How to Choose the Best Kombucha
So Many Kombuchas…
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. 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 their favorite kombucha flavor is, there’s no telling what you’d hear. Kombucha creators have become quite creative with their flavors and their brewing techniques. With even small towns getting in on the action, there’s no shortage of options. So, which one should you choose?
Let’s first break down the techniques used to make kombucha. The earliest crafters and most still today start with tea. The tea is fermented 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 without as much fizz or 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 stops 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 with pasteurization comes a downside. It kills the good bacteria, the live and active cultures, as well. What you’re left with is only kin to kombucha, not the original stuff, and far fewer potential health benefits. Some brands will then add in probiotics, but they aren’t naturally-occurring live and active cultures like they are 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 and it is 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 your most basic teas, black and green. Nothing too spectacular because the flavors of the kombucha are the darlings, right?
But what if your kombucha crafters knew a lot about tea and appreciated each variety not only has its own distinct flavor profile but brings out the flavors of other ingredients differently as well? 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, but mix things up with teas like oolongs and white teas. When you begin with high-quality, organic teas with their own personalities, it comes out in the kombucha. All of the flavors from other ingredients are enhanced and in perfect harmony.
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. Lemon Ginger Cayenne, anyone? How about Strawberry Basil? Vanilla Oak? Those are just a few of Brew Dr. Kombucha flavors.
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.
The best ones, in our opinion, are like the finest restaurants – they use garden-fresh ingredients during the preparation to get the most flavor. Instead of artificial strawberry flavoring and sugar, the kombucha uses organic, vine-ripened strawberries that are so packed with flavor and sweetness, or perhaps 100% natural strawberry juice, it would be a crime to touch them. Instead of vanilla extract, they use genuine vanilla beans. You get the picture.
For those striving to support companies who put 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 don’t want to leave their mark, so to speak, they will be intentional about how they brew their kombucha and operate their business. Find one 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 cross-contaminated with cleaning chemicals.
Choosing the best kombucha is purely up to the individual. We recommend starting with reading ingredients. Find one that matches your dietary and taste preferences, then giving a few a shot. Take the time to look at the company’s website to learn about how they brew their kombucha and from where their ingredients come. See if you can find anything about how they feel about their environmental impact. Once you discover a brand you want to support, try all of their flavors and get the word out. With all of the competition out there, any brand would love your endorsement.