Two craft brewing connoisseurs on Maui decided to get together and make some booch, laying the groundwork for the successful beverage company that is Vitalitea Hawaiʻi.
After William Davis and Dante Valentino met at a craft brewing club in 2017, the two decided to turn an enterprise out of Davis' passion project.
"It was a total integrity thing for me,” Davis says. “This never started as something I was concerned about making money with or building a business to sell it. I don’t care what it costs or what I make on it. I want it to be something I’m super proud of.”
Davis’ commitment to building an ethical brewing business is evident from the ingredients in Vitalitea’s kombucha to its production process, which is finalized by testing the quality of the brew in an on-site lab.
"We're proudly brewed on Maui with local and organic ingredients," Valentino says about the company's probiotic fermented tea and nitro cold coffee. "We're dedicated to minimizing our negative impacting as much as we can, being responsible and sustainable."
The beverages Vitalitea Hawaiʻi makes contain fresh-pressed tropical fruits, roots, and herbs.
"We actually used fresh-pressed ingredients and did everything ourselves from the ground up to distribution," Valentino says. "We aren't simply buying purees or artificial flavors."
Vitalitea Hawaiʻi's kombucha products include Restore, a Maui Gold pineapple, organic ginger, and turmeric kombucha; Stardust, an organic hibiscus, ginger, and blue spirulina kombucha; and Strawberry Sunrise, an organic strawberry, mint, and basil kombucha. Their cold brew is made from Hapa Blend, a Maui Red Catuai, and Colombian bean blend.
Vitalitea Hawaiʻi does not use bottles or glass to package its goods, only cans for its kombucha and cold brew. The founders chose to use aluminum cans because of their infinite recyclability. Using cans protect the flavors, and are safer for the islands' beaches, the company's website notes.
Vitalitea Hawaiʻi purchases their cans from Ball Metal Beverage Packaging in Kapolei on Oahu, using up to 80 percent recycled aluminum. Valentino proudly explains that within 60 days, the recycled cans can be used back in production.
"We're the first (company) here in the state of Hawaiʻi to have nitro cold brew coffee or kombucha in a can," Valentino says. "One of a dozen at the time we launched them across the whole United States to sell kombucha in a can."
The Maui-based company also works to source their local and organic ingredients directly from farmers across Hawaiʻi whenever possible.
"The ginger and turmeric are from Kauaʻi. The pineapple is from Maui Gold," Valentino says. "As a state, we have to support each other across the islands. I wish I could say 100 percent of everything we use is local. It is not an option at this point, but it is something we are hoping to do."
In 2018, Vitalitea Hawaiʻi had roughly two dozen wholesale accounts. Since then, the number of wholesale accounts has scaled tremendously.
“He really took it and ran with it,” Davis says of his business partner, Valentino.Wholesale accounts have scaled to over 100 partners across Maui and Oahu, which continues to grow everyday. It allowed me to step back a little bit and focus more into the production side of it.”
To meet demand, the company has up to 7 “SCOBYs” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) being used to create their kombucha at any point in time. These microbial mats that Vitalitea Hawaiʻi' uses in the fermentation process can grow up to 6-feet in diameter and as thick as 12-inches.
“We’ve invested in state-of-the-art equipment,” Davis says. “All of our equipment looks like beer brewing. The whole reason for that is so we can have consistency in the product. The overall focus is we always put pride over profit.”
Furthering its mission to source locally, Vitalitea Hawaiʻi's moved into an old spirulina factory on the slopes of Haleakala. The new facility enables its operations to be renewably powered.
The founders are committed to their mission as they grow. Working to leave a lasting, positive impact on the local community is a core pillar of Vitalitea Hawaiʻi's business.
"Quality is our number one goal and keeping consistent as we scale. We want to set the standard for the highest quality kombucha and craft beverages," Valentino says. "It's not just about trying to be bigger but trying to be better."
Davis underscores Vitalitea Hawaiʻi's mission and commitment to serving high-quality kombucha and cold brew.
“We care about what is going into the package,” Davis says. “We spend a lot of time and a lot of money ensuring that we are offering the best product we can. That is the most important thing for us."
Honolulu Civil Beat
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