Like bicycling and New England clam chowder or whiskey at the carnival, certain things just seem like a poor way to treat your stomach. That was my initial fear when I first heard of an upcoming release of a kombucha coffee hybrid -- I envisioned acidic and tart flavors clashing with dark-roasted notes into a muddled, nauseating mess.
But Imbue, a new collaboration between Katboocha and Joe Bean Coffee, is anything but that. It's a subtle beverage, brimming with lush floral notes complemented by swirls of tart, coffee cherry fruitiness, with just a pleasant tap of roasted beans on the finish.
Joe Bean co-owner Kathy Turiano and Katboocha owner Katarina Schwarz first met at Living Roots Urban Winery's Laneway Party in August, and ever since have been working to find a way to team up.
"It was love at first sight," Turiano says.
Perhaps what makes Katboocha and Joe Bean good collaborators are their respective unique, bespoke approaches to beverages. A fermented tea drink of mysterious national origin, Kombucha can have a vinegary character that is intense and palate-wrecking, similar to wild ales (given that they have a similar fermentation process).
But Schwarz's beverages are lightly funky, easy-drinking, and packed with floral and fruit notes.
"I think that now that we're past the 'what is it?' phase, we can really start evolving and challenge what [kombucha] can be," Schwarz says.
Similarly, Joe Bean's coffee offerings challenge perceptions of what coffee is. Over conversation, co-owner Ben Turiano pours glasses of an Ethiopian coffee from a pour-over "Chemex" brewer. The coffee carries an acidic, fruit-forward flavor with a deep, ruby red hue.
There's as much art as there is science in brewing the perfect cup of Joe, and Turiano aimed to bring that to Imbue.
"There's different types of flavor compounds that dissolve at different points in the process," he says. "So to get something that hits those sweet, fruity characteristics, you have to be really specific about the percentage of content you're dissolving."
Imbue is planned to be a regular release from Katboocha, with seasonal shifts in the recipe. The first batch will be released Saturday, March 7, at Joe Bean Coffee, with a second release the following Saturday at Katboocha's location at the Rochester Public Market.
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.