Roanoke science fair project turns into business for high school sophomores

Lukes' Kombucha brews at Sweet Donkey Coffee

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ROANOKE – A science fair project turns into a business for two high school sophomores.

Luke Gardner and Luke Suess are both high school sophomores. They own Lukes' Kombucha, a growing business.

"Kombucha is fermented tea. It's basically sweet tea with a bunch of bacteria in it and it ferments for a while, gets fizzy and sour," said Gardner.

"I never thought I would actually have a product. I'm not really a business-oriented person but it doesn't really feel like a business. It's more of an art where we get to create something that's really beautiful and then we get paid to share it with others," said Suess.

This all started as a science fair project last year at the Roanoke Valley Governor's School for Science and Technology.

"Luke had the really cool idea to test the effectiveness of E. coli on Kombucha. Previously I had never heard of Kombucha. I had no clue what it was," said Suess.

After the project was over, they started brewing their own flavors using herbs and fruit like fresh ginger and lemon. The whole flavor process is trial and error, much like proving theories in science. But not every experiment is a winner.

"We tried doing a cream soda flavor. We added vanilla and molasses and I think it was something with the molasses. It was the worst flavor. It was probably one of the worst things I've ever tasted. It was extremely sour and bitter at the same time," said Suess.

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