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Bright Ideas APIS Kombucha: In harmony with the bees

By Corey Burdick

Maybe you’ve heard about kombucha and have been curious to try it. Kombucha is a fermented and sweetened green or black tea with a low percentage of alcohol and a slight fizz. Or perhaps you are already an avid lover of this unique beverage. Either way, it seems as though local kombucha options grow by the day. What makes APIS Kombucha stand apart? It’s the honey.

APIS founders Ryan Miller and Nicole Burke have a special relationship with bees and credit that shared passion for bringing them together! Between the two, they have a combined 11 years’ worth of beekeeping experience. In addition to beekeeping, they also have a background in organic vegetable farming, which they began doing seven years ago in conjunction with brewing kombucha. Ryan began his pursuit of wine, beer, and cider making at home but took those skills to the next level when he secured a position in 2013 at Champlain Orchards Cidery, where he worked as the head cider maker. While there, he received accolades for best cider maker in Vermont and best cider for his ginger cider recipe. Despite enjoying his time there, the entrepreneur within him was calling.

Honey Makes the Difference

According to Ryan, APIS Honey Kombucha began after experimenting and researching ways to brew kombucha using raw honey instead of sugar. His and Nicole’s desire to create a kombucha that used honey in lieu of sugar proved to be a boon for both the flavor and the subsequent health benefits. After finding a Jun scoby to work with, Ryan began experimenting with a variety of teas until he landed on the perfect combination. Due to the use of honey (sourced from their own hives and local treatment-free beekeepers Kirk Webster and Tim McFarline), the kombucha boasts additional probiotics as well as being an adaptogen thanks to the organic fruit and herbs that are added. Ryan and Nicole were so enamored with what they had made they decided to try selling it alongside their organic vegetables and honey at farmers’ markets.

However, only several weeks into selling the kombucha, it became clear that there was a greater demand for the beverage than their vegetables. Thus, the couple formed a separate LLC for APIS from their farm business, Golden Well Farm, and decided to find a local commercial kitchen to grow production. APIS landed at its first store, the Middlebury COOP, at the end of summer 2015.

Fresh Flavors

“The brand really just took off on its own,” Ryan says, “We’ve not had to do much marketing—people have asked for our product based on taste and quality.” When one takes a sip from APIS’ delicious array of flavors, it’s easy to understand why. Vermont honey and green tea comprise the base for each selection. Then they are accented by enticing combinations such as strawberry and rosemary, tart cherry and tarragon, blueberry and bergamot, pineapple and coriander, and seasonal cranberry and wild balsam fir, lemon verbena, and crab apple. But Ryan’s personal favorite is the Vermont honey and green tea, once known as traditional “Jun” because “it highlights the subtleties in each seasonal honey that we use to create the product. We also love just muddling fresh fruit or herbs right into it as they’re in season.”

Given the popularity of the kombucha, Ryan said it has been challenging to keep up with the demand. In order to accommodate their growth, APIS is exploring a move from their kitchen in Middlebury to brewing in a larger production facility in Burlington. This is occurring in tandem with the development of added space back at Golden Well with the aim of eventually moving production back to its roots in New Haven.

Currently, at Golden Well Sanctuary, the duo has a seasonal farmstand where organic vegetables, herbs, and fruit are grown. This year, they have brought on farmer Paige Wener to cultivate these edibles under the farm name Green and Gold CSA. Expanding their on-farm organic herb, berry, and honey production is crucial to keeping up with the demand for their products. The farmstand also has a spot where visitors can buy kombucha. A refill station even offers credit for bottle returns.

“Not only is there a romance to think of APIS as being brewed with the taste of the land here, but it’s also important to us to invite APIS fans to connect with healthy farmland and to the honeybees that are in dire straits and could really use all the attention they can get,” Ryan said, “We love our bees and hope our product inspires others to share that love and interest in the bees and for the environment in general.”


Golden Well Farm & Apiaries
1089 River Road
New Haven, VT
(802) need phone #

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