By Ally Morrison
Homewood local and owner of Better Kombucha Nancey Legg always has been passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and had a “Why buy it if you can make it?” mentality.
In the summer of 2009, Legg’s son Carson was working in Northern California and called his mom to excitedly share his new favorite drink: kombucha.
“Carson told me he had a drink that I should try and that I would love it,” Legg said. “When he got back, we found some kombucha and I tried it, but I wasn’t in love with it. I kept reading more about it and realized it had been around for about 2,000 years. Grandmothers had been making it on their kitchen counters for a long, long time. So, I started tinkering with the idea of making my own.”
Legg explained that her goal was to encourage her family to stop drinking soft drinks and that she aimed to do so by making her own kombucha. As Legg grew more knowledgeable about the production process, one gallon turned into friends asking for more.
A friend suggested Legg participate in the West Homewood Farmers Market during summer 2015, held every Tuesday night. She agreed and bottled her new passion into Mason jars. Legg made kombucha every week, and at the end of the summer, she was saddened it was over.
“At the end of the summer, a man who came every Tuesday night, all summer long, asked how he could get it,” Legg said. “There was a spark that made me think, people might actually buy this.”
“We picked the name Better Kombucha because we wanted to help people feel better, help our community to be better, and we know that if our people feel better, then we will be better.” Legg said.
Currently, Better Kombucha is produced inside Innovation Depot, a collection of workspaces and laboratories in downtown Birmingham.
“We started in August 2016 at Innovation Depot in a small lab, about 600 square feet,” Legg said. “But we were learning and making little bits at a time, about 200-300 gallons a month. Every month was a new learning experience. In August 2019, we moved into the larger space in Innovation Depot where we are now. We thought in January of 2020 we were just going to hit the ground running. Which we did, until the pandemic in March, when we all hit a wall.”
Legg explained that, even though the shutdown was hard for her and her team, it allowed them to take a lot of time to learn. In March and April, Better Kombucha was scheduled to supply product for various events in Birmingham. But after they had made 120 gallons of kombucha, the events were canceled due to COVID.
“This was our first year to do something big like that,” Legg said. “When it all shut down, it ultimately gave us the chance to test the production process and know that we could do it.”
“I called emergency room staff and brought kombucha to say thank you during the pandemic,” Legg said. “When some of the unrest was happening downtown and businesses were damaged, I just loaded up kombucha in the back of my truck and drove around dropping it off to spread kindness and love in a time of need.”
Legg makes an effort to stress the importance of Better Kombucha’s values to her team. She believes in doing good work and taking care of the world and one another, and she is committed to supporting the community by striving to partner with like-minded organizations, charities and nonprofits.
Early Medicinal Qualities
Better Kombucha incorporates locally sourced ingredients into healthy drinks that come in a multitude of flavors. Legg explained kombucha has health benefits that were known before the age of traditional medicine.
Ingredients in Better Kombucha’s ginger and hibiscus flavors serve as natural anti-inflammatories, and ginger and fig both promote digestive health.
A local distributor, International Wines and Craft Beer, suggested Legg develop a flavor profile for each kombucha flavor. Legg worked alongside the distributor, in hopes that developing the profiles would make it easy for patrons to enjoy kombucha alongside their meals.
Legg is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a women’s organization of food and beverage leaders and experts who are dedicated to growing, creating, promoting and sharing the local Birmingham food culture. She is grateful that she is part of a community that shares her values, and she has learned a lot during her time as a member.
Good Food Award
Better Kombucha on Jan. 19 was recognized by the Good Food Foundation, an organization that celebrates and connects passionate local food makers, ranchers and growers who create authentic, tasty and responsible food in the American food culture.
“There was a business adviser who has an office at Innovation Depot that had been telling me for years that I needed to send my products to be entered into a competition,” Legg said. “In the fall, we sent in our blueberry and apple flavors and got a letter that said one of our products was a finalist.
“The Good Food Foundation not only vets your flavors, but they vet your company, what you stand for and where you source from. We realized our apple flavor was one of the winners, and it has just been so sweet.”
Where to Purchase in Birmingham
Based in Birmingham, Better Kombucha products are sold in about 100 establishments in cities throughout the state. In Birmingham, Better Kombucha is available at the following locations:
Alabaster Bottle Shop, Archetype Health, Ash Homewood, Baba Java, Birmingham Bread Works, Bottega Café, Brick & Tin, Collins Bar, Country Club of Birmingham, Crestline Chevron, Crestwood Pharmacy, Edgar’s Bakery, Edgewood Chevron, Eli’s Jerusalem Grill, Frutta Bowls, Golden Temple, Harvest at Redmont Hotel, Greenhouse, Hometown Supermarket, Nourish Meals, Johnny Brusco’s, Ovenbird, Piggly Wiggly, Pizzeria GM, Publix Greenwise Market, Raymond’s 5 Points Mkt, Rocky Ridge Chevron, Sol Y Luna, Superior Grill, Taproot Café, The Blue Root Co., The Essential, The Joyful Food Co., The Market at Pepper Place, True 40 – Downtown, Vineyard Food Market and Wilson’s Market.