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Astoria brewer brings Asian tea to N.Y.

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Ever since Astorian Spiro Theofilatos opened his business making and distributing the fermented sweet tea beverage kombucha more than two years ago, he has not just aimed to bring the drink to America’s East Coast, but to take it in new directions.

“Everything we do is next level,” Theofilatos said. “Everything we do is past what people expect.”

Beyond Kombucha is run out of 32-72 41st St. in Astoria. The company, which employs eight people, makes several flavors of kombucha, including oolong, blueberry, hibiscus and vanilla rooibos. Theofilatos said the drinks are largely sold to restaurants in the city — especially Astoria, Manhattan and Brooklyn — although they hope to soon be in the organic supermarket chain Whole Foods. The company moves about 100 cases of kombucha a week to restaurants.

“We’re in a bunch of places now, though, and it’s getting to be more and more,” Theofilatos said.

Originally a musician and DJ, Theofilatos toured the West Coast, where he was originally exposed to the drink and fell in love with it.

“There was kombucha to be found up and down the coast of California and I never found it in New York,” Theofilatos said.

He decided to make his own brews in 2008, trying first with oolong, which people suggested he sell. He first approached the Astoria restaurant Cafe Bar, at 32-90 36th St., about putting it on the menu in 2008, which it did. Theofilatos opened a brewery and offices in the basement of a building his parents owned a year later.

Beyond Kombucha nevertheless hit an early snag when the federal government ruled kombucha, which usually has an alcohol content of around 1 percent or less, subject to federal regulation days after the business opened.

Theofilatos ended up applying for a liquor license and began making some special flavors with more alcohol, like a 3 percent alcoholic drink based on honey kombucha and made with aphrodisiac herbs called “Love Potion.”

“It’s not like a mixer,” Theofilatos said of kombucha. “We don’t add vodka. It’s the result of fermentation.”

Theofilatos said his drinks have about 75 calories and are gluten free.

He plans to expand Beyond’s lineup in the future and wants to be on tap at additional bars and restaurants in the city.

“I’m continually innovating,” Theofilatos said. “I’m always experimenting with new flavors and new possibilities.”

More information on the company, including flavors and where to buy Beyond Kombucha, can be found at beyondkombucha.com.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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