Camp, Kombucha and Controversy


Happy Fourth of July! It’s “camp time.” Every year for Independence Day, our family has an extended holiday at my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bob’s camp about 40 minutes north of our home. My brother, sister-in law, nephew and a group of friends show up and our family descends upon the camp. It’s not a large place but we manage to have a great time without getting on each other’s nerves. The vast majority of our day is spent outside swimming, boating, skiing and tubing around the lake.

One of the best things about camp is the food and drinks. We cook out every night and eat amazing traditional American and Syrian cuisine (due to my uncle’s heritage). The refrigerator is filled with beer and alcoholic beverage options and one is hard pressed to find room for boring ol’ sparkling water or iced tea. Evenings are spent pouring cocktails, playing games and obsessing over puzzles (until our necks are so stiff we have to go to bed.)


This year, I brought a special treat to camp–my new-found love, Kombucha. Recently, Philip and I attended a music festival, Solid Sound at Mass MOCA and we discovered cold, freshly-brewed Kombucha on tap. The Vermont company, who produces the drink in small batches, served it over ice with fresh mint and lime. My God, it was good. Kombucha is the perfect drink after being in the sun all day at camp (or at the farm or a music festival.) The absence of sugar and the fizziness just hits the spot.


When I got back from the festival, I purchased some kombucha and have been drinking about one 12oz bottle per day to replenish my electrolytes in the summer heat. While at camp last week, I took this picture and posted it to my Instagram account with the caption “Margarita? Gin and tonic? No thanks, I’ll have kombucha.”


I thought I was just being cute and the response I got was pretty unexpected. One of my friends posted “That stuff has between 2 to 4% alcohol content depending on the brand and age. Just saying.” Another friend posted “Oooo it’s a slippery slope.” Ok, ok so I did see the that label stated that there is “trace amounts of alcohol” but now I was upset. Was there really that much alcohol? I have not felt any effects of alcohol when I drink it. If anything, it seems a little stimulating from the caffeine content. And if there was that much alcohol, how could they sell it at the festival to anyone under 21years of age? I had to know if I’d made a major blunder or if my friends were just being dramatic.


Trying not to spark an online controversy, I quickly did some research on the internet and found that depending on the amount of sugar (fruit) that is used in the formula, there could be .05-1.0% alcohol in kombucha. As with any fermented food or drink, there is a by-product which is slightly alcoholic. One site that I visited stated that there is typically less than .05%.

So, OK, maybe my friends were wrong. At the suggestion of my logical and diplomatic spouse, I asked one of my friends to provide me with an article that supported the 3-4% claim he was making–I have not heard a word back. Perhaps my Instagram buddies heard rumors (like the one about Lindsey Lohan failing a blood test because of Kombucha–which was total BS) and in turn, passed on false information to me. That happens. We all do it.

There was another aspect of this whole scenario that was upsetting me. After verifying the actual correct content of alcohol in Kombucha, my reaction to the post was one of anger. This is a difficult thing to admit but, I wanted to say, “Thanks for the support, friends. Why don’t you guys trying giving up booze!”

I am glad that I did not respond in that manner. I was taking this all way too seriously and being a bit self-righteous. Why should it matter what other’s reactions are to my decision? The reason that I am not drinking is to facilitate an exploration of what I thought might be a “problem.” It has nothing to do with anyone else and I think it is best not to seek applause or support. That is exactly what I was doing by expecting my friends to be a bit more understanding of my commitment. I need to stop that thought in its tracks.

All in all, the kombucha controversy turned out fine. I concluded that refreshing my body with fermented tea and fruit juice does not constitute “drinking alcohol.” And I realized that I am better off letting go of what other’s might think and continuing on my merry path…for me.


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