GTPulse: Traverse City Woman Spreads Holistic Health Through Her Kombucha Company

I think a lot of people find themselves here. I’ve met a lot of inspiring transplants who have come to Northern Michigan for a variety of different reasons and through being here they’ve found a sense of purpose that they never would have imagined, anchoring them here. Something about the sand, the sky and the water are inspiring and easy to fall in love with, so I get it. Courtney Lorenz is one of the many young entrepreneurs who found her place here while being up here for something else and she never would have guessed that the path would lead her to ferment tea for a living. Cultured Kombucha is Courtney’s love for tea and health, manifested.

“I moved up here for college. My grandparents had a cottage up here on Old Mission Peninsula, it was gorgeous. In the summers I had the opportunity to be here for a week or two at a time. I always felt called back to Traverse City. There was just something very special, energetically about it.”

Courtney studied at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College.

“I always tell people it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Just the background knowledge you get with it. People think you go to culinary school and then you’re going to be a chef the rest of your life. You could be a chef, you could be a food stylist, you could be a dietician or a recipe developer. There’s so much you can do with it.”

When she graduated from culinary school she got a job working at 9 Bean Rows. She was able to work on the farm and found the work rewarding. She volunteered extra hours on the farm in exchange for a Community-supported agriculture share. 

“I’d go out in the morning, get an egg from a chicken, put it in a baked good and take it to the farmers market. It gave me a passion to see something go full circle like that.”

Courtney noticed that people were passionate about growing fresh food sustainably, or cooking it, but they often weren’t aware of how these different foods affect our bodies. Still fixated with food, but in a new way, she went back to school to be a dietician.

Going to school didn’t excite her as much as she had hoped. Her classes were still based on the old-school, FDA food pyramid that promotes a diet heavy in meat, dairy and starchy foods, and lower in fruits and veggies.

“So, I studied holistic nutrition on the side. Reiki, different forms of meditation. I did a lot of it online, I sought out a lot of mentors who had been working in the holistic field. I switched my degree to entrepreneurship and hospitality.”

She graduated with an entrepreneurship degree from Central Michigan University and was offered a job at a Fortune 500 company as a food and beverage director right out of college. The job offered a great salary and benefits but Courtney took the job knowing she didn’t agree with the company’s ethics.

“I thought I could do it for two years. Be the mosquito in the room and foster some change. Didn’t happen,” she said with a laugh.

The experience may have been soul-sucking, but she gained a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience with running a business. To keep herself grounded, Courtney had been volunteering on a farm on the weekends. 

“One Spring, the farmer didn’t have enough produce to pay me in and she knew I drank kombucha all the time, so she sent me home with my first kombucha culture.”

At the time there were few kombucha offerings and Courtney was happy to experiment with making her own. She’d make an abundance of kombucha and trade it for eggs, massages or reiki.

She left her food and beverage job to sell kombucha commercially and started in the best place for new business owners; the farmers market. Cultured Kombucha started with 15 gallons at a farmers market and eventually worked its way to a small space on Barlow Street. 

“We filled up that space and stacked things really well and started storing things in the hallway so the fire marshall started yelling at us, and we moved here last year around this time.”

Here, is the lovely Cultured Kombucha taproom. Behind the wood bar are taps with different flavored, fresh kombucha. I drink a spicy Fire Cider that feels like having fireflies in my sinus, the fruity Namaste Nectar, and the one that started it all, Courtney’s first recipe appropriately called OG, a semi-dry apple.

The taproom also offers classes that teach people how to brew their own kombucha, yoga and meditation classes as well as new classes with the new year.

“We’d like to do some different events, but they’ll all be centric on health and wellness in some way.”

The taproom has eight taps, five that are constant with standby favorites, but the other three rotate seasonally. The teas are also available locally at markets, grocery stores and cafes.

If you’re going into the New Year looking to cut back on fizzy favorites like beer and pop, try switching them out for kombucha and reaping some buzzy benefits.

Categories: GTPulse