Baba’s Brew, the fast-growing kombucha producer in Phoenixville, had just taken possession of its long-awaited new bottling machine just days before the coronavirus brought the nation’s food scene to a halt in mid-March. Gone overnight was 80% of its business serving local restaurants and cafes, not to mention the lively scene of weekend visitors that filled its tasting room. Owner and brewmaster Olga Sorzano, whose Siberian grandmother (Baba) was the inspiration for her kombucha passion, deftly transitioned to a new model of curbside commerce.
The “culture factory” has evolved into a pickup hub for specialties from several of the region’s food artisans, from Birchrun Hills Farm beef to Northbrook Farms pot pies and fermented powders processed from residual fruits of Baba’s kombucha process. (Try the intense blueberry!) But Sorzano’s beautifully crafted kombuchas remain the most compelling draw. Many of her standard flavors are readily available in regional Whole Foods and Wegmans stores (yay, bottling machine!) But other ultra-limited seasonal brews, like My Summer Boyfriend, remain a reason to visit because they show-off Sorzano’s unique talent for combining fresh flavors.
This September special is bursting with the juicy essence of organic Lancaster watermelons, the tart whiff of kombucha’s telltale tang quickly followed by the fruit’s natural sweetness. But then there’s a sparkling ping of habanero chile heat on the finish that keeps me coming back for another sip: “It is little spicy,” Sorzano says with a wink, “like a good summer boyfriend should be.”
— Craig LaBan