Guest Posting: KombuchaKon 2022, by Aaron Zober

Aaron Zober is a blogger and podcaster who publishes The Appropriate Omnivore. In this re-posting from his blog he shares impressions of his first KombuchaKon. The content is re-posted with his express permission.

On March 31 & April 1, the first in-person KombuchaKon Conference & Expo since 2019 was held at the Westin Long Beach. KombuchaKon is organized by the non-profit trade organization Kombucha Brewers International. At KombuchaKon, not only are current kombucha brewers able to attend, there’s also a registration category known as Brewers in Process. A large number of KKON2022 attendees consisted of Brewers in Process. They found the konference to be a kornucopia for learning and networking about everything kombucha.

From top left clockwise: Aluminum cans with twist-off tops from Twistee Can; kegs and tops for taps from UBC Group USA; purees, extracts, and concentrates from Amoretti; and fermentation tanks from Stout Tanks.

The exhibit floor consisted of exhibitors for all stages of the kombucha production. Many kombucha brands begin as home brewers. The exhibitors lay it all out in terms the stages needed when transitioning from brewing at home to a starting a commercial facility. The types of exhibitors range from SCOBY, tea leaf, and concentrate suppliers to bottle and machinery manufacturers to inspections services for breweries. One Brewer in Process said they learned about the show from approaching exhibitor Stout Tanks about providing the specific tanks for their brewery.

In addition to the exhibitors, KKON2022 had many great talks. A number of the topics were well tailored for Brewers in Process, such as making kombucha commercially, creating your brand identity, and planning your production facility. And then there was the keynote from Teatulia founder Linda Appel Lipsius. Linda gave inspiring story about having gone from working in her family’s cleaning product business Orange Glo to founding and running the tea company Teatulia to now serving as executive director of the non-profit Denver Urban Gardens. She talked all about how to follow your dreams and start the business you want to do. 

From top left clockwise: Tank at Local Roots where the ingredients, fermentation tank at Fermentation Farm, large bottle of kombuchas with SCOBYs at Fermentation Farm, and taproom at Local Roots.

After the conference, Saturday April 2 offered a bonus to attendees with a tour of the Local Roots Kombucha taproom and brewery in San Diego. This was then followed by a tour of the Fermentation Farm store in Orange County. At Fermentation Farm, they make ferments of all types, kombucha included. In both locations, people got to see in person what a commercial kombucha brewery looks like and get inspiration for their own breweries.

KKON founder Hannah Crum has this to say about the about the growing market of kombucha: “We very much mirror the craft beer industry. The first slew of keynote speakers we had at KombuchaKon came from the beer industry and that’s what everybody says to us. Oh, you’re just like us 30 years ago.” As craft beer is now everywhere, we can one day expect kombucha to be all around us thanks in part to current kombucha brewers, the Brewers in Process at KKON22, and the Brewers in Process who will be attending future KombuchaKons.

Along with this being the first KKON for the Brewers in Process, this was also my first KKON. Attending it gave me a much greater appreciation of what goes into kombucha making. By and large, people registered for KKON were either Brewers in Process or newer kombucha producers on the scene, so I was able to learn about countless kombucha brands. I look forward to seeing where these brands go years from now.

Kombucha itself is perfect for an appropriate omnivore. I’m all about advocating for traditional foods, especially ones which are fermented. Sustainability is also very important to me. The vast majority of kombucha companies are committed to this with their organic and non-GMO certifications. And now some are even going for regenerative sourcing. Plus kombucha has appeal to so many different dietary lifestyles from paleo to vegan. Being an appropriate omnivore is about getting both the right animal and plant products. Attending Kombucha Kon 2022 let me share my appreciation for a great product which is 100% plant based. 

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