A few weeks ago, a group of staff members had the opportunity to visit some of our local vendors. A group of us packed into a 15 passenger van and headed down Route 7 to visit our friends to the South. We organize these farm and vendor staff tours every few months and have visited other partners like Monument Farms Dairy, The Cellars at Jasper Hill, Burnt Rock Farm, Miskell’s Premium Organics, and more.
For this tour, we started our day in Middlebury with two neighboring vendors: Vermont Coffee Company and AquaViTea Kombucha. Upon our arrival at Vermont Coffee Company we were greeted by their friendly staff and led through their office space—complete with a branded cornhole set up! Next, we headed into their warehouse to tour their storage and packaging facilities. We learned about how they source their 100% certified Organic beans as well as their commitment to renewable energy in their roasting process. As of April 2018, Vermont Coffee Company has been roasting their coffee using 100% renewable biogas from local dairy farms, a program also known as “cow power.” Earlier this year, our staff had the opportunity to tour Monument Farms Dairy and learn about their anaerobic digester which converts manure into energy as part of this program so it was exciting to see that kind of energy in action!
After touring the facility, we were treated to tasty coffee in their café and gifted our very own coffee plants! You can find their coffee in our Bulk Department in both stores. Pro-tip: stock up on Thursdays when we offer 10% off of purchases in our Bulk Department.
Speaking of Bulk, our next stop was just around the corner at AquaViTea Kombucha, a product we offer both in bulk at our fountains (adjacent to the Reverse Osmosis Water station downtown and tucked into our Bulk Department in the South End) and packaged in our coolers.
We were greeted by Laura, Mike, and Jeff, the company’s founder. We started the tour by learning a bit about the background of the business, sampling their new Watermelon Habanero flavor, and viewing SCOBYs in action (SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Next, we toured the production space (previously occupied by our friends at Woodchuck Cider) and learned about their alcohol extraction process to ensure their products are certified non-alcoholic. As a by-product of this process, they’ve started a new product line called AquaViTea Spirits through a partnership with Appalachian Gap Distillery, allowing them to upcycle the extracted alcohol.
As they’ve grown, they shared their commitment to quality assurance, even hiring a microbiologist on staff who works out of their state of the art in-house laboratory. Keep an eye out for their delicious kombucha in bottles and bulk like Turmeric Sunrise, Strawberry Sage, Bluebernie, and my personal favorite, Watermelon Habanero.
Our next stop was the Vermont Artisan Village, a relatively new space in Shelburne that is home to multiple vendor partners of ours including Douglas Sweets, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, and Vermont Tortilla Company. Our first stop was to VT Tortilla Co. where we were greeted by April and Azur. As we toured their small production space, we learned about their farm partners at Adirondack Organic Grains, a 100% certified organic farm in Essex, NY just across the lake. We were able to see the entire production process from kernel to tortilla and even got to taste some fresh off the line! You can find them refrigerated in both stores for a great addition to taco night!
Our last stop of the day was a tour of Fiddlehead Brewing Company’s newly expanded production space, just across the way from VT Tortilla Co. We were greeted by Brad and Jon, who both started with the company when it was down the road at the original production space behind their tasting room on Route 7. We were able to tour the brewhouse, soak in the towering fermentation tanks, and take a peak at their brand new oak foeders which will allow them to expand their barrel-aged production. Since first opening their doors on New Year’s Eve of 2011, this local brewery has offered over 100 different beers with a select few available in cans. You can find their popular double IPA, Second Fiddle at both store locations as well as the rare sighting of Rarefied Air, a newer offering.