Kansas City’s newest taproom doesn’t sell beer. Instead, try 24 flavors of kombucha

An alcohol-free tap room.

Not the status quo for the beer-heavy Crossroads, which is home to Brewery Emperial, Casual Animal, Double Shift and other breweries.

But Kortney Lee wanted to create a hangout for everyone in the community — the newly sober, high school students, young families.

What’s more, whatever Lee served had to benefit residents’ health. Lee, who owns Community Groceries at 3501 Troost Ave., is passionate about bringing nutritious options to the urban core.

So Lee’s new taproom has 24 flavors of probiotic-heavy kombucha on tap, not beer. He explained this as he angled a jug under the faucet. Ginger lime-flavored fermented tea bubbled out.

“It’s crafted with a lot of organic ingredients,” Lee said. “It allows you to get the benefits of a healthier platform — fresh pineapple, fresh fruits.”

Tea-Biotics Kombucha Lounge at 640 E. 18th St. has been open for more than a week. It’s a sober alternative to its neighbor, City Barrel, and a healthier option than sugary sodas and cocktails.

Customers can order cups of kombucha and sit at the lounge’s bar or tables. They can also fill jugs or buy sealed bottles to take home. A grab-and-go fridge features healthy food options like fruit and sandwiches.

Kortney Lee just opened Tea-Biotics Lounge in an effort to bring healthy food options to Kansas Citians.
Kortney Lee just opened Tea-Biotics Lounge in an effort to bring healthy food options to Kansas Citians.

The lounge is Missouri’s largest kombucha tap room, Lee said, and one of only a few in the state. (Fetterman’s Deli in the Northland sells seven brews of Lucky Elixir Kombucha on tap.)

Lee had opened Community Groceries in that Crossroads spot about a year ago, but moved out to open the Troost space in December. He was searching for another use for the empty space.

That’s when Lisa Bledsoe, founder of Tea-Biotics, put the bug in his ear:

“You could make it a kombucha taproom!”

To which Lee said, “Let’s do it.”

From her Olathe taproom, Bledsoe brews gallons of flavored kombucha. Glass tea jars stacked wall to ceiling vary in color, a rubbery-looking disc swimming in each container. That’s the scoby, Bledsoe explained — a bacteria and yeast culture to help ferment the black and green tea.

She mixes natural ingredients to add flavor: ginger, blueberries, mangoes.

Bledsoe has been selling kombucha since 2010, after quitting sugary drinks in favor of the gut-friendly brew. It started with selling drinks to friends and family. Then, in 2015, she started offering her drinks at farmers markets.

She sold her customers on the health benefits of the drink, ones she herself was seeing. Signs hang around her taproom listing 15 health benefits of drinking kombucha.

Kombucha contains vitamins B6, B12, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin!

Kombucha is good for digestion!

Kombucha can lower cholesterol!

“It just changed my life, so I started sharing it with other people, and it changed their lives,” she said.

(While research does suggest that kombucha tea may give benefits similar to probiotic supplements, there is limited data on the benefits, according to Mayo Clinic.)

Lisa Bledsoe has been brewing kombucha since 2010. She crafts 56 flavors at her Olathe taproom.
Lisa Bledsoe has been brewing kombucha since 2010. She crafts 56 flavors at her Olathe taproom.

In 2019, Bledsoe opened her taproom in Olathe at 677 N. Lindenwood Drive. There, she brews 56 flavors.

At one point, she sold her bottled kombucha in 17 states. But after COVID complications and “living and learning” about the challenges of bringing on distributors, as Bledsoe put it, she’s scaling back.

She won’t be shipping her kombucha to grocery stores across the country, but out-of-state customers can order it directly from her website at tea-biotics.com.

For Kansas City area kombucha lovers, her brews will still be available at area Whole Foods and Natural Grocers and, of course, customers can buy in bulk from Crossroads and Olathe locations.

So what’s next for Tea-Biotics? More taprooms?

Bledsoe shrugged and smiled. “If someone wants to partner up, sure.”