Fountain of Health
Creative Cultures taps into the healing power of fermentation—and bottles the delicious results
By Elizabeth Limbach
When Kelly Dearie’s husband, Charlie, was told that he had the hips of a 130-year-old man at the age of 32, a wall of despair hit the fam- ily. In addition to concluding that he would inevitably end up in a wheelchair and need a hip replacement, doctors said that Charlie, who suffered from an autoimmune disorder, needed his spleen removed, which would mean risking death in surgery.
The couple decided to ignore this grim diagnosis and seek answers outside of the Western medical establishment. “It felt so wrong that we knew there had to be something besides what they were saying,” Kelly says. They found what they were looking for in the form of guidance from certified nutritionist Craig Lane, who set Charlie on a therapeutic path consisting of foods to eat and foods not to eat.
Five years later, Charlie is healed—without having to undergo surgery—and Kelly has channeled the natural chef knowledge she picked up during her husband’s illness into a buzz-worthy Santa Cruz-based company, Creative Cultures. Its flagship product is Beet Kvass, a traditional Ukrainian “cure all” made from fermented beets that Charlie drank daily in his treatment. In addition to beets being clinically proven to relieve hypertension, folk wisdom purports that Beet Kvass cleanses the liver, builds blood, helps fat metabolism, and is a powerful digestive assistant.
“The root of health is in digestion,” says Kelly, who serves as Creative Cultures’ CEO. “You can’t heal any organ in the body if your digestion isn’t strong and healed.” The fact that their tonic undergoes a full-body, long ferment (a three-day initial fermentation followed by a two-week secondary round) enhances these benefits, and also adds a slew of probiotics—around 14 billion per bottle.
“Beets alone are nutritious, but when you ferment anything you are maximizing the nutrition and making it more bioavailable to the body,” she explains. “The compounds in the beet become more bioactive, meaning they are more easily assimilated and able to get to the places they need to go.”
The savory red brew is joined by two other players in the Creative Cultures roster: Pollen Up, which is a blend of spring water, raw local honey, raw local bee pollen and organic lemon juice, and Green Dream, a simple-yet-addictive refresher made from chlorophyll, peppermint extract, a touch of stevia and spring water. The latter is the company’s bestseller at yoga studios, which account for a handful of its 19 retail locations because of its hydrating and detoxifying abilities. (Other locations include Carmel’s Cornucopia, Pacific Grove’s Happy Girl Kitchen and New Leaf Markets throughout the region.)
Kelly is now seeking a partner-investor to help her company expand, and in the meantime, she’s pursuing a multi-front marketing plan. She sells her drinks in attractive single-serving bottles and refillable quart, gallon and keg containers. Her latest venture is a CSA- style service that provides subscribers with a weekly box of the company’s signature drinks as well as some homemade, dehydrated raw treats that would make believers out of even the staunchest health food skeptics.
“You get these beautiful drinks and unique snacks you can’t get anywhere else,” says Kelly, “and you are supporting a business that has a mission to educate people on local, organic, sustainable ingredients and health and wellness.”
Despite how challenging running an up-and-coming small bev- erage company can be—let alone one that peddles drinks that are an altogether new taste for consumers accustomed to sugary sodas— Kelly, a mother of two small children, says she has surrendered to the Creative Cultures mission and has no plans to slow down.
“It’s worth it when I see someone try [the drinks], see the look on their face, and see how appreciative they are, how their eyes open up, and how, in a way, it opens up their spirit to a new possibility,” she says. “It’s the healing power of the drink. It’s connecting to the local ingre- dients. There is the whole intention behind it. You can empower your- self to heal your body and heal the environment one culture at a time. There is hope in each sip. That’s what keeps me going.”
Creative Cultures • 831.706.2333 www.creativeculturesfoods.com
Elizabeth Limbach is an award-winning journalist living in Santa Cruz, California. In this fruitful region and beyond, she finds the intersections of food, ag, health and the environment to be the most intriguing realms to write about. A bookworm and vegan foodie, the San Diego native has lived in Santa Cruz for a decade, relishing its redwood forests, fresh produce, delicious wines, and sparkling sea.