I’ve learned more about kombucha over the last two months than I ever thought I’d know. (I guess working for a kombucha company will do that to a person). It’s been fascinating, and if there’s one thing I feel compelled to share it’s that not all kombucha is created equal!
In fact, there can be HUGE differences between kombucha brands. So while the wall of bottles at your grocery store may look like a sea of very similar products – it’s not. As with many food groups, reading labels and knowing what to look for is the key to finding the best-tasting, highest quality kombucha.
Here are five things I recommend looking for when choosing kombucha:
- Brewed in 100% glass. Fermenting in plastic or stainless steel (what most big brands do) can cause leaching and may severely impact the taste and health of your kombucha. Merely being bottled in glass is not enough – make sure the label says brewed in glass. (As far as I know, Health-Ade is the only nationally-distributed brand that brews exclusively in glass).
- Naturally fermented. Look for phrases like “naturally fermented” or “never force carbonated” to be sure you’re getting kombucha that’s the most authentic and most minimally processed. It takes several weeks and at least two stages to turn sweet tea into kombucha via natural fermentation, so if a brand makes their kombucha this way, they’re going to let you know that on the label.
- Raw. Because kombucha is acidic (which by the way is different from acid-producing foods like coffee, wine, chocolate, etc.), it doesn’t need to be pasteurized in order to be safe. In fact, pasteurizing kombucha would kill all the naturally-occurring probiotics and end up more like a soda than a healthy fermented food. Make sure to choose raw kombucha if you want the real thing.
- No probiotic count on the label. When you see a specific number of probiotics listed on a label or in the ingredients list, it probably means probiotic supplements have been added. This is different than brewing kombucha the old-fashioned way where bacteria and yeast cultures grow naturally during fermentation. If you want the purest, most unadulterated kombucha, choose brands that take the time to let bacteria and yeast grow naturally.
- These four ingredients: water, tea, sugar, culture. Beyond these there may be fruit juice, herbs, spices or flavorings, but if any one of these four things is not present, it’s not real kombucha. (Note: sugar is essential to fermentation, so you’ll never have sugar-free kombucha. But be wary of kombucha that tastes super sweet or has more than 10 grams of sugar in the final product – that means sweetener may have been added after fermentation and adds unnecessary calories).
Most of the bigger nationally-distributed brands do not meet all 5 of these criteria (except Health-Ade) but some of your local regional brands might – so be sure to read the labels before buying.
Want to make something fun and cool with your kombucha? Here are two easy cocktail recipes I love, as well as a guide to making your own kombucha at home:
Kombucha Apple Sangria by Climbing Grier Mountain
Summer Lovin’ Kombucha Cocktail by Heartbeet Kitchen (also pictured at the top of this post)
How to Make Your Own Kombucha via The Kitchn
As always, feel free to email me or leave a comment with any questions!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, and all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. However, to be fully transparent, I am employed by Health-Ade 🙂
KaylaMarch 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm
Hi! I was wondering if you could tell me 2 or 3 of the healthiest brands of kombucha. I recently bought “the bu” kombucha and it tastes great but is it authentic?
Amelia WinslowMarch 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm
I work for Health-Ade, so I’m biased, but I feel it’s the best kombucha because it’s 1) made exclusively in glass (most are brewed in plastic or stainless steel then just bottled in glass, 2) made with cold pressed juice, no concentrates or flavorings and 3) made in small batches just like you’d make it at home. Of the other kombuchas I’ve tried, my favorite taste-wise is Buchi (out of NC). What region of the country are you in? I can do some research for you – there are definitely lots of great regional brands I am not familiar with.
JeffOctober 9, 2017 at 8:12 am
Hey Amelia, I’m from the Buffalo, NY area and was wondering if you had any suggestions in this region? If not region specific then any other brand available that you would recommend? Thanks!
Amelia WinslowOctober 13, 2017 at 1:04 pm
Hi Jeff, I’m a big fan of Bootleg Bucha, which is out of Buffalo. Also, the company I work for (Health-Ade) can be found nationally including in the Buffalo area. Enjoy!
Carol FieldingApril 27, 2018 at 9:39 am
Hello, i have just bought the glass jar and a scobi from a friend ,would you mind sending me a good reciepe to make
with good quality tea ,sugar etc is organic beter for good results, how much scobi do i put in the jar.
Thank you Carole
Amelia WinslowMay 4, 2018 at 12:29 pm
Hi Carole – I recommend looking at kombuchakamp.com – they have all the info on kombucha making you could ever need!