Kombuchas have flooded the market – and for good reason. Even though kombucha teas have been around for thousands of years, their popularity has grown in the U.S. and elsewhere over the past decade. With so many to choose from, how do you know which is best for you? Is there a difference?
Much like the craft beer industry, kombucha is all about personal taste. If you asked 100 people what their favorite kombucha brand was, you’d get a variety of responses. If you ask them what the best kombucha flavor is, there’s no telling what you’d hear.
Kombucha creators are becoming quite creative with their flavors and their brewing techniques, and with even small-town crafters getting in on the action, there’s no shortage of options. So, which one should you choose?
First, let’s break down the techniques used to make kombucha. The earliest crafters started with tea and most still do today. They ferment the tea by adding certain bacteria and yeast, sugar, and of course, water.
As this concoction ferments, the tea transforms from smooth to bubbly — much like beer, but it’s not as fizzy and won’t give you buzz. In fact, in order for kombucha to be sold as a beverage for all ages, it may only contain 0.5 percent alcohol or less.
Now, while this is the typical way of fermenting kombucha, the similarities between brands often stop there. Some brands choose to pasteurize their kombucha to kill any harmful bacteria that may have contaminated the mixture during the preparation of the brew.
If the brew was made in a facility that cannot guarantee a 100 percent sterile environment, this is a good idea. They may also pasteurize the kombucha to prohibit the formation of alcohol.
But pasteurization has a downside: it also kills the live and active cultures, or the “good bacteria”. What you’re left with is only kin to kombucha, not the original stuff, with far fewer potential health benefits. Some brands will then add in probiotics, but they aren’t naturally occurring, live and active cultures like you can find in raw, unpasteurized kombucha.
Thankfully, it is easy to find raw, unpasteurized kombucha with all of the wonderful and amazing cultures alive and well.
What do you know about tea? How about the fact that there are as many as 3,000 varieties? Or that it’s the most consumed beverage in the world after water (sorry, coffee lovers)? Kombucha is made from tea, but which kind?
The type of tea leaves used to make kombucha varies, but most rely on two basic teas: black and green. Nothing too spectacular, because the flavors in the kombucha are what matter most, right?
But not all tea is created equal. The best kombucha brewers know and appreciate that each variety has its own distinct flavor profile and brings out other flavors and ingredients in its own unique way.
A few kombucha brewers understand the subtleties of tea and use that knowledge to their advantage. They use a variety of GMO-free, organic black and green teas, like jasmine and sencha, or mix things up with other teas like oolongs and white teas. When you start with high-quality, organic teas with their own personalities, all the flavors from other ingredients are balanced and in perfect harmony, and you get the best kombucha flavor.
Have you ever looked at all of the flavor options available in just a single brand of kombucha? How about amongst brands? The flavor combinations are mind-blowing.
Island Mango, anyone? How about Ginger Turmeric? Watermelon? Those are just a sampling of flavors out there. Others we’ve seen are Mango Habanero, Asian Pear Ginger, and even ones made to taste like traditional soda pops. There are quite literally hundreds of flavors and ingredients used to make kombucha.
So how do you pick the best kombucha flavors from all of these choices? Think about your taste preferences. Do you like sweet, mellow drinks that go down smoothly? Look for berry, mango, watermelon, or similar fruit-flavored Kombuchas. If you like tart beverages, you should try a crisp apple or lemon flavor. Likewise, if you prefer your kombucha with more herbal notes, there are plenty of options with flavors like lavender, chamomile, sage, rosemary, ginger, and much more.
There’s no reason to stick to just one though: you can keep a variety of kombuchas in your fridge and pick one based on your mood or even what you’re eating that night.
But ultimately, the best kombucha flavors, in our opinion, are like the finest restaurants – they use garden-fresh ingredients during the preparation to get the most flavor instead of artificial flavorings. Instead of artificial fruit flavoring and added sugar, the kombucha uses organic, fresh fruit and 100% fruit juices. Instead of vanilla extract, they use genuine vanilla beans. Instead of any old tea bag, they use carefully sourced tea leaves. You get the picture — and can taste the difference!
There’s a reason so many people reach for pumpkin-flavored options in the fall - different flavors and smells can trigger memories or pleasant feelings associated with different seasons. Ginger, turmeric, and apple are classic warming fall flavors that are perfect as the weather cools down and families gather for holiday get-togethers.
On the other hand, in the dead of winter, some wish to escape to a tropical island, preferring a summery kombucha flavor like watermelon or mango to create that feeling from home.
Like we said earlier, the best kombucha flavors use fresh ingredients instead of artificial flavoring. To get the very best taste possible, you can also think about which products are in season. While most produce is now available year-round in the U.S., different fruits and vegetables grow best at different times in different regions, and in-season produce packs the most flavor and nutrients.
Fruits like mango, strawberry, and pineapples are generally at their best in the springtime (perfect after a long winter), while summer is the season for watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, and passionfruit. Various berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are also in peak season in summer. In the fall, pears, apples, cranberries, and key limes have their moment to shine. Finally, the winter is the perfect time to look for flavors with citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges, and clementines, which are in season through February.
For those striving to support companies who put the environment over profit, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper into brewing practices and company values. This may not be easy to find, but here’s a rule of thumb: Most companies who take environmental sustainability seriously will let you know about it. It’s important to them and they want to encourage others to follow suit. If you can’t find their stance on sustainability on their website, it probably isn’t a priority.
For those companies who want to protect the environment, they will be intentional about how they brew their kombucha and operate their business. Find a crafter that uses renewable energy to power their breweries, composts their tea and organic ingredients, and uses only non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products. The last thing you want to think about is if your kombucha was potentially cross-contaminated with cleaning chemicals.
Choosing the best kombucha flavor is purely up to the individual. We recommend you start by reading the ingredients closely. Look at the company’s website to learn about how they brew their kombucha and where their ingredients come from. See if you can find out how they feel about their environmental impact. Find one that matches your dietary and taste preferences, or give a couple of options a shot.
You can also mix and match the flavors you stock in your fridge to make sure there’s an option for your loved ones, whether they like tart, energizing flavors or sweeter options. You can also even use different kombucha flavors to make mocktails your whole family can enjoy!
Once you discover a brand you want to support, try all of their flavors, and be sure to spread the word. With all of the competition out there, any brand would love your endorsement. At Brew Dr., we pride ourselves in using traditional brewing methods and the highest quality ingredients with zero artificial anything. Find out where you can buy raw, organic kombucha from Brew Dr.