WEST TOWN — A local kombucha brand is making a name for itself as a go-to drink for people avoiding alcohol but still want a fizzy beverage to relax.
Sober bars and events have seen a huge surge in popularity — which has been a boon to Komunity Kombucha, where a team of less than 10 full- and part-time employees make three flavors of kombucha. Founder Jack Joseph developed Komunity Kombucha for people like him who only occasionally drink or who are sober but still like to socialize, he said.
“It really has to do with making more non-alcoholic beverages accessible,” Joseph said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t drink for many reasons like myself … whether people are the designated driver, working in the morning or just don’t feel like drinking. … But there’s just no good options other than your typical Pepsi products and water.”
Joseph has been a fan of kombucha for years, but he didn’t have interest in turning it into a career until his brother suggested it.
“He’s always got these like, funny, crazy ideas that sometimes I disregard,” Joseph said. “I was like, ‘Dude, you’re crazy. I don’t know anything about kombucha. I drink it, but I don’t know how to make it.’
“But that night, when I went to bed, I had a dream that I started a kombucha company. That next morning, I woke up and I got to work.”
Joseph began working on his kombucha company at his grandparents’ home during the pandemic, eventually moving to a bigger space in a shared kitchen, he said. He met Jeff Smith, Komunity’s director of sales, while they were working for another kombucha-making business, he said.
The company launched in 2020.
The business’ focus on kombucha, a type of fermented tea, has helped Komunity succeed because people are looking for more non-alcoholic drink options and there’s more interest in fermented foods and beverages, Smith said.
“There’s kind of this movement for fermented foods again, like kefirs, different yogurts, kombucha, anything that has fermented food,” Smith said. “There’s this whole resurgence in conversations about fermentation, and in general I don’t think we realize how many things that we consume on a daily basis are fermented. Most people don’t realize that coffee is fermented. Every bread that we produce is fermented. There’s so many things that we consume in a day that are fermented.”
Kombucha being non-alcoholic also appeals to people looking for ways to improve their mental and physical health, Smith said.
For now, Komunity offers three flavors: lavender butterfly, rose petal berry and hibiscus ginger.
People “want the health benefits of kombucha, but [some of them] are kind of disgusted by the taste of it. It’s very polarizing,” Smith said. “We essentially started working and creating a kombucha that was consumable for the masses.”
Joseph said that Komunity Kombucha has gotten many repeat customers by selling at farmers markets, where they can meet people face-to-face and build relationships.
Joseph said being in West Town near Goose Island Brewery, Metric Coffee, Sparrow Coffee and other Chicago-based businesses has been inspiring for his small company.
“These businesses that have been around for a long time and continue to grow year after year kind of puts a fire under our butt and inspires us to to keep going and to continue to grow, to keep up with these brands that have really done an amazing job.” Joseph said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: