Two craft beverage-makers have joined forces in Gary's Miller neighborhood as a kombucha-maker looks to grow the business.

Anna Martinez, who started out brewing craft beer at 18th Street Brewery in Gary, has moved her Anna's Small Batch Kombucha business and the former Cultivated Culture Cafe a few hundred feet south into the front room of the 18th Street brewpub at 624 S. Lake Street in Miller.

The coffee shop and kombucha bar has been renamed Anna's Kombucha Cafe for more brand consistency, and because customers couldn't remember the Cultivated Culture name, a pun that plays off of the probiotics that the fermented tea is known for.

"We're next to 18th Street. We put up a door on Lake Street," Martinez said.

"It's two different businesses in the same building. This will basically quadruple the amount of kombucha we can make. We're quadrupling our capacity."

The ancient but increasingly trendy kombucha was called the tea of immortality by the Chinese and has been touted for centuries for its purported health benefits because of its probiotic, antioxidant and vitamin content.

Anna's Small Batch Kombucha currently distributes its ginger hibiscus, lavender lemonade, peach habanero, and blueberry mint kombuchas at specialty retailers in Chicago and places like Roots Organic Juice Cafe in Valparaiso, Charcuterie in Griffith and Fluid Coffeebar in Valparaiso. 

Martinez, the owner and operator of the business, has been working on the labeling and hopes to get it into supermarket chains like Strack & Van Til this year.

"The added capacity will mean we can keep up with demand," she said. "But we're also hoping to get into big-name stores in 2019."

More manufacturing space also allows the craft kombucha-maker to expand its selection of "raw organic sparkling teas" to include new flavors like a raspberry green tea and a yerba made with ginger, tumeric and pineapple.

"We can do more flavors and be more experimental," she said. "We can run experiments to find what people like and do collaborations."

The kombucha is on tap at the cafe, where it's also freshly bottled for to-go sales and sold in cases.

The new coffee shop location also is about twice as big with about 65 seats, or about 30 more than the old spot about a block away at 615 S. Lake Street.

Martinez hired a new chef who had worked for the Chicago Diner and Whole Foods, and who will expand the breakfast and lunch menu with more vegan and vegetarian options.

"We'll do a lot of the same things but expand the menu," she said.

"We work with local farmers and emphasize urban farmers from Gary. We get our eggs from Thea Bowman High School. This new space will let us build on this and really focus on the food."

Added vegan and vegetarian options will include cookies, soups, and meat substitutes like a vegan version of bacon.

"A lot of restaurants have to adjust their menu to accommodate vegans and vegetarians," Martinez said.

"We want to have meals made for them, so we don't have to adjust the menu. We want to offer healthy foods made from scratch. We definitely need more of that in Northwest Indiana."

Anna's Small Batch Kombucha will continue to serve carnivores meat options, such as chicken that was locally raised at Laird Farms in Rennselaer.

"They have the freshest, most delicious chicken," she said. "We want to serve the community a quality product."

The cafe will also serve a variety of coffee drinks, using a lot of locally roasted beans from Dark Matter in Chicago. Martinez hopes it will host many events, such as urban gardening club meetings, painting classes and kids' movie nights.

"There's not a lot of things for kids around," she said. "We want to try to engage young families."

Anna's Kombucha Cafe will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

For more information, visit www.annaskombucha.com, call (219)702-4045 or find the business on Facebook.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.