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Brewing kombucha is a healthy business for Jacob Fokken and his wife, Elsa.
Brewing kombucha is a healthy business for Jacob Fokken and his wife, Elsa.

A Living Drink

Jacob Fokken was 20 and drinking maybe one or two sodas every day. Soon, he began feeling that something wasn’t quite right with his health, so he decided to eliminate those sugary drinks. “I quit cold turkey, which isn’t how a lot of things go,” he says. “I substituted with tea, black coffee and at the same time I found kombucha. The nature of the kombucha satisfied everything that I ever craved in a soda, plus it was low in sugar and had probiotics.”

That life change eventually turned into a family business called Songbird Kombucha, though it took some time to get there. Fokken drank kombucha for about six years before he tried making it. Kombucha is an ancient food that dates back more than 2,000 years. It’s a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast, and then infused with different flavors. Kombucha’s probiotic benefits include promoting a healthy immune system and relieving stomach and intestinal ailments.

Fokken found himself working at the Sioux Falls Food Coop, where he revived its dormant kombucha line. “I just dove in and experimented for a year and really enjoyed it,” he says. “Plus, I was able to serve it to people at the register. People were trying it, and I had this growing confidence in brewing it. It just grew and grew.”

In February 2020, Fokken and his wife Elsa launched Songbird Kombucha. Their rotation of about 20 flavors features a variety of fruit and herb combinations, such as blueberry lavender, orange licorice anise and rhubarb cinnamon. Find Songbird Kombucha on tap in Sioux Falls, Vermillion, Yankton, Hartford, Jefferson and Mitchell or visit the Fokkens’ storefront at 1712 S. Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls.

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2023 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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