In 2019, Larry Haertel Jr. and Aaron Telch wondered: why isn’t there a go-to healthy option for an alcoholic beverage? They answered their own question with Jiant, a hard kombucha and tea brand intent on offering an enjoyable drinking experience without sacrificing your commitment to health and wellness. As Jiant dives into winter with new releases, Angeleno caught up with Haertel to learn more about their business’ journey and how Jiant is a true product of Los Angeles.
Jiant was conceptualized in a Santa Monica apartment. How does the beverage embody the culture and needs of Angelenos?
Los Angeles really served as inspiration for Jiant and helped shine a light on the need for clean and transparent alcoholic beverages. As Angelenos, we had all these choices available to us that were aligned with how we wanted to eat and live, but when it came to grabbing drinks with friends, we found ourselves too often making compromises. Is there anything sadder than a vodka soda? As big fans of non-alcoholic kombucha, we thought that kombucha and, more broadly, teas and botanicals, could be an ideal canvas for a modern alcohol brand.
Things started rolling with the frustration that there wasn’t a gluten-free, better-for-you alcoholic beverage that was actually enjoyable to drink. How did you have the realization in the first place that this sort of beverage was missing from the market?
As consumers, we felt limited by the conventional options of beer, wine, and spirits and wished there was something more tailored to our taste and lifestyle. As entrepreneurs, we saw a huge opportunity in the disparity between alcohol and the trends (clean label, organic ingredients, gluten-free, etc.) that were driving growth in all other consumer food & beverage categories. Why should alcohol be held to a lesser standard?
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Low ABV/ alcohol free spirits have been rising in popularity, not to mention Los Angeles has been an epicenter for all kinds of kombucha brands. With that in mind, what makes Jiant special?
It’s exciting to see the innovation that’s happening across different categories of alcohol and it’s great for consumers to have more options, whether it’s non-alc beer, zero-proof spirits or beer and wine-adjacent beverages, such as hard kombucha. Given health trends amongst younger generations and the prevalence of alcohol alternatives, consumers are more thoughtful than ever about their purchases and are looking for an experience beyond the buzz, which Jiant provides.
All of our beverages are crafted using organic fresh-brewed tea, botanicals and real fruit to create ingredient-driven flavor profiles that are expressive and interesting, while remaining approachable and surprisingly light. They are gluten free, low sugar and made from clean ingredients.
Tell us about the importance of expanding hard kombucha’s presence in the industry. Do you think it could ever be a go-to drink of choice like beer and wine or should hard kombuchas and teas be in their entirely own category?
Hard kombucha, while still relatively small, was the fastest-growing category in alcohol last year and shows no signs of slowing down. If you walk into most grocery or liquor stores in Los Angeles, chances are you’ll see several brands of hard kombucha, including Jiant, which is pretty cool. However, bars, restaurants, and venues still have a long way to go in terms of modernizing their beverage programs to catch up with how Angelenos like to drink. At most, you’ll see maybe one hard kombucha on the menu. Fortunately, we’re noticing that beginning to change, which is very exciting. Now, you can find Jiant in kegs at great cocktail and craft beer bars, as well as full-service restaurants like Gracias Madre, Broad Street Oyster Co., The Penmar, Highly Likely, Mama Shelter and many others. We’re excited that this will allow more people to try and fall in love with hard kombucha.
You’re coming out with a seasonal bellini-inspired hard kombucha called Venice Peach. How does this flavor capture the infamous Los Angeles beach town and why is it the perfect winter beverage?
While the original bellini was born at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, our bellini-inspired hard kombucha was conceived in Venice, California. Much like an afternoon in our favorite beachfront town and Jiant’s backyard, this flavor is sunkissed, mellow and offers something a little different. At only 5% ABV, it makes for a perfect daytime beverage that won’t slow you down.
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Jiant was founded just a few years ago. Already a stronghold, what are your future ambitions for the brand?
We’ve never been modest in our ambitions for Jiant— just look at the company name! We’re committed to building the future of modern alcohol and have an incredible team and partners who are all on board with the vision. As we continue to expand nationally, we’re most excited about finding ways to engage the Los Angeles community and help more people experience the Jiant brand locally. If you live in Los Angeles, you can count on seeing a lot more of us in 2022.
Do you have any other new flavors?
We recently released Jiant Hard Tea, a craft-brewed sparkling tea made with real fruit. Each flavor is brewed with a different loose leaf tea: Keemun Black Tea, Oolong Tea, and Pu’er Tea. They are dangerously refreshing and the experience of drinking them is a little closer to that of a hard seltzer, but these are made with much better ingredients and you can quickly taste the difference. Also pretty amazing is that the plant-based hard teas are only 100 calories and less than 2 grams of sugar.
Photography by: Courtesy Jiant