-by Christie Brydon | 11/14/2016 |
Kombucha is rising in popularity—and for good reason. Its probiotic properties make it great for the all-important microbiome (fancy talk for “your gut”), which helps many health issues. However, as major brands jump on the bandwagon and create their own drinks, the refrigerated shelves are getting a little crowded.
True Kombucha starts with brewed tea, which is then paired with a bacterial culture (stay with me) called a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, or SCOBY (seriously, stay with me). The concoction sits for two weeks or more, creating a fizzy, fermented drink. Many opt to add flavor, like herbs, citrus, or fruit juice.
How do you choose? Unfortunately, the cheapest options are often cheap for a reason, meaning you could pay up to $5 a pop for high-quality ’buch. And some have tons of sugar (we’re talking double digits per serving) or—gasp—aren't truly Kombucha. Here's a guide to some of the most common brands and which are the healthiest.
GT’s Enlightened Kombucha
GT’s Enlightened Kombucha arguably started the recent Kombucha craze, offering a variety of flavors from its home base of Beverly Hills. The founder claims that his fermented tea helped his mother overcome breast cancer, but even if you’re not expecting such major outcomes, it’s still a healthy addition to any diet. With added ingredients like pressed ginger juice or lavender, GT’s is low in sugar and always authentic—it might be the only brand that leaves bits of the real SCOBY culture so you can even see (and sip) what aids the fermentation process. Prices vary, but it’s generally available for $2.50-$5 per bottle, and it’s sold at most major supermarket and drugstore chains.
Note: In some stores, you’ll find the black-labeled GT’s Classic Kombucha, which contains trace amounts of alcohol (around 0.5% ABV) from natural fermentation and requires a 21+ ID to purchase.
KeVita Master Brew Kombucha
One of the most common brands nationwide is KeVita Master Brew Kombucha, which uses real Kombucha culture. Interestingly, most flavors contain 80mg of caffeine from Green Coffee Bean Extract. While KeVita has delicious flavors like Grapefruit and Tart Cherry, there can be up to 16 grams of sugar per bottle! KeVita is also sold at most major chains and runs about $2.50-$4.
Note: While KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink is often sold next to the Kombucha, fair warning: it’s not actually Kombucha. Instead of fermenting tea with a SCOBY, KeVita simply adds a Probiotic Culture blend of Bacillus coagulans, L.rhamnosus, L.plantarum, and L.paracasei.
Townshend’s Brew Dr. Kombucha
You might have seen this one on Trader Joe’s shelves. The brainchild of Townshend’s Tea Company, Brew Dr. Kombucha has no added flavors after fermentation. In-house teas sit for the standard two weeks, brewing with herbs, roots, and fruits, to generate nine varieties. Flavors range from the straightforward (Spiced Apple and Citrus Hops) to the abstract (Love and Clear Mind), and all sit at about 10 grams of sugar per bottle.
Note: Unlike most brands, it’s topped with a metal cap, so don’t expect to screw the top back on to save the rest for later.
Based in Vermont, this small Kombucha manufacturer stands out because of how it distributes: many stores in the New England area have Aqua ViTea on tap. Fill up a personal bottle, or go big with a growler, both of which can be washed and reused. Sugar content runs up to 14 grams per bottle. 20-ounce (refillable) bottles usually run around $5, but about $1 of that is a one-time bottle deposit that you can avoid in the future by bringing the same container for your next pour.
Note: Bottles don’t tend to include any SCOBY remnants (for better or for worse) and the carbonation is more fizzy than bubbly, giving it less of a punch than most brands.
Bend, OR, has the most microbreweries per capita of the state, so it’s no surprise that one of the best Kombucha breweries on the West Coast is based there as well. Humm is sold in markets across state lines, reaching as far as Austin, TX. You know this is the real deal, as you can even visit the brewery to see how the drink is made. Similar to Aqua ViTea, Humm aims to minimize its environmental impact by offering its Kombucha on tap in certain stores for a comparable price point. A standard bottle runs at around $3 and hits 14 grams of sugar.
Note: Humm recommends mixing its flavors, so if you’re filling up a growler, check out these favorite combos!
Can’t decide on a favorite? If you’re interested in learning more, you can always make your own Kombucha.
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