Counter Culture, Hy Vong, Matsuri, Shark Valley, Titanic, Whisk
Where do you live?
Unincorporated Miami Dade. We’re near the intersection of Blue road and Red road, which is near University of Miami. We live in the house that Natalie grew up in.
How long have you lived in the area?
Since 2005. I moved down right after Hurricane Wilma – when the power was restored. I moved here from Minnesota for Natalie. I couldn’t convince her to move to Minnesota. She has a fear of the cold.
Where did you meet Natalie?
In college, at Florida State. It was a mix of long distance and trial and error. We lived in Austin together for a little while. Then, in Madison, Wisconsin for a little while. Eventually, she convinced me to move to Miami.
Tell us a little bit about your family?
We have three kids, and this will be news to you – We have a fourth on the way now. Eden is nine, Miña is six, and Jolí is two.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
Raise kids, make kombucha and raise kids. It’s juggling those two things, really.
How did you get started making Kombucha?
I got a culture from my mom around the time I moved down here and started brewing at home. Natalie was into it at that time too. We were trying all these flavors from the store and then after a year or two I started experimenting with making our own flavors with exotic fruits.
When did it go from being a hobby to becoming the CounterCulture business?
We were established in 2013. It was around summer of 2013 that I was making enough for Natalie and our two kids at the time. We all were drinking it. I was giving it to friends and family. My first customer was Laura, who was selling fresh produce at Carlos’s booth at the Pinecrest Market. She was a big kombucha fan and I was always buying exotic produce from their booth. I offered to trade kombucha for some fruit, but she insisted and became my first customer.
At the same time, Natalie was trying to push me out of my old job and Laura was assisting. Finally, Natalie and I jointly decided to start on this venture around fall of 2013.
How has your Kombucha changed since then?
The biggest change has been growth. Back then, I was making between 10 and 20 gallons a month at home for my family and friends. Now, we’re making 900 gallons a month.
What are the benefits of drinking Kombucha?
Most people drink it as a probiotic. That’s what it’s best known for. It’s a digestive aid and contains a lot of beneficial acids that are good for the internal organs and it’s high in mineral ions. It’s a performance enhancer and it’s certainly good for immunity.
How do you make Kombucha?
You start with a base of sweet tea, combining water, sugar and tea. You can mess around with different types of sugars and tea, but that’s your base. Then, you add a kombucha culture. It’s a unique culture and agent that is necessary to make Kombucha. It has a lot of nicknames, (SCOBY, acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), Mother, or Brain. Next you ferment it with the presence of oxygen – so not in a sealed anaerobic environment, but in an aerobic fermentation. It ferments from anywhere from five days to five weeks. If it goes longer, it will have less sweetness and more tartness.
What’s your favorite flavor?
Where do you see your company going?
My dream is to introduce other similar lacto-ferments – yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi. We just rolled out a ginger beer.
How long have you been at the Pinecrest market?
As vendors, two and a half years. As customers, for 12 years.
What is your Sunday ritual?
As a vendor or customer? As a vendor, we start by packing coolers full of products, prepping kegs and all the keg equipment. Over the last two or three years, kegging Kombucha is something we have focused on. We put together all our market supplies and knickknacks, straws and sampling cups and tablecloths and tables and all the fun little trinkets that go into a mobile food store.
What is the market missing?
I would like to see some seafood options. I am a big raw dairy person. I know Margie has some raw goat milk, but I want to see some raw cow milk and cream. I also think the market needs compost bins, recycling bins and clearly marked garbage bins.
What’s your favorite thing to buy from LNB Grovestand?
Sapodilla. I make a lot of Sapodilla smoothies, and eat it fresh or mix it with oatmeal. Your jackfruit is the best jackfruit I’ve found anywhere – ever. My kids love the smoothies. They always ask for your smoothies. Usually it’s the Rainbow smoothie, unless they’re in the mood for something in particular.
What have you made with LNB ingredients?
Jackfruit Kombucha would be the item we make the most. We’ve used your ginger and turmeric in the past for Kombucha. Your bananas! Bananas are base of my smoothies, so we use a lot of at home. And canistel! I love either eating it fresh or making canistel ice cream. If I had more time, I’d make a lot more canistel ice cream.
How do you make canistel ice cream?
Canistel, sour cream, (or yogurt or raw cream), maple syrup and egg yolks. Mix and put into the ice cream maker. I made many batches for Natalie when she was pregnant with Eden. She just could not get enough.
What other vendors at the market do you support?
There’s a long list. Strawberries from Liz. From Margie, I get tangerines, fennel, beets, guava. From Flap the Pickle Man, I get cheese and pickles. I’m big into cultured foods. My kids love the arepas. From Pam at V&B, I get limes and dragon fruit. I get mint from Victor and Laura. My sister loves GheeLish.
What’s a fun activity you enjoy with your kids?
We play outside with the neighbors. That’s our ritual. On our particular block, there are 23 kids under the age of 21.
What restaurants do you like to go out to? What do you like to get?
My favorite restaurant was a Vietnamese place called Hy Vong. Unfortunately, they closed. They do some popups now and at some farmer’s markets.
We go to places nearby – Whisk, Titanic and Matsuri.
Where do you like to go for a special occasion?
I would say Shark Valley. I like cycling. I wish I could go more often. Also, Oleta River State Park. I’ve taken Eden cycling there. We like the beach and Eden does a little bit of fishing off the pier. A special occasion might be a trip to the Keys with my family.
What is Miami’s best kept secret?
The agriculture – hands down. We have an amazing variety of stuff that grows down here. I don’t know of any area in the world that has as much variety and exotics and tropicals and staples. I’m surprised it isn’t more well known.
What is a worthy splurge?
To me, quality foods, drinks and farmer’s markets are a very worthy splurge.
What is a good rainy-day activity?
I would typically say sitting by a fireplace, but we’re in Miami so that’s changed since I moved down here. I would say playing outside because it’s so comfortable here. If there’s no lightning, swimming, going to the beach and doing anything outside in the rain.
Would you like to share a pitch about CounterCulture with the community?
Our goal is to have a positive impact on the health of our community, the health of the local economy and the health of the environment. I think all the decisions we make as a business are based on these three components.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
How do you find a good balance between your work relationship and your personal relationship? Natalie and I find it extremely difficult separating our work lives and our personal lives since we started a business together and you guys are in a similar situation.
(A+W) We are fortunate that our personal passions have become business passions. Adena grew up on the farm, so for her – work is personal life. Also, a mid-week vacation at a nice hotel on the beach works to unwind.
Do you have a question or words of advice for our community?
Keep an open mind and dig deep into how you spend your money and where your money goes. Make choices based on the impact towards future generations. We’re at a unique point in our civilization where we’re about to ruin the planet. It’shttp://counterculture.miami time for some hard decisions.
How can our readers get in touch with you?
Find us at the Pinecrest farmer’s market. Contact us through our website, counterculture.miami
And, if you are looking for our products, we are now in 70 or more locations.
(A+W) That’s amazing! Thank you, Buster and Natalie, for supporting us and our community! When we see a place that has your products, we know they are worth trying.