Catching Up with our Neighbors at Lion Heart Kombucha
In this series, Urban Nest sits down with local PDX business owners to talk shop about what makes their store or business fit so well with Portland. Learn about new neighborhoods, new businesses, PDX community and more!
Family Owned Craft Kombucha in North Portland
In Portland, we're known for taking our healthy food and beverages seriously. It's only natural that we'd have one of the first businesses to take Kombucha, a beverage already touted for it's health benefits, up another notch by brewing it with as little sugar as possible, resulting in less calories and a crisp, dry, champagne-like aftertaste. Lion Heart Kombucha's production facility as of 2016 is located on North Vancouver Way, just steps away from the Oregon/Washington border. We're certainly glad to have them on this side. Read on for our interview with Lion Heart Kombucha founders Jared and Amanda Englund.
UN: How long have you been in business?
Lion Heart started in 2008 with our son Lev. I was a teacher at the time and the financial crisis was hitting education hard. In the face of being laid off, we decided to start our own company. No bank would give us a loan at the time, so we sold our car and started from the ground up. In 2010 we registered our business name Lion Heart Kombucha and started selling at food carts, co-ops, and eventually New Seasons Market locations all around town. We started small and kept moving into bigger and bigger spaces, now our new location in North Portland where we moved in 2016 will be our home for at least the next 5-10 years.
UN: What is unique about your business?
We do everything we can to make the absolute highest quality Kombucha possible. Our Kombucha also has the lowest sugar content of any brand which is connected to our dedication to promoting health for our fans, our community, and our families. Our ingredients are from local sources, and we use a little over half a cup of sugar to ferment, whereas other brands use 1 cup, 1.5 cups, even 2 cups of sugar per gallon to make their Kombucha, resulting in a much sweeter drink. When people buy Lion Heart, they know it's always going to be excellent.
UN: For you, what is most important about the customer experience?
When you spend $4 on a drink, it should be fantastic. The carbonation and the flavor should be spot-on. When you buy Kombucha, it should be real Kombucha made with a traditional culture, filled with the beneficial probiotics people are looking for. It should make you feel great when you drink it!
Customers also want to save resources which is why we continue to offer as many growler fills and on tap options as possible. I hope that someday Kombucha is an option everywhere you can get soda, however I am also concerned that to appeal to the mainstream and reach a certain price point, the Kombucha industry is using less quality ingredients and more sugar. At Lion Heart we will always keep it real!
UN: How would you describe the community that surrounds your business?
When I demo our product at stores there are two types of customers: those that love Lion Heart, and those that have never heard of it. We are kept in business by a dedicated group of loyal fans that drink our Kombucha on a regular basis, and who tell all their friends about us. This is how we got started, this is how we will grow, and I love it because it feels like our hard work pays off.
Our staff at Lion Heart Kombucha are also a big part of the "secret recipe". Everyone that works here is dedicated and also a huge fan. Our "new guy" Zack has been working here for almost a year, and the rest of the crew have been with us 2-4 years.
UN: What do you think makes your business a great fit for Portland?
Portland in particular has a passion for craft brewed beverages. Our beer scene is like no other, Oregon's has lots of quality wine, and it makes sense that the Kombucha scene here is one of the most thriving in the country.
Lion Heart in particular appeals to locavores which there are many of in Portland. Not only are we located in Portland but many of our ingredients are grow nearby as well. Everything is sourced locally so when you buy our Kombucha you are supporting Lion Heart as well as a local farm, local distributor, local store, local tea company, local juice company, etc. In contrast when you buy food at Walmart, that company's profits go out of the state, and the distributor and food manufacturer are also out of state so the money leaves Oregon's economy immediately.
Healthy living is a national phenomenon, but Portland is definitely one of the epicenters of this movement and a brand like Lion Heart can survive here much easier. In a city where Kombucha is less heard of and drink options are all very sugary we may not be as well received. Portlanders especially can appreciate our dry style.
Still, we do not plan to limit ourselves to Portland. We are working on the right marketing and re-branding so that our message is more clear and we will be switching to a resealable 16oz bottle to be able to compete with national brands.
UN: What is your favorite thing about Portland?
I have a big connection to the mountains, the volcanoes, the moss on the trees, the rivers and waterfalls. When I leave Oregon I miss all these things dearly. I am replenished by hiking, swimming, climbing, surfing. I love how these things connect me back to nature in a physical way, just like Kombucha does in an edible way. I love that although I live in a city, I still feel surrounded by trees and huge, breathtaking mountains.
UN: What part of town do you live in, and what do you love about it most?
My family lives in NE near Hollywood so there is the Hollywood Theater, a great farmers market, plus we have Mt. Tabor nearby for biking and hiking. For my son Lev who is now 8 years old, Mt. Tabor and Portland's parks have always been a big part of his life and I am so grateful for that.