Cheers to Good Health, Spirit and Brews

Meet the small business keeping Long Beach fueled with locally made kombucha

Words and Photos by Sylvana Uribe Community Editor

Jay Penev and Jodine Penev West are the husband and wife team who have spent the past few years as pioneers in making kombucha a staple drink for folks in Long Beach.

But what the heck is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented, semi-sweet tea beverage. The drink starts as a combination of tea, sugar and a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (S.C.O.B.Y.), which then undergoes a fermentation process similar to beverages like beer or wine. The final product is one packed with antioxidants that is beneficial for digestive and immune systems. The alcohol content in kombucha varies based on the fermentation process conducted by its makers, but on average contains 0.4–0.5 percent of alcohol by volume. It’s impossible for a wild night of binging on the drink to get a consumer drunk, but such feats could result in an upset stomach or bloating.

Jay and Jodine have often found themselves with hoarse voices from explaining over and over what the drink was to new faces. The two own Fine Feathers Kombucha Co., a business they currently operate from Central Long Beach. The company launched 5 years ago and will celebrate the 4-year anniversary of its brick and mortar shop this August.

Jay and Jodine met in Portland, a city they credit for giving them their start in kombucha brewing and for teaching them about a more sustainable way of living. After relocating to Long Beach, where Jodine was born and raised, the two continued making kombucha and sharing their home brews with friends. Soon after, they found themselves selling the drink and hopping on their bikes to make home deliveries to their growing base of customers.

“This was all obviously underground,” Jodine said. “There wasn’t anyone else selling it in Long Beach. It was still a new market and it all just kind of aligned.”

“Maybe we should have been more calculated with it and I think that was the beauty of it. When you really say [our growth] was organic, it was organic,” Jay said.

Fine Feathers was picked up and sold in stores throughout the city, but keeping up with the demand was difficult to do out of the couple’s home kitchen. Despite a few stumbles, the two took the plunge and purchased their own facility. They poured their energy into repurposing a former flower shop and getting new batches out to the community.

Fine Feathers’ commitment to the community it serves is evident in every facet of its operation, including on an environmentally conscious level.

“We knew when we started that we were going to set up the business as sustainable as possible. We compost all of our organic wastes and donate S.C.O.B.Y.s to a women’s collective of makers,” Jodine said.

“We want to feel better about having a business and creating waste, because you do create waste, but we minimize it as much as we can,” Jay said.

Additional sustainable practices include incentives for returning and reusing bottles, like its Growler Exchange Program where customers receive credit for every half gallon jug they purchase and return to the store. Fine Feathers is also set on staying local to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with shipping bottles outside of the city.

Other ways of nurturing ties to Long Beach have been through gatherings, such as kombucha brewing workshops. Jay joked that in addition to learning about the foundations of making the drink and ways to flavor it, attendees can also expect a slew of dad jokes.

Although the workshops have drawn out curious enthusiasts, there was still something missing. Attendees left the workshops with their own starter kit provided by Fine Feathers, but Jodine said she was often left wondering how their home brews had turned out. To remedy this, the two organize kombucha tasting and bottle share events where brewers bring samples of their brews and talk about their experiences in making the drink.

“It stemmed from not wanting that relationship to end,” Jodine said. “Then I just thought this could be a cool way to introduce different flavors, but also for home brewers there’s a lot of questions and you can feel alone.”

With the notion of community building at the forefront, the couple agreed they couldn’t imagine having their business anywhere else. Long Beach needed and wanted kombucha, and seems to continue supporting the small business.

“I always knew in the back of my head that the community will take care of us. If you take care of it, it will take care of you,” Jodine said.

Fine Feathers’ appreciation for the loyalties and friendships found in Long Beach will permit it to remain grounded in bringing to life a product made locally with love for many moons to come.

Fine Feathers Kombucha Co. is located at 2296 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach, Calif. 90806.
Their store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, and closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Tickets are currently available online for its May 7 Kombucha Brewing Workshop. More information about the company and its products are available online at finefeatherskombucha.com
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