State law changed after kombucha confusion
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) — There’s been a lot of buzz about kombucha sales in South Carolina.
The fermented drink has recently caused some confusion over how it is sold.
In May, we reported a gray area in a state law regarding the regulation of the popular health drink.
Some companies halted sales, while others started carding, and some out-of-state distributors halted shipments to South Carolina altogether.
“There’s been a lot of confusion,” said Kava Konnection co-owner Gabriel Coggins.
Until recently, Kava Konnection in Greenville sold kombucha on tap.
Several months ago, Coggins said he heard about a South Carolina law that categorized fermented tea as an alcoholic beverage.
The state had set a maximum alcohol content for beverages, but no minimum. This meant that kombucha, which contains less than 0.5% alcohol, was considered an alcoholic beverage. This meant it could not be sold to anyone under the age of 21. Coggins said he had two options: either turn off his taps or spend thousands of dollars on liquor licenses.
“In line with our core values as a business being an alcohol-free bar, the idea of a liquor license seemed a little contradictory, but throwing that out the window, just the cost just wasn’t worth it “, said Coggins.
Coggins said his business took a hit when he decided to stop selling kombucha.
“We made changes. We got rid of our kombucha keg and draft system. We went ahead and removed that based on the law. We were ready to completely eliminate that without having kombucha as an available option,” Coggins said.
That’s when things started to look up.
“We were ready to pivot, and here we are, we can pull it off. We were changing our menu and needed to retrain our customers, who were previously used to having this in conjunction with their other drinks, and now we remind them that they have what they have always been used to,” said Coggins.
Business owners and industry leaders contacted the state Department of Revenue and voiced their concerns. As a result, the state changed the law and cleared up the confusion.
According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, “Standard kombucha is not subject to regulation…since it is a bacteria-fermented tea and not a beer, ale , carrier or “similar malt or fermented beverage”. It is a type of tea with a specific fermentation process different from that of beer and does not contain barley, hops or malt. Kombucha is only fermented with a colony of bacteria and yeast which produces acetic acid and a low alcohol content very similar to the composition of vinegar. It is also not a wine or a cider because it is not fermented from fruits or berries.
This means companies can once again sell kombucha as a non-alcoholic drink.
“The positive thing is that we actually won. It’s nice to feel that our voice has been heard,” Coggins said.
Kava Konnection plans to resume kombucha sales on Wednesday.
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