FROM ONE MAN’S MISSION TO CHANGING LIVES!
In 2010, a former U.S. Marine jet pilot was caring for his wife of twenty-six years, Roseann, who required daily IVs and feeding through a tube in her chest. The veteran attack pilot had incurred many major injuries in his military career and in sports, but nothing was as difficult watching his spouse suffer. On December 28th of that year, former Marine Captain Ralph Crafts heard about kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha) from his wife’s Medicaid attendant (kombucha is produced by fermenting sweet black tea with a culture of bacteria and yeast, and is available in many health/natural food stores. Its origin has been traced back to ancient China).
The Medicaid attendant suggested the drink to Ralph for stress relief, as he had served as the primary caregiver for his ill wife for seven years. As a former Marine jet pilot, Ralph’s idea of a stress relief drink was a good bourbon, not a health shake, so he reluctantly followed up on the suggestion and found a national brand of kombucha at the local natural market. He was turned off by the taste: “It was awful!” But, the following day, as fortune would have it, an article on the health benefits of kombucha ran in the Food section of The Washington Post. As he flipped through the paper, the article caught his attention. Proponents claimed kombucha tea could stimulate the immune system, help with the side effects of medications (e.g., chemotherapy and antibiotics), help with digestive issues, and improve liver function, among other health benefits. One of his wife’s critical challenges at the time was healing her liver. Ralph was interested.
He started making kombucha at home. Through the process of fermenting tea to create a brew with high levels of B vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics, Ralph and his wife began to perfect the taste of his brews. In fact, Roseann carefully and diligently worked to perfect 18 different flavors, using pure, organic ingredients such as whole vanilla beans, lemon zest, raw ginger root and strawberries. They ensured the “SCOBY” or pancake-like formation of bacteria and yeast that forms as a result of the fermentation process, remained in a purely organic environment, by using only organic teas. The home-brewed kombucha tasted so good that Ralph and his wife each started drinking up to three pints each day. And amazingly, and immediately, he claims they both saw health benefits. Roseann’s liver enzyme levels fell back to normal ranges and her recurring systemic infections from the IV feedings stopped completely.
Compelled by the results, Ralph opened a kombucha production line in his converted garage. His neighbors asked to try it. His engineer asked to try it to improve his sleep and reduce his knee pain, and after seeing results, asked for more for his mother who wasn’t able to eat due to the side effects of chemotherapy (she was back to a full diet within three days of drinking Ralph’s brew). With success story upon success story, and the great taste of the drink, word of mouth began to build Ralph’s production line into a business.
Ralph committed himself to sharing his kombucha with the local Fauquier Community. He served his brew at a kiosk at Gold’s Gym in Warrenton and started offering tastings at local markets. However, he says, that as word spread, the demand was coming from the north and west, as far as Maryland and all around the DC-metro area. Ralph knew that he, and his now late wife, had created something special.
Ralph founded Made To Order (MTO) Kombucha, LLC (MTOK), in June 2011, and designed and opened his brewery in Vint Hill in January of 2014. The company needed a distribution center, warehouse and production line large enough to meet demand. Today, hundreds of case a month and scores of kegs filled with MTO Kombucha are delivered to many locations in the DC-metro area.
“It is amazing,” says Crafts, “people just want to sell it for us. It is that good.”
MTO Kombucha is brewed daily, Monday through Friday, out of the production facility located at 7124 Lineweaver Road in Vint Hill, which is right next to a beer brewery. The brewery serves MTO Kombucha on tap as well. Another benefit to MTOK, Crafts adds, is that when it is consumed with alcohol or the morning after a night out, it is able to restore optimal feelings of health because it rapidly cleanses the liver.
MTO Kombucha also offers tastings inside its Vint Hill location. A tasting room was added to the facility in November 2014 to offer a variety of flavors on tap to sample for free (typically eight to ten at a time), and tables for friends and group gatherings.
“Our kombucha is pure—no artificial ingredients, no sugar added, not even any juice—which keeps the health benefits high,” says Ralph. “The flavors are made from the purest ingredients. We go to great lengths to ensure our kombucha is made with only the best ingredients. We order multi-kilo bundles of organic black tea from four different regions around the world—Sri Lanka, India, China, and Malaysia.”
Regular drinkers claim improved health from the brew, including the disappearance of symptoms of Lyme Disease, bladder and sinus infections, celiac disease, insomnia, auto-immune diseases, acid reflux, and chronic pain. Perhaps to most interesting customers are the four-legged kind. MTO Kombucha sells to horse owners as a colic preventative and natural de-wormer, and dog and cat owners to aid with skin and digestive issues.
Ralph explains that the natural acidity of the drink preps the gut for the probiotics and vitamins to be absorbed. “The body has an incredible capacity to heal itself if given the right fuel,” he says. Some records indicate kombucha may have been introduced to Japan by a Korean physician around 414 AD, and routinely used by Samurai.
“Our corporate culture is entirely different than that of three MBA’s getting together to try and make a quick profit. We are producing a life-changing product here. I started making this at home to same my wife, and discovered we could make a great tasting, health drink that can impact people’s lives in a good way.”
The former tactical jet Marine pilot takes no prescription or pain medications for this many injuries and broken bones, and credits MTOK for his overall great health.