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Four yellow and orange bottles of Unified Ferments teas on a white background.
Courtesy Unified Ferments

This Brooklyn Fermented Tea Brand Brews by Its Own Rules

February 6, 2021
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In the United States, the market for fermented tea drinks, including the popular kombucha variety, reached $2.2 billion at the end of last year, and is expected to jump to $6.5 billion by 2026. But all such beverages are not created equal, as exemplified by Brooklyn-based brewer Unified Ferments, which concocts refreshments that offer a distinctive, and complex yet subtle drinking experience. “Most kombucha is made from a simple tea that’s used as a base, and then flavored,” says Graham Pirtle, who co-founded the company in 2019 with his friend Young Stowe after realizing, while employed at a high-end tea house in Manhattan, that certain teas age, and can be consumed, like fine wines. “With us, each product makes its own rules—there’s never exactly a playbook.”

Unified Ferments hasn’t reinvented fermented teas so much as it has doubled down on quality ingredients and experimentation. “Some teas I love fail to perform as a fermented beverage,” says Stowe, who, like Pirtle, worked for breweries and wineries for several years before launching their current venture. “And other teas we wouldn’t look twice at blow us away once they’ve aged.” Take their Snow Chrysanthemum Jun, made with flowers grown in northern China’s Kunlun mountains and a touch of honey, or the Qi Dan Kombucha, a robust sparkling tea harvested from volcanic soil with notes of plum and a spicy terroir. “It’s the one that gets people in the wine world interested,” Stowe says of the latter. He and Pirtle are keen to keep learning about their product—a desire the pandemic has inadvertently supported. “We went on a hiatus when it first struck, and realized we let a couple of bottles go a month or two longer in the aging process than we intended,” Stowe says. He popped one of the vessels, took a swig, and marveled at its contents: “I can’t wait until we have a reserve line!”

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