I’m Allowed to have Opinions, Too! Kombucha & the Straight Edge “Dilemma.”

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It wasn’t until recently that I got hooked on kombucha.  I was a little put off by my first taste a year or two ago.  I assume it’s just an acquired taste.  Regardless, the health benefits you can reap from it are extraordinary.  People will argue this.  Some will say it’s a fad.  Other’s will say it cures diseases.  Do the research and form your own opinion.  All I know, it’s fucking delicious.  Though I’m not fond of the name (it’s the damn vegan in me), Cheeseslave will give you quite a few good reasons why it’s good to eat fermented foods.

Let’s cut to the chase.

I mentioned to an acquaintance (who too, is straightedge) that I was buying a kombucha.  He didn’t know what it was, so I told him it was a Chinese fermented mushroom tea, to which he replied, “Fermetation creates ethyl alcohol, bruh.”  I told him I wasn’t about to get into an “edge debate” with him, and he said, “There’s no reason to.  There are no grey areas.  You are or you aren’t [straightedge].  You take it seriously or you don’t.  There is no in between.”  This baffles me, coming from a non-vegan straightedge guy.  I mean, it always confuses the hell out of me when straightedge people aren’t vegan.  I mean, typically, a lot of sXe’rs are edge for health and purity reasons.  That is why I am baffled when an individual chooses to abstain from a beer, but has no problem downing fifteen sliders from White Castle.  Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that a burger has more chemicals and poisons than a single beer?  I do believe so.

As far as the “grey areas,” I would also have to disagree.  I mean, as stated above, shouldn’t veganism go hand and hang with a straightedge lifestyle?  I mean, if you’re doing it for health and purity reasons, doesn’t this just seem like the logical thing to do?  What about caffeine?  That’s a drug, yet many of my straightedge friends consume coffee or soda.  Even sleep deprivation can be a mind-altering “substance.”  Does your mouthwash contain alcohol?  Note that most mouth washes contain a (very high) percentage of alcohol – typically around 20%.  Do you take Advil for headaches?  Do you drink energy drinks?

I believe the term “straight edge” can be a bit tricky.  It started in the early 80′s, and is said to be derived from the band Minor Threat.  It stemmed from punk and hardcore music, and in their lyrics, you would hear, “I’m a person just like you / But I’ve got better things to do / Than sit around and funk my head  / Hang out with me the living dead  / Snort white shit up my nose  / Pass out at the shows  / I don’t even think about speed  / That’s something I just don’t need”.  It’s that straight edge.

Like many things, it’s branched off – “evolved,” rather.  I know a few people who are proud to be in straight edge gangs (you know, going to shows and beating people up for drinking and smoking – because obviously beer is intolerable, but violence is perfectly okay).  There are some people who are just laid back beings, choosing to abstain from substances they deem impure (and not making a big deal about it).  Other’s are punks, who grew up when Minor Threat first shouted these lyrics.  There are many different “categories,” if you will, of straight edge beings.  Not everyone listens to punk or hardcore music, and I don’t believe it should be necessary to, in order to lead a pure, drug-free life.

The basis of claiming straight edge is a life long commitment to abstaining from things one deems “impure.”  These substances generally include alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.  How far you want to take it is up to the individual.  You can choose to abstain from promiscuous sex, caffeine, etc., etc.  What does “impure” mean to the individual?  How technical do you want to get?  Are tattoos impure because it’s a foreign substance lodged under one’s skin permanently?  If that’s the case, I’m far from straight edge.

Have we ventured too far off course?  Let’s get back to the topic of kombucha.

Last summer, kombucha was removed from the shelves of Whole Foods (and possibly other stores, I am unsure) due to it’s an elevated alcohol level in SOME brands.  Kombucha is fermented, which is typically converting carbs to alcohols and carbon dioxide.  Restrictively, it’s the chemical conversion of sugar into ethanol.  According to the FDA, a product containing more than 0.5% alcohol levels must state so on the label, and mustn’t be served to minors.  Since this whole ordeal, a year later, I have yet to find a bottle of kombucha with an alcohol “warning” on it, or be carded for this particular beverage.  Kombucha contains no more “alcohol” than a fermented piece of fruit.  Watch out!

My take on “may contain traces.”

I was recently asked what my thoughts were on foods that “may contain traces of dairy” or “was processed on equipment shared with milk and/or dairy.”  Here are my thoughts – the original product is not meant to contain dairy.  I see it as a soup and salad bar.  There may be a vegan soup sitting next to a non-vegan soup.  When someone serves themselves the non-vegan soup, some of it may accidentally splash into the neighboring vegan soup.  The establishment may have to disclose that the non-vegan soup “may contain traces” to cover their ass in case someone who is allergic to dairy or meat may contain this now “contaminated” soup.  It’s cross contamination and it’s very likely.  The same concept goes as far as kombucha.  The beverage is not intended to be an alcoholic beverage.  There is simply the chance that in the natural process of fermentation, alcohol may (key word MAY) contain traces (traces, people) of alcohol.  I say, it’s up to the consumer to decide, and how flexible you are.  I, personally, do not consume products labeling with “may contain traces.”

Permission to be a smart ass?  Permission granted.

Okay, hXc Straight Edgers.  Here is a short list of other fermented foods you might want to avoid, for fear of “breaking edge.”

  • Tempeh.
  • Pickles.
  • (some) Bread.
  • Miso.
  • Yogurt.
  • Soy sauce.
  • (some) Tofu.
  • Sauerkraut.
  • Sprouted foods.
Am I no longer considered to be straight edge because I consume pickles?  Give me a break.
Can one get drunk off a kombucha?  At $4.00 a bottle, I’m not about to find out.  If I wanted to get drunk and break edge, I’d go have me a Jack and Coke (or chug some Listerine), not some (expensive) health elexir.
I choose to claim straight edge because I feel it is necessary to wear this label.  I want to show others that I can live a fun, fulfilling life without relying on, or abusing substances that I (personally) deem to be impure.  I’m not a typical straight edge “bro,” like many paint a picture of upon hearing the term.  You won’t find me moshing at hardcore shows.  I don’t lecture people for drinking or smoking.  I just do my own thing.  I wish to lead by example.  I choose to be straight edge because it’s the thing that makes the most sense to me.  I enjoy being sober.  I don’t like the inability of being in control of my thoughts or emotions, which substances like drugs and alcohol can murk up.  I choose to wear the label “straight edge” because I want to show people that you don’t have to be a punk or be into the hardcore scene to live a pure, poison free life.  That’s why I am straight edge.
(My) survey says:  Kombucha is straight edge if you so view it to be straight edge.
I, personally, do not deem kombucha to be “impure” or toxic to my body.  I don’t drink it for a “buzz” (nor does it give me one).  I don’t get carded to purchase it.  Keep in mind, that no where on the label, does it state that the product contains any alcohol, nor are there any warnings on the label.  On top of that, I do what I want.  If you want deem it to be impure, don’t consume it.  (:
JV out___
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27 responses »

  1. Haters are gunna hate. I didn’t even think about it being related to an alcoholic beverage – & I personally don’t think it should. Keep posting your opinions (;

    • I just think it’s kind of upsetting when two people who are choosing to live a sober lifestyle have to debate over such things. It’s one reason why the term “straight edge” kind of … embarrasses (for lack of a better word) me. It’s just like a religion, where people seem to want to put rules and regulations into place. We’re on going the same place. We’re all on this sober path – this “straight edge” lifestyle.

      Thanks for dropping by. (:

  2. It’s interesting, people in recovery have very different opinions. Some swear by Kombucha’s ability to help curb cravings and stay sober. Others stay away from any slight trace because they don’t feel comfortable otherwise.

    In my opinion, the small amounts of alcohol are exactly what your body needs to fully absorb what kombucha has for you, like a tincture. Not only that, unflavored kombucha hovers between .3 and .8 percent, the same range as unpasteurized fruit juice.

    Long term, there really should be a “healthy low alcohol” category that has nothing to do with a buzz. But that seems unlikely given the need for legislation.

    I agree with Kimberly. Keep posting! :)

    • Didn’t GT Dave help his mother overcome breast cancer through the healing goodness of kombucha?

      There’s nothing on the package stating it’s alcohol content and I don’t have to present my ID to purchase, so I don’t see how it’s any different from consuming other fermented products (such as pickles or soy sauce).

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment! (: xx

      • Yes – she was already drinking KT when she discovered she had breast cancer. They attribute the cancer with not being worse to the Kombucha as well as using it during chemo.

        GT does have his “Classic” line available in select locations that does carry a gov’t warning (by law) and people are required to be carded for it. Again, I feel like our attitude and perceptions toward alcohol are very black and white when in fact, Kombucha is one of the shades of gray.

        It has the converse effect – whereas hard alcohol is hard on the liver and damages it, Kombucha cleanses the liver. I have discovered that my craving for alcohol (all sugar really and alcohol is primarily sugar!) has diminished greatly since adding KT as a regular part of my diet.

        Fascinating discussion!

  3. “I want to show others that I can live a fun, fulfilling life without relying on, or abusing substances that I (personally) deem to be impure.”

    What about those who don’t personally deem wine or beer (in moderation) or other drugs impure? Can they say they’re straight edge because they’re also living a fun, fulfilling life without relying on substances that THEY persoanlly deem are impure? If being straight-edge is so relative, then that opens the flood gates to allow nearly anyone to define it themselves, follow that own guideline, and leaves room to eventually destroy the reason for labelling “straight edge.” It murks the purpose of the word.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Victoria. (: Here’s my rational, I suppose. To me, impure substances are those which alter your state of mind, that can be abused and used with the intent of “getting fucked up” – or as Minor Threat would say, “funk my head.” Impure substances are typically thought of as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or other mind altering substances. That’s the basis of straight edge. It has since ‘expanded,’ for lack of a better word, depending on how loose your morals or opinions are. I’m not saying “If you think cocaine and drunken sex with multiple partners in one night is fun and ‘pure,’ then you’re still straight edge!” Not at all.

      Perhaps I didn’t word that part of the article quite so well. But at the same time, caffeine. What are your thoughts? It’s a drug, yes? It’s a mind altering substance, yes? However, many edge folks I know consume coffee, soda and energy drinks daily. It’s that a grey area? If most people are straight edge for “purity” reasons, isn’t it impure to consume greasy GMO fast food? Doesn’t a Big Mac have pose more health issues that a glass of wine? Who deems which more or less impure than the other?

      To me, personally, being straight edge means abstaining from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes – living a clean, sober life. On the topic on kombucha, there are NO warning labels on the packaging, no mention what-so-ever of alcohol content and an ID is not necessary to purchase. It’s fermented. So what? So are pickles.

      Thanks again for stopping by, and sharing your thoughts. xx

  4. I feel kombucha is fine. We need to discuss “golf” though.

    As Reverend Ian MacKaye says: “Listen, there’s no set of rules. I’m not tellin’ you what to do, all I’m saying is I’m thinkin’ of three things that are like, so important to our world i don’t have to find much importance in because of these things, whether they are fucking or whether it’s playing golf”

  5. I enjoyed reading this. and I’m going to have to try some of that stuff. I’ve never even heard of it before. When I saw the picture of the bottle though I had to take a second look, I thought it was an alcoholic beverage haha. There’s an argument!

    I also had a maybe strange question?
    It’s something that I strongly believe in, as it does have many health benefits. BUT it’s an argument sort of like your drink, I suppose.
    If I offend anyone, I didn’t mean to.
    Butt…
    I am SO curious to know your feelings about marijuana.

    : )

    • You should most definitely try it! It’s super delicious and I’m actually drinking some now. hehe (:

      I think marijuana should be legalized. People think that’s strange of me to say, being against drugs, but I’m sober for ME. If others want to drink, that’s their prerogative. If others want to shoot heroine, that’s their prerogative. Not saying that those are necessarily good habits to partake in, but in the end, it’s all our own lives. I think we have much bigger issues in this world to tackle than people smoking pot. Sure, people can get a little whacky and make stupid decisions, but don’t people do the same thing with alcohol? I think Jello Biafra’s take on it is quite interesting, actually, and feel like I sway towards him regarding the subject. Here’s the link: http://www.truthtree.com/Jello_Biafra.shtml (and it’s available to listen on YouTube as well – it’s kind of a hefty read). Thanks for taking the time to comment! (: xx

      • true that. i do the things i do for myself. it’s like it’s illegal for us to do what we want with our bodies. we can’t even put what we want in it!

        And I did try some Kombucha! Mine does have a government warning on it though! I snapped a picture of it. You were right, it was delicious! But it was in the alcohol section … lol
        I’ll probably be getting more today…

        Thanks for answering! and for the link : )

      • I live in Florida. I don’t know what you know about Florida but it’s a pretty conservative place. I think it’s because a lot of older folks live here. A LOT. : )

  6. Its a good argument. And on that note, I think you’re right, if people are going to tell you that Kombucha isn’t “straight-edge” then they should be looking at their caffeine and energy drinks. Your vegan argument is a good one too. And it made me want to mention too, that all the beauty products people slather on themselves daily are technically “un-pure” as well. Really, I think you have a great argument and some people are just gonna try to pick fights because they are stubborn and narrow-minded. :P

    Great article! I enjoyed the read ;)
    xo

    • Yep, yep! I think it’s silly that this issue even has to be “debated,” but ya know. Oh sheesh, I know what you’re saying about the make-up – one of the reasons I don’t wear it anymore! It’s terrible how many chemicals are packed into those pretty eye shadows, not to mention the cruel animal testing! ): Thanks for dropping by, my dear. (; Mad love to you. xx

  7. Hi. A friend posted this on facebook. I enjoyed your essay but had some perspective to share if you don’t mind. I’ve been “Straightedge” for close to 14 years, although recently I’ve come to dislike the word (but that’s a whole other debate).

    I think one misconception that you’re working under is that Straightedge is a health motivation. First of all, if that were true Karl Buechner would look more like Charles Atlas instead of a lesbian bus driver (no disrespect to any lesbian bus drivers reading this). If veganism was primarily a health motivation there wouldn’t be overweight vegans, vegan cheesecake, vegan cupcakes (my xVx girlfriend makes bommmb vegan red velvet cupcakes), and plenty of ways to ruin your body without any animal bi-products. Just saying.

    But more to the point, so called grey areas are more digressions or distractions from the point than anything. People who insist on cramming aspirin and coffee into the straightedge fold are more concerned with superfluous finger wagging than the big picture of straightedge. Ask yourself: what is straightedge a rejection of? Is it a counter ethos to the drinking and drugs that typified the hardcore punk scene that birthed the namesake? Maybe. But if that’s true then we’re still defined by the Ian McKayes of the world who gave us this ambiguous word, and years later decided “meh, I’d rather fit in.”

    Or is straightedge a critique on something much bigger? Where I grew up kids were conditioned very early to accept defeat, and embrace drugs, alcohol, and sex as both a rite of passage, and an end all be all crutch. Straightedge was my Eff U to that. My path to straightedge realization has been more about mindfulness of being, and mindfulness of how my actions match up to norms and mores that I’ve made a conscious decision to reject. Using Straightedge as a means to pursue “purity” is a futile process. Let religion fail at attaining purity. Because I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do… then go around slapping sauerkraut out of people’s hands.

    • Wow! Thank you so much for this. I enjoyed reading what you have to say. A couple of things – it’s interesting how you mention disliking the term “straight edge” and comparing it to religion. I just got into a discussion with a friend about the same topic. It seems as though it IS a religion – all of these “rules and regulations,” different definitions and opinions and view points. I am interested as to what else you have to say on the subject, by the way. (:

      I am not, by any means, saying being edge revolves solely around health. This is just one of the (many) aspects I get hit with regarding the subject. The person who “inspired” this post told me he is, in fact, straight edge for health reasons. When I asked why he didn’t smoke, he told me a relative had lung cancer. When I asked why he didn’t drink, he said told me another relative had a condition due to alcohol. That’s why it completely baffled me. If you’re abstaining from these things purely for health, how does it make sense to consume other substances that are linked with obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, etc? I simply do not understand. I totally get what you are saying about veganism being a health motivation – I myself have been known to be a junk food vegan a lot of times. However, it’s been proven time and time again that so many animal products are linked to illness, and switching to a plant-based diet is most definitely a good thing. So, if you ARE refraining from drinking/drugs BECAUSE of health issues, I don’t see how you think it’s okay to drink soda and burgers all of the time. Do you see where I’m coming from?

      Health is just ONE of the reasons one may choose to live this lifestyle. The same goes with living a vegan lifestyle. Some people are vegan strictly for animal rights. Others simply cannot consume animal products due to food allergies. Everyone has their own reasons for why they live the way they live. For me, I am vegan for health, environmental and animal rights reasons. I am straightedge because I would rather spend my time and money with a level head, being sober and aware of my thoughts, as WELL as not wanting to “pollute” my body with these toxic substances. I enjoy being sober and in control.

      Mainly, I just wanted to clear that misconception that I don’t believe straightedge is necessarily a path to healthy living. It just seems as though I get hit with that aspect a lot. Again, I really enjoyed what you have to say. Feel free to grace me with your opinions and input at any time. Thanks for stopping by. (: xx

  8. :) I’ve drank atleast 3bottles per week since I was 16 and Im 21, I love this stuff! (My family cant understand why, lol.) I love the tasteI couldn’t agree more with the article! :) Great post!
    Trilogy and Classic OWNS- just sayin

  9. It was an amazing article. I’m a straightedge teen, and it really put what I believe in in perspective. I choose to be edge because I don’t like fucking myself up and altering my mind. You are awesome Jetta. :) <3

  10. I agree with you 100%. Every now and then when I’m at home drinking kombucha (bucha live is my new favorite, since I hate the strong vinegar taste and this one is so mild), I do a google search to see what other edge kids think. Since I eat pickles, I’m far from concerned about getting drunk on kombucha. That’s just plain stupid considering it generally takes me a week or so to finish one bottle, if I ever do. I’m not a fan of the taste, but I love the benefits. Another of my favorite fermented treats is kefir, which I absolutely swear by.

    I totally get you on the caffeine and vegan arguments, too heh. I drink caffeine every now and then (maybe a Dr. Pepper every couple weeks), and I’m only a vegetarian (near-vegan, considering I’m somewhat lactose-intolerant), but I don’t see the point in restricting myself or arguing with others about how “pure” I am. I eat what I can afford and what I’m given, as long as I can at least pick the meat out of it. As for soda, I have no excuse heh. If anyone wants to say I’m not edge for enjoying the occasional kombucha, soda, or cheese pizza, whatever, that’s their problem. I’ve never smoked, drank, or done a single drug, and to me, that’s what matters.

    I’m not edge to conform to some rigid standards, I’m edge for myself. I have serious control issues and I’m a major hypochondriac, so health is a huge concern to me. That said, I’m all about herbal remedies, which some people would also probably hold against me, but eh, I’d rather put plants than chemicals into my body.

    Forgive my scatteredness. I love what you do, by the way. I believe you favorited one of my zines on etsy and I quickly added you to my favorites. Good stuff. Keep doing what you’re doing heh.

    SXR

  11. I agree with the writer of this article. I live in a city where militant sXe people have given things bad names im a pozzi sXe person..I don’t go to hardcore shows Im sXe cause I believe in the cause. I may not be vegan but I don’t shove my face full of junk. Being straightedge is about having respect for your body and your mind.

  12. I just came upon your post while looking up the change to the GTs Kombucha bottle/label. For some reason the Original ones just changed recently at the stores I go to here.

    I loved reading your blog post. It reminds me of arguments and discussions I had when I was in the sXe and HC scene, around 12-20 years ago. I stopped eschewing alcohol completely at 25, but I’m still vegan and still prefer to be sober and clear headed at 35. Gray areas are always there, it’s mostly the bigger picture that matters, despite the challenge of adding caveats or asterisks to labels we give ourselves to identify with others. People like clear dividing lines, but often those lines have fuzzy logic. I think you’re on the right track.

    Straight edge was always about thinking for myself and being clear headed and focused, and not wasting my time and energy being careless. Both veganism and straight edge are ideals, and rigid perfection with either can be sometimes artificial, self-delusional, or missing the bigger picture. That doesn’t mean you give up on their core philosophies. But, some people care more about preserving the sanctity of the label than thinking through what makes the most sense. They may tell you that you don’t belong under their label umbrella, but if you agree up to 99%, remind them to look at the world around them and realize you are still allies.

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