Did you recognize that bearded man sharing yummy kombucha samples at the Dallas Farmers Market last weekend? That was David Aycock, the Lake Highlands High 2002 graduate who charmed audiences back in the day starring in ACT musicals at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church and singing in the high school choir.
Aycock is busy these days, traveling the state as co-owner and chief marketer for Bare Bucha. Bare Bucha is kombucha, the fermented sweet tea popular with fitness buffs, and Aycock’s version has a splash of organic fruit juice to make it as delicious as it is healthy.
Aycock traveled a circuitous route to the competitive food and beverage game. While earning degrees in marketing and religion at Baylor, he took a year off to do mission work in the United Kingdom. After graduation he worked at Camp John Marc assisting children with disabilities, then spent a year traveling the world with best friend, Toby Tull. The two created a geography and history curriculum for elementary students, then put down roots in Waco. Aycock’s “day job” is with Baylor Publishing.
“Toby started playing around with kombucha, which a lot of health nuts do at home,” explains Aycock. “It’s like tending a home garden – you make it like you make your own beer or sourdough bread. I didn’t like kombucha at first, but when Toby began making his own, it tasted so different. He had been educating himself on the science of it. He wasn’t adding sugar to the final brew, and he wasn’t pasteurizing it – he was leaving the raw, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast alive. That’s what provides you with all the good health benefits. It replenishes good bacteria in your gut and assists with breaking your food down and absorbing nutrients.”
Tull was also learning to control for alcohol, created naturally through the brewing process.
“Some people sell ‘hard kombucha,’ but kombucha is meant to be safe for families,” explains Aycock. “It’s not intended to be an alcoholic beverage.”
Aycock began helping Tull market his home-brewed concoctions and pitching their product at the Waco Farmers Market. As sales grew, production moved to the commercial kitchen at Tull’s restaurant, Harvest on 25th. Local restaurants and coffee shops began selling it to their customers to rave reviews.
“We scaled up from there,” says Aycock. “We formed the company in 2017, and we built out a commercial brewery here in Waco. We have the only dedicated taproom for kombucha in the state of Texas. The real story of what sets Bare Bucha apart is our patented process of fermentation. It’s the result of 3 and a half years of research and thousands of tests.”
The average kombucha purchased at stores or restaurants, he says, has suboptimal levels of good bacteria, excessive amounts of alcohol and added sweeteners.
“We have one of the lowest sugar kombuchas in the country. Our lavender flavor only has 2 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce bottle. That’s about one-tenth of store-bought brands.”
Sugar content is a big issue, Aycock says, because many who favor kombucha are seeking to break their soda habit.
“Not only is Bare Bucha a low sugar drink, but it helps you metabolize all the other sugars in your diet. It assists your digestive system in breaking food down and absorbing nutrients.”
Aycock says his marketing background has served him well as he’s traveled the state pitching Bare Bucha to stores and cafes. Mastering the food science took him a little longer.
“I never realized how complex and complicated the fermentation process is. You’re dealing with a living organism, just like a garden or a flock. The health of your culture can rise and fall with the seasons, the temperature, your ingredients, your suppliers – all of those things create a system with a thousand levers that you have to control to get the flavor profile and nutritional content you’re going for.”
The best part of the business, he says, is watching buyers enjoy their first taste.
“It’s incredibly rewarding when customers let out a sigh of pleasure and tell me Bare Bucha is the best-tasting kombucha they’ve ever had – especially when they say they’ve tried brewing their own at home, and ours is much better. We’re proud of the effort that went into creating Bare Bucha and achieving our knowledge base, and we feel like we know as much about kombucha as just about anybody. We leaned into the science, and we make an honest and authentic product.”
Bare Bucha is available at Central Market, H-E-B, Eataly, the Dallas Farmers Market and the St. Michael’s seasonal market. They offer six bottled flavors: Lavender (2 grams sugar), Ginger Lime (3g), Tropic Thunder (5g), Blueberry Lemon (6g), Apple Cider (8), and Pomegranate Basil (10g). Seasonal flavors are sold at farmers markets around the state. Bare Bucha has a refrigerated van with external taps which dispense ice cold kombucha. The “Bucha Van” is available for parties, weddings, festivals and special events.