Making a Fermented Tea Trendy

Two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs give kombucha a champagne-colored makeover.
Magazine Contributor
Writer and Content Strategist
2 min read

This story appears in the January 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Alison Zarrow, sociology grad student at Stanford University, and Caleb Cargle, former Stanford business school research assistant.
Alison Zarrow and Caleb Cargle, founders of Gourmet CA Raw Foods
Photos© Eva Kolenko

Entrepreneurs: Alison Zarrow, sociology grad student at Stanford University, and Caleb Cargle, former Stanford business school research assistant.

Startup: The pair launched Gourmet CA Raw Foods in 2009. "Our first investor was my best friend Visa," Cargle quips. Since then, friends and family have contributed enough to outfit a small kombucha factory with floor-to-ceiling brewing tanks--no mean feat in Silicon Valley, where startup culture revolves around tech.

Mark Zuckerberg
Top Shelf: clear, champagne-colored kombucha in a fluted glass bottle

What possessed them: "We're not big drinkers, and we thought there needed to be a healthy, high-quality alternative to alcoholic drinks," Zarrow says. Enter Top Shelf: clear, champagne-colored kombucha in a fluted glass bottle--"perfect for mixing," Cargle says. "We're like the Grey Goose of kombucha."

Kom-what? Fermented tea high in B vitamins and probiotics, popular for its touted medicinal benefits. Often associated with granola types and health nuts. (Warning: It's an acquired taste.)

Kom-why? 2009 industry sales were an estimated $100 million, and the market experienced double-digit growth over the last few years.

"Aha" moment: On a plane, post-Vegas weekend. 'Nuff said.

Customers: To promote the lifestyle beverage, they've gone after local accounts like Equinox Fitness, an upscale gym, and Garden Court, a luxury boutique hotel in Palo Alto, Calif.

Philosophy: "Work until it's done."

Recommended recipe: The Dark and Stormy, two parts kombucha, one part light rum, one part ginger beer and lime juice.

What's brewing in 2011 (and beyond): "We don't want to get in over our heads, so we're taking it slow," Zarrow says. They're aiming for regional distribution in one year, and nationwide in three. Cargle is experimenting with flavors, such as blueberry, mango and lemonade.

 

loading...
More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors are here to help you throughout the entire process of building your franchise organization!
  1. Schedule a FREE one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
  2. Choose one of our programs that matches your needs, budget, and timeline
  3. Launch your new franchise organization
Entrepreneur Insider members enjoy exclusive access to business resources for just $5/mo:
  • Premium articles, videos, and webinars
  • An ad-free experience
  • A weekly newsletter
  • Bonus: A FREE 1-year Entrepreneur magazine subscription delivered directly to you
Make sure you’re covered for physical injuries or property damage that occur at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business

Latest on Entrepreneur