Tuesday, Jan. 7
Ralph Crafts first started brewing kombucha in hopes that it would help heal his wife.
“I was a caretaker for my late wife for nine years,” he said. “I had to give her IV fluids every day and I had to feed her through a tube in her chest every day for nine years. It damaged her liver severely Her liver numbers in labs were more than 10 times normal.”
A nurse mentioned to Crafts that kombucha might be helpful to his wife.
“I researched it and found out that it could really help with liver health. I started making it at home and within three months all my wife’s liver numbers came down to normal and stayed there,” said Crafts.
He continued brewing kombucha, and soon his neighbors, friends and family wanted to try as well.
“My [friend] heard about it and he drank some,” Crafts said. “He asked if I thought it could help his mom, who was going through stage four stomach cancer and was really having a rough time with the chemo side effects. Within three days of starting to drink our brew, she was back to a full normal diet.”
Craft’s friend was so amazed by the healing properties of the drink that he encouraged Crafts to start distributing it.
“He suggested that we start a business, because of the properties of the drink,” said Crafts. “He said, ‘I’ll be your investor. I’ll put up the money to get the company started.’”
Crafts began his business, Made to Order Kombucha (MTO Kombucha) in June 2011 out of his garage in Marshall.
The drink gained popularity steadily. More and more orders started pouring in, and Crafts knew that he would have to expand his facility in order to keep up.
MTO Kombucha moved into its new facility in Vint Hill three weeks ago. The space is much larger, allowing for more room to brew and ferment.
“At our old facility we had maybe 18 vats going at a time. In this room alone we have 36 vats now,” said Crafts.
Barbara Samuels, who works with Crafts at MTO Kombucha, believes that the new facility will allow the company to keep up with the influx of new customers.
“We’re running pretty fast to try and keep up with the orders,” said Samuels.
Kombucha is growing in popularity because of its numerous health benefits. Though there is not much scientific evidence available to prove health claims, the drink has been around for thousands of years and has allegedly cured many ailments. People claim that kombucha is beneficial for liver health, joint care, digestion, immune boosting, and detoxification.
Debra Lesto, who also works at MTO Kombucha, said that the drink has cured her acid reflux disease.
“I had a real problem with acid reflux. It was something that I struggled with for a long time. My whole family struggled with it. I actually lost a brother who got esophageal cancer due to his acid reflux,” said Lesto. “With the Kombucha, I don’t have to take any sort of acid reflux medicine. It cured the acid reflux completely.”
According to Lesto, the drink also saved her horse’s life. Lesto noticed that her newly purchased horse wasn’t eating right, and she decided to put kombucha over his grain to see if it would entice him to eat. The horse ate all of his grain, and the next day Lesto found full-grown parasites in the horse’s feces. The horse had a severe case of worms and the kombucha had helped him completely detox of the parasites.
Crafts said that in the future he would like to offer specially made kombucha for animals.
“Our future includes, we hope, producing some kombucha that are targeted towards animal consumption,” said Crafts. “We’re hoping that we can make a big difference in the use of antibiotics in grazing animals and hope to provide a more natural supplement for animal health.”
MTO Kombucha is currently carried in about 40 stores in Northern Virginia, two in Washington, D.C. and one in Maryland. Customers can also make direct orders that can be delivered straight to their doorsteps.
Crafts began brewing kombucha to save his wife’s life, and with his business, he has helped to bring health benefits to many people.
For more information visit: www.mtokombucha.com
Ralph Crafts holding up a SCOBY. Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Hannah Dellinger