Born and raised in Russia, Baba’s Brew founder Olga Sorzano grew up on fermented foods and drinks. Fermenting foods was the way of life. Her family had a small plot of land that they grew foods on and would keep some to eat fresh but the rest would be preserved for a long winter. Her great-grandmother, Baba, taught her how to make kombucha and gave it to her whenever she felt sick or for any ailments, which taught Sorzano at an early age to associate the drink with feeling better.
Kombucha is one of the fastest growing functional beverages with its long list of health benefits. Although kombucha has been around for over 2000 years originating in countries like Russia, Japan and Eastern Europe, Sorzano, says “only 5% of people in US know what it is.”
In the past three years Baba’s Brew has grown from a 90 square foot incubator kitchen to a 6000 square foot brewery in Phoenixville, PA, close by to some of Pennsylvania’s beautiful farms where Sorzano can source fresh ingredients.
Sorzano’s background is in culinary arts and veterinary medicine. Before coming to the states, she received her veterinary doctoral degree. Her knowledge about anatomy, microbiology, and biology as well as the healing properties and effects of nutrition stem from her schooling.
Growing up with kombucha and now carrying on the tradition with her own children, Sorzano’s mission is to bring her passion and knowledge about kombucha to the mainstream. That includes upholding the integrity of kombucha brewing with organic, local, purposeful ingredients and educating Philadelphia and surrounding areas about the health benefits and importance of sustaining good bacteria in our bodies.
Made through fermentation of sweet teas, bacteria and yeast called SCOBY, and infused with fruits and flower plants, this probiotic-enriched, flavorful, fizzy drink is made to support digestion and the distribution of amino acids in our bodies with good bacteria that increase our cellular function and build a healthy immune system.
Fermented foods are living foods that have been preserved by the action of live bacteria, cultures or microorganisms. The good bacteria enable the fermentation process. Sorzano advises that consuming the right fermented foods or drinks is important to support healthy function. She suggests choosing foods and drinks that list natural, raw ingredients on the labels and that are found in refrigerated areas of the market.
Kombucha, along with certain other fermented foods that benefit our bodies like yogurt and sauerkraut, will have a higher quantity of probiotics. Probiotics help to break down substances like amino acids, vitamins and nutrients that are absorbed into our bodies. They replenish the right kind of bacteria necessary for proper gut function, which plays a vital factor in maintaining a healthy immune system.
In kombucha, SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, is a substance of microorganisms of bacteria and yeast that feed off the teas to produce the tasty and health-boosting drink. SCOBY functions as the probiotic. Sorzano explains why this is important.
“If you looked at our body under a giant microscope, we carry more bacteria [than cells] mostly concentrated in our stomach. When you kill the bad bacteria, you also kill the good ones. The fermented foods bring back the good bacteria. Healing starts with proper nutrition of your body. Nutrition will not start until you heal the gut floor.”
In 2000, Sorzano began living in the United States and was stationed in Nebraska through the Future Farmers of America program. While working on a dairy farm tending to cattle, Sorzano was seriously injured from a bull attack. After her recovery, she decided to change careers and make the transition as a chef. She discovered that Philadelphia had renowned culinary programs and chose Restaurant School of Walnut Hill College. Her culinary expertise give her a very scientific approach to cooking and how ingredients are broken down to create complex flavors that work not only for taste, but for nutritious value of why it’s good for you and how it affects the body.
She began brewing kombucha in her home when she could not find one that she enjoyed as much as she remembered from Baba. In 2015, while attending a fermentation festival in California, she saw how the popularity of the drink had increased since her relocation to the states and realized she wanted to start a kombucha company; a main and local company in Philadelphia to grow the industry there.
Sorzano’s brewery produces 850 gallons of kombucha a week and covers every aspect of production — brewing, infusing, bottling, etc. They uphold the taste and integrity of traditional kombucha using 100% authentic, natural, organic ingredients locally grown when in season (but always organically grown when outsourced). All drinks contain pure fruit and herb flavors through an infusion process where organic ingredients are frozen overnight. Once all the liquids crystallize, flavors are extracted and then crushed leaving the natural flavors without all of the sugars or calories. No juices, extract, juice from concentrate or artificial flavorings are added. This, along with their interesting flavor combinations and purposefully infused blends offering increasing health benefits, is why Baba’s Brew stands out in the kombucha industry.
Baba’s Brew offers seasonal and year-round flavors, such as Blueberry, packed with antioxidants and blended with ginger to make this ideal for extra digestion support; Flower Power, a wild blend of flowers like lavender, rose petals and tulsi; Honey Chamomile, the drink Sorzano never goes to bed without due to its calming and soothing infusions, and the go-to when feeling under the weather; and Hibiscus, the perfect morning drink naturally loaded with vitamin c, which helps to rehydrate on a cellular level to replenish after a workout.
In fact, a major benefit of all kombucha is that it helps to alkalize the body, speeding recovery for sore muscles or achy joints. Another major benefit is that it helps to process foods, Sorzano recommends drinking it before or after a meal and making apart of your food consumption. “Not only does it provide you with probiotics and enzymes, but also helps to produce hydrochloric acid so your gut is ready to process the food.”
It helps you to change or aid the bacterias helping not only stomach/digestion issues, depending on what it’s infused with, but also helps to change how your body feels overall. “When your car is empty, you don’t just fill it up with anything you can find. You get gas. [The same goes for] when you eat or drink; you nourish every cell of your body. It’s extremely important what we put into our bodies. With kombucha, you are not only getting the benefits from bacteria and probiotics but benefits from what it is infused with,” says Sorzano. Kombucha is also a great alternative to kicking soda habits, lowering alcohol consumption, and balance skin issues.
Baba’s Brew can be found in 200 locations within Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. It is recognized as the bottle with the squirrel on it, designed in honor of Baba who was “a little, tiny woman with bright red head and her nickname was ‘my little red squirrel.’” Even though Sorzano only knew her for a short time, she explains that, to her, she was one of the most inspiring, empowering women.
Baba’s also offers tastings every Saturday from 10am to 3pm at their tasting room called, A Culture Factory, in Phoenixville, PA. Sorzano carries out her mission of educating the public on the deeper meaning of why kombucha is vital to our health through teaching classes at Bryn Mawr Cancer Rehabilitation on fermentation and through numerous community events that offer brewing classes and tastings.
For more information, visit Baba’s Brew.