Kombucha had been enjoying a Renaissance of sorts these last few years as more and more people discover what it is and give it a try. But thanks to people looking for ways to stay healthy and boost their systems during the pandemic, local kombucha has become even more popular.

Sweetened tea that has been fermented with yeast and bacteria produces a tart and tangy effervescent beverage that High Point Kombucha owner Laura Valasakos adores. She liked it so much after trying it that she decided to start a woman-owned company producing it. The High Point name is a hat tip to her favorite hobby of hiking and the feeling that comes from reaching a pinnacle.

 

Getting Started

The diagnosis of an auto-immune condition a few years ago prompted Valasakos to pursue a healthier lifestyle. “I started realizing that what I eat affects my cells. I began paying more attention to the input-output aspect of my diet. Making dietary changes was hard at first until I got used to it. Kombucha was getting trendy so it was on my radar and I began learning about the benefits of fermented foods, especially on digestion.”

She originally planned to run her business from home, but after checking with the Allentown Health Department she found out she couldn’t. After trying to find a commercial kitchen that should could afford to rent, she came across an April 2018 article about the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, run by Allentown Economic Development Corporation. She contacted the facility manager only to find out that they didn’t have space available for her. Some time went by during which she debated the feasibility of her business until one day she received a call from the BEC manager telling her that a new space had become available and she could move in.

After signing the lease in January 2019, she installed a refrigerator, sinks, a freezer and a desk. Once installs were complete, she was set up and ready to go. Valasakos’ 500 sq. ft. space functions as both her office and her production facility.

“I feel like I am meant to be here. It was fate that this space became available when it did. It was meant for me to have. I live only a few minutes away in Allentown, and I am very fortunate to have my business located so near home.”

 

Selling a Product (Almost) Everybody Wants

The best kombucha is that made in small batches, according to Valasakos. “I know people who have tried commercially made versions, decide that they don’t like kombucha and decline when I offer them a sample. This gives me the opportunity to explain that the way I make it in small batches is different and that they should try it. It’s a very hands-on production process which allows the cultures to remain alive and provides better health benefits. They just need to have a positive experience with kombucha in order to be open to buying it.”

Her main sales avenue has been farmers’ markets in the region, which have been increasingly popular during the pandemic. “Farmers’ markets are great because they allow us to have a direct dialogue with our customers,” Valasakos explained. “Some people don’t know what it is and aren’t sure if they want to give it a try. Others have tried different local brands and are open to trying ours as a result. Since people feel safer shopping for food in an outdoor environment, the popularity of farmers’ markets has increased this season, and we’ve been doing well as a result.”

In the coming months she hopes to have more wholesale accounts linked up in time for the seasonal farmers markets to close. She doesn’t envision signing contracts with large supermarket chains because of the small batch-nature of her product.

“While I am extremely grateful for the growth I have had this year, I don’t want to get much bigger than I am right now. Kombucha is a craft product and to maintain the purity of the product I need to be able to manage each and every bottle hands-on. I am not working to get rich. My mission is to give my customers a tasty way to achieve a more healthful lifestyle, while doing what I love!”

The locally minded Valasakos would some day like to own a small farm where she could grow her own fruit to use in making her kombucha.

In addition to the Trexlertown, Saucon Valley, and Dallas, PA farmers’ markets, High Point Kombucha can be found at farm stands, small cafes and restaurants like Tucker Silk Mill in Easton, and in specialty stores like Radish Republic in downtown Allentown.