Sadly we have to say goodbye, at least for now, to an old friend. We have recently brewed the last batch of Smoke House, one of the first ever kombuchas that I created almost five years ago.
As our friends and fans will know, the quality of our drinks is at the core of what we do. It is because of this that we have gained such a passionate following amongst the leading chef and sommelier community. But we have really struggled to maintain consistency with Smoke House.
Smoke House is brewed from a full bodied, slightly smokey, slightly malty, rich Yunnan black tea. Yunnan produces the best of the black teas from China, and we have been working with one that is really rich and caramelly. I love to drink this tea on a cold winter’s afternoon in front of an open fire.
However, it is the richness of the tea, high in proteins, polyphenols and minerals, that makes this tea so challenging to brew with. Indeed, the first time I brewed with it, it was horrible: full of pungent notes, and sweaty off-flavours. I stuck it in a keg and left it, intending to throw it away.
Roll forward three months and I was about to dispose of it, but decided to taste it again to be sure. Out of the keg came these rich warm notes of apple and caramel, with a delicate, soft smokiness. One of the best that I had tasted. So when we launched, it had to be in the range.
Unfortunately, since then, Smoke House has always challenged us. When Smoke House is good, it is the best of our range. It is a particular favourite of the most discerning chefs and mixologists. What we’ve found, however, is that the heavy nutrient in the tea over-stimulates our cultures, so that almost one in every two batches fails and has to be disposed of. In brewing, this is something you have to get used to, as these are microbes have minds of their own. But this is a very high failure rate.
So, sadly, we have decided to discontinue Smoke House. This doesn’t mean that it won’t come back again at some point, when we have tamed the process and can deliver consistency every time (or thereabouts).
But we do still have stock. In order to support the fans of Smoke House, we have brewed and bottled another batch that is sitting in the warehouse ready to ship out. We have also put it on offer in order for everyone to be able to taste it one last time.
Here comes the good news, though. We already have a replacement ready to go, just waiting for us all to come out of isolation. And personally, I think it is even better. Watch this space for more news.
A tribute to Smoke House, in pics
We’ve loved brewing Smoke House, and been really humbled to see the rise of its own little fan club. Here, then, are a few pics – from our proud family, remembering a loved one that’s going away for a while.
One of the earliest iterations of Smoke House, before REAL Kombucha even existed as a brand, Sept 2016. Let’s just say we’ve evolved the branding a little since then!
Smoke House makes an appearance at The Strong Room, Shoreditch, Sept 2017. London icons together.
One of the first REAL appearances in a notable cocktail came from The Pig Hotel, who developed The Gardener’s Mistress around Smoke House.
Smoke House on deck, Sept 2017. The perfect relaxation drink for the discerning non-drinker.
Straight from the keg, January 2018.
Smoke House on the beach – the perfect serve at The Salt Room, Brighton. August, 2018.
Lined up with Yunan tea samples at the tea merchants, January 2019. Smoke House heads home.
The mixologist’s favourite, March 2019. Those strong flavours really cut through.
At work with Chef Joey O’Hare, April 2019. One of our favourite foodies with one of our favourite drinks.
Beloved of chefs across the nation. Gelf Alderson (River Cottage) savours the moment, April, 2020.
Smoke House goes international. At Pipa, Oslo, April 2020.