if they bring their empty bottles.
And if you look closely at those bottles, you’ll notice mathematics symbols.
In the early days of brewing, Sarah would write equations of the ingredients on the bottle labels — and the resulting kombucha was the sum of it all.
Sarah and Alex’s business model also plays into the idea of doing “sum good,” with portions of proceeds funneling into different nonprofit endeavors. But their main goal is to help others establish healthy lifestyles and find balance in the body, as well as the mind.
“Do some good for yourself too,” Sarah said. “If you do some good for you, then you’re able to help other people.“
SUM Bucha has more flavors in the making for 2018, with watermelon and elderberry on Sarah’s list of ingredients.
She and Alex are also hunting for manufacturing space, and hope to open a taproom within the next year.
“We feel like a taproom would be a good community space for people to come, bring their positive vibes, enjoy some good kombucha,” Alex said.
Photos: Courtesy of Bradley Havens @havenvisuals, and SUM Bucha