At some point Portland, Oregon became something so much more than just a city. There’s a thick, near-impenetrable miasma of coolness percolating out from the ‘City of Roses’. Portland carries with it so much representative weight for so many people, for so many cultures, sub-cultures, and movements. It’s safe to assume that anyone in America, ages 18-35, with even the most passing interest in the Craft Resurgence, recognizes ‘Rip City’ as the unchallenged epicenter of nearly a decade’s worth of coolness.
Third wave coffee? Portland.
Artisanal baked goods featuring bacon? Portland.
Kombucha? You get the idea.
This is all to say; of course I had to kick-off my World Kombucha Tour in Portland. There was no other choice. It had to be Portland. It was always Portland.
Our first morning in Portland, we woke to the sun breaking through the clouds, heralding the start of a balmy day. There’s a life-affirming energy that the smell of seafoam and old-growth forests brings to the air of the Pacific Northwest. Feeding off this pulse in the air, I hit-up my sister’s fridge with unexpected gusto. I’m a tall, perpetually ravenous man so it’s imperative that I know what people have in the fridge. My sister is a saint and prepared accordingly. Most importantly, I found that sis’ (with her glorious powers of foresight) stocked a veritable encyclopedia potum of Lion Heart kombucha.
I broke into the Blueberry Ginger and was pleasantly surprised by the delicate flavor, similar to what a refreshing blueberry green tea-infused mineral water might taste like. It’s a hard thing to pull off deep, round fruit flavors without piggy-backing on sugar but Lion Heart executes this difficult task flawlessly. After sharing my Blueberry Ginger booch with Randi, I headed out to the porch and uncapped another flavor from within Lion Heart’s arsenal - The Hero’s Blend. Once again, the subtle kombucha flavor allowed the botanical flavors to take the main stage. The result is a heady and aromatic elixir that evokes fresh botanicals, dried herbs and fragrant roots, like parsnip. Yet another perfectly crafted flavor courtesy of Lion Heat.
To me, Lion Heart’s product is analogous to “session style” beer - you can drink it all day long without getting burnt out on the taste. While other brands can be unpleasantly strong or overly sweet over time, Lion Heart’s kombuchas are endlessly drinkable, delicious, and crave-inducing. For the same reason, they are the perfect refreshment after a long run or an all day surf session - quenching your thirst while replenishing your body at the same time. Lion Heart makes me want to get thirsty, and that’s a ringing endorsement for any beverage.
READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH LION HEART HERE
After we were fueled-up on our morning ‘K’, we grabbed a quick bite at a neighborhood coffee shop and started our drive to Lion Heart’s HQ. Lion Heart Kombucha is located inside the charming, “Know Thy Food” organic co-op within the quaint neighborhoods of Southeast Portland.
We walked into the market and headed to the main checkout counter where the clerk asked if we were “here for the show?”
“Show?” I asked, perplexed. It was 9:30 am on a weekday and I didn’t see a stage.
“Yeah!” the clerk replied, “We have a puppet show for children every Friday morning at 10.”
Sure enough, as I looked around I noticed a merry coterie of parents with tikes in-tow, and a whole grip of bikes with those kid-toting, wheeled tent trailers. Keep an eye-out for the new trend emerging from Portland; little kids in little hand-knit cardigans, and little high-topped leather boots that are certainly more expensive than the bikes they’re towed around behind. It all makes for a darling spectacle. Imagine a sea of miniature, future yoga-junkies.
We skipped the puppet show. I know, I know, we’re probably idiots. When’s the last time you got to watch a puppet show at the food co-op?! But we were on a mission goddamnit! This is, after all, ‘The Kombucha Life’.
We walked through the back door of the market to meet Jared. Jared is the owner of Lion Heart Kombucha and we found him acting as such. He was tinkering with his latest kegerator-like jockey box for the farmer’s market the following day.
While Jared was busy master-minding his contraption, other guys were stacking boxes and sanitizing growlers for re-use. It was bustle and buzz and everyone looked as happy as you’d imagine the employees of a craft Komucha brewery must be. I mentally noted, “If you want happy, productive employees – give ‘em free booch and the rest will take care of itself”.
It was a must that we got to watch Lion Heart do their thing out in the community (plus I had to see Jared’s kegerator-thingy in action). So on Saturday, we did as all insufferable, charming, community oriented liberals do -- we packed up our reusable grocery bags and hit the farmer’s market, full force.
After touring the market and picking up some locally-sourced ingredients for dinner, I headed over to the vibrant colors of the Lion Heart tent and talked booch with Jared. After several minutes discussing the science and art behind brewing, it was finally time for The Kombucha Life crew to bow-out and head out on our next adventure.
But just as we were leaving, Jared blew my mind...
The owner of Lion Heart Kombucha handed me a jar with a Lion Heart SCOBY inside. This was huge. This SCOBY is literally THE MAIN INGREDIENT, the most principal antecedent, the alpha, and the omega of Lion Heart’s formula. It’s like Tesla releasing their patented technology to the entire world.
To say I was honored is a gross understatement. The way I see it, I received two things from Jared in that jar. Sure it was a super-rad healthy SCOBY from an accomplished brewer, but it also represents an un-obscured idea of what makes the growing kombucha community tick – a commitment to health and sustainability. It was a “This is what kombucha is all about” moment.
I couldn’t wait to get back home and put that SCOBY to work. Plus, it would be cool to introduce Lion Heart’s beating heart (so-to-speak) to my hometown, Salt Lake City.
But first, we had a little more of Portland to explore.
We want to thank Jared and the whole Lion Heart Co. crew for being so giving, with your product, time, and knowledge.