Kombucha brewers succeed in NY regulatory talks

Cider has staked out a strong commercial position in New York State in the past few years. Could another ancient drink be next?

We're talking kombucha here, that centuries-old variety of fermented, slightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks often consumed for their purported health benefits.

As with so many products, the matter of government regulation comes into play as to whether it will survive and thrive in the marketplace. In New York State, several kombucha brewers who ran into early regulatory opposition seem to have found a way around the barrier.

The problem has been that state regulators had not decided whether kombucha should be regulated as a food or as an alcoholic beverage. So, the international trade group Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) and two New York members -- Bootleg Bucha of Buffalo and Food and Ferments of Cortland County -- worked with the state to iron out a consensus.

Now, KBI members who had been told they could not make kombucha without a license from the State Liquor Authority have been approved to do so as long as they meet the food safety requirements decreed by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The kombucha brewers will continue to work with state regulators to streamline the process of applying for a state license.

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