Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Taste-Tested The Most Popular Brands Of Kombucha... So You Don't Have To

It seems like every month there's a new scientific article linking our gut health to our mental health, and that's pretty exciting stuff. In fact, along those lines, one of the latest studies making the rounds extolls the benefits of fermented foods for social anxiety.

Now, I've already seen dramatic gut improvements after switching to the highest-quality probiotic I can afford, so if there's even a slight chance more of the same will help my anxiety, you KNOW I'm gonna try it.


So while John and I figure out if we're really going to have to start pickling our own vegetables over here, he decided to start me off with the most popular Kombucha varieties at 3 of our local health markets.

The employees at each store told John that these are some of their best-sellers.

Kombucha, for you non-health nut/hipsters, is a fermented tea that packs a hefty probiotic punch - meaning it's incredibly good for gut health. Some people go so far as to make their own Kumbucha at home, but since it involves fermentation, that's a scary proposition for newbs like me. Plus I'm, you know, LAZY.

So let's get to tasting, shall we?

 Now, since these are some really strong flavors, I only tasted one Kombucha per day. I'll be posting them in the order I tried them.


Live Kombucha Soda in Rootbeer:

That's right, it's fermented, slightly alcoholic tea... flavored like root beer.

First impressions: Wow, this really DOES taste like it's flavored to taste like root beer!

After the initial strong root beer sweetness, there's a slightly bitter, vaguely medicinal aftertaste - which I'm guessing is the alcohol. Even so, I almost felt it was TOO sweet for something supposed to be super healthy. (It's sweetened with Stevia.) If you consider it root beer flavored medicine, though, it's pretty good! I finished the whole bottle by taking occasional sips over the course of an hour.



Synergy in "Enlightened"


Actually, I'm not sure which of these New Age-ish words is the flavor.  Synergy? Trilogy? Enlightened? Can't they just call it "I See Auras" and be done with it?

First Impression: Whoa, I've just been punched in the face with a jar of vinegar. And is that... wasabi?

Assuming you can get through the eye-watering stench of apple cider vinegar (I quickly learned to hold my breath), you'll discover that this stuff actually tastes amazing... ly similar to the smell.

The smell is the worst part, though, so by holding my breath I was able to take a good 8 or 10 sips, in the hopes that the vinegar-and-ginger(?) flavor would "grow on me." 

It didn't.

But on the plus side, I'm pretty sure it would make a rockin' shower cleaner.

Plus it's fun to shove in peoples' faces and say, "SMELL THIS. NO, REALLY." (John turned green, and my doctor reacted as if he'd been slapped, declaring, "It smells like feet!")



High Country Kombucha in Elderberry Hibiscus:


First Impression: Hey, it's beer!

                                            ... Too bad I don't like beer.

Granted, I only drink cider beer and the very occasional Corona, but to my uneducated palate, this is basically beer with a vague hint of something fruity added in. It's not sweet, and it seems a bit more alcoholic than the last one. After half a dozen sips, I put it back in the fridge for the next time we have a burrito bowl for dinner; I bet it'd pair pretty well.



Reed's Culture Club in Lemon Ginger Raspberry


First Impression: More vinegary beeriness... and is that lemon? Oooh, that's actually kind of refreshing!

This was by far my most exciting bottle of Kombucha, because when I tried to open it, it essentially exploded. Then it continued to explode - albeit more slowly - for the next several minutes.

 Thank goodness I was near a sink.

For the record: I did not shake the Kombucha. I didn't even tip it! So be careful out there, peeps; this is some TOUCHY stuff if the mere act of unscrewing the top can cause a foam volcano. In fact, after waiting several minutes for the foam to stop building, I decided to take a little video, because this really has to be seen to be believed:

video

As you can see, that jetting fountain of carbonation swirled all the icky fermenty stuff [technical term] off the bottom and up into the drink, which made actually drinking it FAR less appealing. 

That said, the taste wasn't too bad... for a Kombucha. It tasted a lot like the last two, with the same strong sour beer-iness I'm starting to expect, but then ends with a clean zip of lemon & raspberry. Makes a great palate cleanser.

Even so, I still couldn't take more than 8 or 10 sips. Just too strong.



GT's Enlightened Kombucha in Mult-Green:


Ahh, another one plastered with New Age buzzwords. I'm starting to wonder if that's a kind of warning. Like, "you're gonna need religion to get through this."

First Impression: No words. Only gagging.

This is, without question, the most curiously horrendous thing I've ever had in my mouth, and it absolutely defies - DEFIES - description. In fact, I think you should all go out and buy a bottle right now, just so you can explain to me what putrescent thing it tastes like. (Right now I'm leaning towards "tree mold and ogre armpits," but with no basis for reference, that's really just a guess.)

I went through 3 different drinks after this one just to get the taste out of my mouth. Ironically, the only thing that worked was the lemon raspberry Kombucha.

I seriously only managed a single sip, since both the taste *and* smell are - again - horrific beyond all understanding. I just went and took another cautious sniff, and decided this stuff could be weaponized. I'm thinking of decanting it into small vials that I can sprinkle on would-be attackers.

TL;DR - It's not really to my taste.


And just so I don't end on a sour note (ha!), here's one more Kombucha brand John found for me, and my favorite so far:

Kombucha Wonder Drink in Cherry 


First Impression: Ok, there's the cherry... and there's the beer... and hey! I actually taste tea!

Like I said, this is my favorite so far, because it tastes like you'd expect a cherry-flavored, slightly alcoholic tea to taste. I like how the flavor hits you in 3 distinctly separate waves, ending with a pleasant tea aftertaste. It's not too sweet, not too bitter. 

This and the first Rootbeer one are the only two I've managed to drink all of, though I still have the Lemon Raspberry & Elderberry flavors in the fridge, along with still MORE brands and flavors John has found in the interim. (Though he's steadfastly refused to try ANY except the Root Beer.) I'll let you guys know if I find any more must-tries.

So... who's ready to try some Kombucha?? :D

96 comments:

  1. Ha ha. My husband loves the green one. I refuse to try it and refer to it as grossbucha.

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  2. Is this actually alcoholic? Because I'm underage, but have social anxiety that I'd like to try and relieve. Also the root beer one looks pretty good.

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    1. There are debates on that, so I've heard some stores *might* card you, but most will not. Apparently there's no way to actually know how much alcohol is in each one? So just ask at your local shop; they'll let you know either way.

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    2. Here in Northern VA you can buy several of these at Target - not carded. (And honestly I'd never thought about them having alcohol in them.) I think my favorites so far are the Live - Limon, and the Ginger and the Blueberry.

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    3. It's a hotly debated subject, and the general consensus is "not enough to matter". I know that if I drink one, I feel like I've had a mimosa and I want to take a nap. And I'm a woman who can hold her liquor. So I've always wondered what the alcohol content reallllly is. (yeast+sugar = alcohol, after all!)

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    4. There are schools in my state that sell kombucha, it is barely alcoholic. Most of the alcohol gets turned into vinegar by the culture that ferments the tea. Nearly all kombucha is under a half a percent alcohol. You'd need to drink about 8 12oz. servings to get as drunk as a single, average(Coors, Bud, etc.) can of beer would get you. There is however a line of the Synergy kombucha with a black label that says "21+" on it that has a slightly higher alcohol content. You can't buy those ones if you are a minor.

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    5. GT brand makes some that are not considered alcoholic, while some are. They have them labeled as 21 + only on the wrapper. However, if you buy it from a regular grocery store it's 98% going to be the non alcoholic one. How they managed to do that is unknown to me... but you can do it.

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    6. Here in Canada we sell a few brands in our grocery stores and 711s and such, so I doubt there's enough alcohol for it to make a difference, since no stores except liqour stores can sell alcohol here.

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    7. Kombucha is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, SCOBY for short. Yeast consumes sugar and leaves alcohol and bacteria turns alcohol to vinegar. The alcohol content is small since both transformations are occurring simultaneously.

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  3. Thank you for doing the review!
    I'm going to decline your "offer" to try the 'tree mold and ogre armpits' version however tempting it would otherwise be. :-)
    I'm not a huge fan of root beer, but the last one, the Cherry, sounds like it'd be doable.
    Can't wait to hear what you settle on and if you think the probiotic effects have any... effect.
    Thanks!

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  4. IIRC, my family drinks that first new-age nonsense (they like bitter and sour). I... cannot stand any of them I've tried. They have other flavored ones, though, not sure of their names... I think a raspberry one was in there somewhere, or was it pomegranate? (It's red with little round seeds on the bottom. Not horrible, but acidic).

    I think all of these count as "acquired taste" in the same way alcohol is. I dunno, if I were you, I'd dilute it with fruit juice or actual tea (something sweet and not unhealthy). And try asking people NOT working at health food stores. I've found their tastes more resemble those of high rabbits with a love of tree bark more than actual human beings.

    Given that they seem to lean towards a foraging, vegan diet, that isn't a surprise... but means it's unpalatable for regular folk like me (who can barely cough down their green drinks. Seriously, have they heard of a strainer?!)

    -Wildstar

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  5. "Fermented Tea". I read that and instantly gag. I don't like tea in the first place. Why would I like it FERMENTED!?

    I swear all these crunchy folk are just making stuff up now. YUCK!

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    1. Your comment made me laugh!

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    2. Glad to give you some giggles! I still think fermented tea sounds as appealing as eating dog sh*it. :p

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    3. It's funny how surprised you are :) People have been consuming fermented food for a long time, including kombucha. I recommend looking up the NIH's human microbiome project. We're walking bags of microorganisms. So although some of this stuff seems like crunchy crap, there's lots of science to back it up.

      All that being said, of course it's still an acquired taste, lol.

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  6. I think you need to try some Oregon Kombucha!! Humm is made in Bend, Oregon. They have several varieties. I like most of them by my favorite is strawberry lemonade. Brew Dr. Kombucha is made in Portland, Oregon. My favorite is Spiced Apple. Haven't tried many others. There is also another brand made in Portland that comes in a can. I cannot remember the name, but I love the Asian Pear. Unfortunately, you may not be able to get your hands on any of this since you are all the way across the country!

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  7. P.S. I haven't tried any of the brands that you have so I can't compare.

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  8. So the only one I've tried is Health-Ade in pomegranate. It tastes awesome. Fizzy pomegranate tea. Hard to find in stores though.

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  9. For the record, both of the "New Age" drinks are made by the same company, which is "G.T.'s Kombucha". And just in case you weren't aware, the "icky fermented stuff" on the bottom is the whole point behind drinking these in the first place. If you are struggling to drink it, just keep trying! That's where the best tummy stuff is! Gently tipping and rocking the bottle with a swirling motion before you open it will allow the drink to aggregate without causing the Foam Volcano.

    I personally love the G.T's Kombucha products, and preferentially buy them since the sugar content is far lower than many of the other kombucha drinks on the market. The flavor is unusual if you aren't accustomed to it, but it really does grow on you. Try the chia seed variety as well! It's milder in flavor, and the seeds give it a neat texture.

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    1. LOL...all I could think when reading this is "beverages should not have texture." I realize that's not 100% accurate (watery, carbonated, milky, smoothie, etc are all technically textures) but I can't even deal with pulp in my orange juice. The idea of Bubble Tea grosses me out, too. :p

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    2. I really like their Gingerade flavor. It took me a full bottle to get used to it but it grew on me. And fair warning on the chia seeds, some people find they have a laxative effect (might be IBS related but all the same...)

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  10. Jen, I can't remember for sure if you can do dairy or not, so sorry if this is fairly useless to you, but I love kefir (fermented yogurt drink)! Especially the blueberry. It's one of those weird things you like more the more you drink, imo.

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    1. My husband is lactose intolerant but loves kefir- I think the active cultures help to digest the lactose.

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    2. Lindsay this is true, the cultures split it up after only a few hours. I like kefir too, can't stand kombucha. You can even put it in smoothies. And there are watery kefir-cultures around.

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  11. Last time I was in the states I tried several different brands, but I can't remember the names now. One was from target and the other from Market Basket. (I was in Boston) I liked all the flavors I tried. I believe there was a ginger one that tasted like a strong ginger ale. They are too expensive, but I liked the taste.

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  12. This is such good info to have! I've been wanting to try it but I'm scared. My grandma and aunts made it all the time years ago. It's actually not difficult...I think the hardest part is that you can't use any metal. Separating the mushrooms at the end of the week is weird. I got very used to that taste and I didn't want to try the premade stuff because I didn't think it would be the same.

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  13. There are some really good ones, but I think I will pass on the tree mold and ogre armpits

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  14. Thanks for taking one (or 5) for the team! Love your commentary. Be sure to let us know if you end up drinking any of them regularly and if it helps!

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  15. Oh, geez, I love you. Ogre armpits indeed! My beloved niece has made her own kombucha but I haven't had the guts (har har) to try it. I might try the cherry one or maybe the root beer on your recommendation. But I'll second Danielle's comment about kefir. If you like yoghurt, you'll like kefir. You can make great smoothies with it using fresh fruit and a few ice cubes--just dump it in a blender. You can also make your own kefir quite easily.

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  16. This is really interesting...I've had all except the green one and enjoyed them all! I think the least strong ones I have had (not on this list) were the GT's guava (it's bright pink!) and GT's cranberry. I also love the Reed's ginger...it is terribly strong but a delicious ginger-beer mixer for drinks, whether non alcoholic or alcoholic (dark and stormies for health!). And I have never gotten "feet" from any of my kombucha tests, but hey, perception is one of the things science still has a hard time understanding, so one person's delicious can be another person's feet. :)

    Because of this, I would say don't give up quite yet! Keep trying different options, you never know what will work! And...I would keep in mind that it is perfectly okay to mix kombucha with either club soda or pop or juice anything else that sounds tasty to drink it down. Apple cider + ginger kombucha, pomegranate kombucha with lime club soda, I'm sure you'll find something!

    Other probiotic-y things: I would really recommend trying lacto-fermented honey cranberries. Super delicious. She also has recipes for lacto-fermented apple pickles (they're perfect to throw in smoothies!).

    If you can tolerate dairy, kefir is great. The Trader Joe's version has 12 active cultures, and you can get it flavored or unflavored.

    The other thing to remember with probiotics is that the good bugs that help you thrive off of veggies, so eat the rainbow in vegetables if you can. Good luck!

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  17. I've tried a few of these, too, and definitely, kombucha is an acquired taste. I do like the KeVita brand. They make a number of flavors that are pretty good (no ogre armpits in the bunch). When they're on sale, I get the coconut-lime-mojito, which is delicious with no gakky aftertaste, and the straight coconut is good too. If you're not a coconut fan, the cherry-something is good, and the pomegranate is too, though it has a hint of vinegar in it.

    I'll second the swirl method for getting the yeasts to reincorporate into the drink without fizzing.

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  18. I worked for a while at a small independent health food store. When we started stocking kombucha I was encourage to try it, but declined when no one could come up with a description that made it sound remotely palatable. This was soon after the manager conned me into trying fermented cottage cheese, so I had very little faith in her palate at that point. We would often get cases in which one or more bottles had let loose their foaming fury in the delivery truck(driven by a coffee swilling, chain smoking man) and the smell and mess were disgusting. The only redeeming factor to me was the fact that the GTS bottles were so pretty and we carried enough that I could arrange them in a lovely rainbow order.

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  19. The only kombucha I like is home brewed. It's easier than you think. Go for it, Jen, you won't be sorry!

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  20. I've tried the Kombucha Wonder Drink and I think the GT's stuff, but I only tried a couple before I started making my own. Depending how strong I let it get (how long I let it ferment) it either tastes good or I take like medicine cos WOW! it gets strong! I always find mine tastes like really tart apple juice, which I never understood - it's only tea, sugar, and culture.

    One benefit of making your own is you can control the level of tartness by when you harvest. It's also possible to take the "finished" product and do a second ferment in a bottle with fruit, or just add sugar to make it taste better. I'm far from pro, but that's what I've read, and it definitely gets stronger the longer it ferments. In Florida, you might get easily overrun - ferments faster in heat :)

    There's no need to drink the bits at the bottom - it's mostly dead stuff - indicates the drink is alive, but you don't need to consume it. The living cells are all through the drink - I put the stuff I make through a coffee filter to get the bits out.

    There's different brewing methods, batch and continuous are the basics - my favourite site appears to be down, but I include the link in hopes it comes back - that's the recipe I adapt for batching. Oh, and they're serious when they say to start with unflavoured kombucha - diluted flavour is disgusting, from experience.

    A note about kefir - also an acquired taste, not the same as yogurt, and some brands have a lot of sugar, without which the taste can be a bit much. I prefer the fizzy ones - natural carbonation, but only some are grown and bottled to maintain it - helps with the taste.

    Hope this very long note has been helpful!

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  21. This may seem out of left field, but you might want to look into Korean food! Korean cuisine has traditionally been very heavy on fermented foods, and even if you're weenie about spicy stuff (a LOT of it is very spicy) there are plenty of non-spicy dishes as well. Also, if you're ok with alcohol, you could give makgeolli a try. It's a fermented rice wine drink, that goes well with spicy foods, but is good on it's own, too. Sometimes it can taste a little strong, but it's got a nice slight fizz to it. I personally think it's best with food, and then it doesn't taste too alcoholic. I don't know about your area, but there is a nice Korean restaurant I go to whenever I'm in Gainesville, and I've bought makgeolli in a bottle at a good Korean-owned grocery store there as well. (I've also made my own makgeolli, but it takes days, so is probably not for the lazy. ;D)

    Anyway, I'd definitely recommend looking into Korean foods! Lots of little side dishes (banchan) are simple to make, just throw them together & put in the fridge for a good snack that includes the benefits of fermented food. maangchi.com is a good source for ideas, too.

    Good luck with the kombucha!

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  22. I see some people have mentioned kefir. I recommend water kefir if you can't do dairy. It uses little gummy kind of "grains" to ferment sugar and juices. I have never seen it sold in stores, so you'd need to make it at home, but I find it quite fun and not as strong as kombucha.

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  23. I work at Publix in TN and I can't tell you the number of times people have bought those and brought them back since we started carrying them! We definitely have the "Smells like feet" and "tree mold and ogre armpits" brands and maybe a few other types.. I can't drink 'em!

    A couple of summers ago, we were in Colorado and went to the Celestial Seasons Tea company's factory and tea shop, basically world domination headquarters.. and while it was kinda cool to see the tea and whatever, the best part was where they had all the products they made available to try, for free. That included their own kombucha. BLECH. I couldn't get past the part where it just tasted like fizzy vinegar! (What part of that sounds appealing AT ALL!?!?!) If it tasted like beer, I'd probably be ok.. but the vinegar part.. NO THANK YOU!

    Good luck in your search. I'm gonna sit this one out!

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  24. "rocking shower cleaner"
    No joke - I brew (and drink) my own kombucha, and I used it to clean out a drain that had been getting slower and slower. It worked great! And, as I explained to my horrified mother, it's not that different from using vinegar for the same purpose, but that's still a safe food-type item. Kombucha's just better because it's alive and has bugs to eat the junk in drains :)

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  25. Oh no! I think you tried some of the worst flavors! GTS, Synergy, whatever makes a TON of flavors but they are by far the most vinegar-y so if you can't handle the vinegar steer clear. And Trilogy is the flavor on that one. The only GTS I like are the ones with the chia in them but there's a whole texture of not-quite-ready Jello that you'd have to be okay with but they come in Grape or Raspberry or Cherry. And chia is packed with fiber and omega fatty acids (the good stuff!).

    In the Reed's you bought, again that's a bad flavor to me. The Cabernet Grape they make was my favorite.

    If you can find Kevita, they are much less vinegar-y and while I *HATE* the taste of stevia I don't mind the little bit they put in these. We have some great local kombuchas up here that I won't tempt you with since they don't make it to Florida.

    But seriously keep trying until you find one you like. There is a wide variety of flavors out there and it's really good stuff.

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    1. I forgot about the grape Reed's! That was one was tasty. It tasted like the non-alcoholic sparkly grape juice your parents would give you at Thanksgiving!

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  26. Thank you! Best laugh of the weekend. I know several people who swear by the stuff but when they described it to me I decided no thanks! However I have been looking for a new natural shower cleaner... :)

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  27. When I first heard of it I thought of kabocha, which is pumpkin squash. I was like - pumpkin squash smoothie? That's kinda gross. Then I found out what it actually was. Then I thought, that was grosser.

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  28. I haven't found any kind of kombucha to my taste, even after giving myself time to acquire a taste for it. I also want to pipe up in praise of water kefir...I spent a summer happily drinking quarts of the stuff a day because it tasted so much better than my tap water. It is as simple as dropping a few grains into some water with a little sugar and allowing it to sit for a few hours, then flavoring it with whatever sounded good to me-usually lemon-lime or ginger. It is very easy to ferment at home...much simpler than making yogurt even with a machine.

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    1. You've officially piqued my interest, Amanda, since my lactose intolerance won't let me try the dairy kefirs a few others have mentioned. Off to google!

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    2. Water kefir can be a good solution! You can buy kefir grains online.

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  29. All of these are nasty. Just my personal opinion. I work at my local co - operative grocery, and we carry all but one of these brands you've sampled. I'd rather sip Robitussin or NyQuil for hours on end than drink even one more sip of any Kombucha.

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  30. My kiddo looooves Kombucha! We are lucky enough to live in the PNW and Humm kombucha is just a stones throw away. It is awesome! The kiddo recommends the strawberry lemonade and the blueberry mint. They have atleast 6 different flavors!
    When we first tried it a few years ago it tasted like the smell of a bottle return room after 100 homeless people had returned 6month old beer cans. It was THE worst.

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  31. Hi Jen!
    I started reading your review and inmediately thought about a beverage my grandmother used to drink. I live in Chile and (much like in USA) there seems to always be something new in terms of health and natural ways to achieve a better well-being. I remember when I was a girl that a thing called "Hongo Chino" (chinese fungus) became all the rage and everyone was talking about it, even in the news, and of course drinking the stuff. Well, surprise, surprise. I just found it again in your blog and this time in fancy packaging!!!
    All this storytelling in any case has the purpose of asking you if you have considered the "natural" way of consuming it. Meaning: go to your local asian market and ask for the real thing along with some nice black or red tea and prepare it at home. And don´t worry, there is nothing to be scared about, all you need is tea, sugar, water and kombucha (yes, even lazy people like you and me can succeed in the task) I´m sure it will taste better, plus, there is the advantage of knowing exactly what you are putting in your mouth and not having to guess. Although ogre armpits seem like a real possibility after looking at that green... thing.
    Another thing I just remembered, back in the days when kombucha was the latest natural fashion in Chile, it was more related to something kind of spiritual. People said that the benefits of this beverage were greatly increased, some even claimed it only worked if domeone else gave you the fungus as a gift. And after a time, when it started a new colony, you had to pass that to some other person, along with your best wishes and good energy.
    I hope that it works for you (in any form) and I send you a huge hug and lots of good energy!!!
    Lorena B.

    P.S. If you ever come to my country, you are SO invited to my house. I´ll bake you a cake! :)

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    1. Another great thing about making your own is that you can add flavor to it (AFTER brewing, you don't want to add flavored teas or juices before fermenting or it can damage the balance of the cultures and defeat the purpose). I used to make Kombucha with blueberry flavored herbal tea. My kids loved the stuff. I only gave them small sips, so that probably helped enhance the mystery. I lost my SCOBY in a move or something years ago. I kinda miss it now.

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  32. How do you know if your gut isn't healthy? (I know. I'm dense.)

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    1. Lots of upset tummy, grumbly guts, diarrhea, sour stomach, stuff like that. Ca

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  33. The best ones I've tried were "Buchi" Kombucha. I like the "air" flavor best. http://drinkbuchi.com/flavors/buchi-air

    But then again I like kombucha so your mileage may vary.

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  34. I've never tried kombucha. I actually didn't really know what it was until reading this. So, thanks! I learned something today.

    If you do decide to try to make your own, one of my other favorite blogs just did a tutorial: Shutterbean – Make your own kombucha
    She made it seem not too scary.

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  35. Aww, so may kombucha haters! Seriously, the home-brewed stuff is so much better! You can pick your tea, the amount of sugar, and what other flavors you want to mix it with. I make mine with an orange black tea and then mix it with orange or pomegranate juice. It's delicious! The best part of the homemade stuff is that YOU choose how kombucha-y you want it to be. Don't like is so strong? Don't let it ferment for so long or mix it with more fruit juice. I promise you, if you start with weak kombucha and build yourself up slowly, you'll be drinking the strong stuff before you know it!

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  36. Delightful review, thanks. Although the part about GT's was so funny I just about snorted my coffee through my nose...

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  37. Thanks for taking one for the team, Jen! I did Whole30 back in April and lots of folks were touting the benefits of kombucha on the Whole30 forum. I never got brave enough to try it - that crap is expensive - and now I'm super glad I didn't. This class of beverage is not for me!

    Best of luck with your continued trial and error, and thanks for sharing your journey with us!

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  38. Best line you may have ever written: "I'm starting to wonder if that's a kind of warning. Like, "you're gonna need religion to get through this.""
    Thank you. Thank you so much for your exhaustive and ENLIGHTENING research!!

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  39. I think I'll stick with sour kraut and kimchi (another fermented cabbage but with a kick - available at Asian food stores). I like these sour things as part of a meal, but can't imagine liking sour drinks...

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  40. Keifer is a lot easier on you. Lifeway makes some wicked good flavors that don't taste like something Mary Poppins yanked off the bottom of her shoe. :)

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  41. As a fellow anxiety sufferer I'm going to have to try this. I live right down the street from this amazing world market that sells *everything*.
    Will look for the cherry one to try (I love cherry anything!), and I'm going to try making my own to see what it's like. I'll let you guys know if I find anything good :)

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  42. i have a friend who started/owns/runs a kombucha business (mamachari kombucha) in SLC. she started in her kitchen, selling at farmer's markets. she opened a taproom/brewery recently and has been picked up by some local retailers. i think she also sells it online, but i'm not positive. if you're interested, here's the fb page link (https://www.facebook.com/MamachariKombucha). everyone that has had her kombucha raves about how great it is (or at least, the ones who post on fb).

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  43. As a fellow anxiety sufferer I'm going to have to try this. I live right down the street from this amazing world market that sells *everything*.
    Will look for the cherry one to try (I love cherry anything!), and I'm going to try making my own to see what it's like. I'll let you guys know if I find anything good :)

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  44. As a fellow anxiety sufferer I'm going to have to try this. I live right down the street from this amazing world market that sells *everything*.
    Will look for the cherry one to try (I love cherry anything!), and I'm going to try making my own to see what it's like. I'll let you guys know if I find anything good :)

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  45. I was never able to handle the taste of kombucha either (though I think you tried harder than I ever did) and although my friends make water kefir and swear by it I never did get into trying to make it (too lazy as well, perhaps?). BUT I did find a coconut water kefir that worked great for me and you only have to drink a little bit a day. You should try Inner-Eco's Coconut Water Kefir. I can find it at Whole Foods and New Seasons in their fridges by the vitamins :) I've tried all the flavors and think that the original is the best (and the tropical is a bit icky). Good Luck!

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  46. I've had the cherry one before, and it is EXCELLENT. It has a LOT more sugar than the other brands, though, so I don't know how that affects the probiotic workings. The Synergy Gingerberry (blueberry) is my FAVORITE, though. It doesn't have a lot of added sugar, so it's got more of a probiotic punch. I'm mostly sugar free, so the sourness doesn't bother me like it used to.

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  47. I drink the Reeds brand sometimes, but the flavor that works for me is the Hibiscus Ginger Grapefruit. I can taste the tea and it really helps my stomach (it was the only thing that helped morning sickness this time around :-D ). You might try that flavor and see if you like it!

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  48. You're too funny. I love the GT's and drink almost an entire bottle a day. That green one is not the best one but I doubt you'd like any of the others :D

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  49. I too live in Oregon, and the store where I work sells Humm. We carry Apple Sass and Lemon Ginger. They are pretty expensive, but people do buy them, especially the Lemon Ginger.

    Personally, if I want something for my "gut health" I'll eat a yogurt!

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  50. Okay, yes, the first time I tried Kombucha was before GT's had to black label. Background: They were tested randomly after some complaints (?) about the alcohol content and their original formula was determined to sometimes step over the line into official alcoholic beverage, so they were yanked from shelves and then put behind counters and off in corners next to tequila and whiskey - and let's be frank, Kombucha is not what you're going for when you walk into the liquor section. In an effort to regain the sales, they produced a new product that was less fermented (Enlightened) and all was right in the granola world again.
    Anyhoo, my first sip was revolting, but I'd just taken out a small loan for the purchase, so I took a few more sips before swallowing what I'm pretty sure was a shucked clam. Slightly surprised, I looked the bottle over and realized it was full of the little suckers, which I decided, after doing some research, were not in fact shellfish but some sort of alien life form that attaches itself to your brain stem and tells other people to drink Kombucha.
    In any case, it's too late for me, because a couple of years later I felt compelled to start drinking the stuff on a daily basis, and now I have acquired a "mother" and am raising my own. Having tried all the brands you mentioned, as well as the sad, sad attempt by Celestial Seasonings to jump very late on the bandwagon, I can tell you that (surprise!) it's an acquired taste. I still absolutely hate the green stuff, but it is amazing as a quick recovery drink for when I'm getting sick - so much so, that now I just buy one when someone coughs around me - and the ingredient that makes it green is an especially disgusting-effective energy boost.
    Btw, I see you have not ventured into the chia-infused hybrids. It's like sticking a straw in an overripe tomato and slurping the insides, seeds and all. Very satisfying.
    Flavors:
    Pure Doctor Live Soda tastes very much in the way that Dr. Pepper does not. My favorite of the sodas is the orange, the Reed's Lemon Ginger Raspberry is their best flavor - yes, as good as that one gets, and once you have opened GT's Strawberry while driving and it has exploded all over your seat, the smell is there to stay. On an unrelated note, I am selling my '98 Dodge Caravan on local craigslist Kansas City, very clean, power windows all operate perfectly, AM radio still mostly works in one of the speakers. Will trade for boat.

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  51. I first tried home-made kombucha on a ranch in the jungles of Costa Rica. I liked them because the fermentation was not as strong. I have tried many since and some I love and some, well, not so much. Most of the times the ginger flavors were my favorites. I never remember to open the bottles OUTSIDE of my car and have had some lovely fountains on the front seat of my car. I wonder why even my dogs wouldn't get in the car after that.

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  52. So I was discussing this with my boss and a customer heard and she said the GT's lavender is her fav, she drinks one a day and that its an acquired taste a lot like a vinegar-y tea

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  53. Thank you for doing this. I've tried a couple of these (because a vegan coworker swears by them and insists the probiotics could help with my garlic allergy), but at $4.00 a pop per bottle, I haven't wanted to experiment to find one that didn't make me gag. That's an expensive little experiment you've got going there. Thank you for taking one for the team.

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  54. I've never tried kombucha because the smell has always been so off-putting, but your review made me laugh so hard I was crying! Hilarious! I'm going to have to give that cherry one a try, now.

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  55. Humm brand's Coconut Lime was really tasty to me. Didn't have a heavy alcohol or tea flavor (to me!) and wasn't really sour. Check out shutterbean.com for a great kombucha tutorial that almost made me want to try it until the part where you have to deal with the scoby... blech... Good luck!

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  56. Kevita kefer water is pretty tasty, not really vinager sour, more lemon type sour.
    Making your own fermented food is easy. A book called Asian Pickles is a good start. I made one of the kimchee recipes in three days (without a fermented kickstarter). One of my sisters is on a probiotic diet due to autoimmune diseases. She says that it really helps her gut.
    Are you lactose intolerant or kasein intolerant? There is a difference. Kasein is in all dairy, while lactose is only in cow dairy. If you have lactose intolerance you can still have goat or sheep dairy products(one of those autoimmune diseases is kasein and lactose intolerance.) Also, according to my intolerant sister, it is possible to have dairy two or three times a week, you just need to break it up and have non dairy days between dairy days.

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  57. Upstart Kombucha is incredible. The Rose Bud and Mint Green are light and fizzy and are my weekly treat to myself. It's the only kind that doesn't make me hold my nose!

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  58. If you really want to be kind to your gut flora, buy a yogurt maker and some good yogurt culture (I get mine from Leeners.com and it has ALL the good probiotics. It tastes WAY better than the storebought stuff, and you can control what goes into it.

    Also, yogurt shouldn't set off your lactose intolerance since the bacteria eat up all the lactose.

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  59. I'm squarely in the kefir water camp. I was even nervous about that until I "kefir-sat" for a friend who was traveling. I make mine with about a cup and a half of grains (the amount builds up to mounds and mounds-- I discard the excess for each new batch). Only Trader Joe's Turbinado sugar seems to work reliably for mine. I had been taking huge amounts of high-quality probiotics for years, and this was the first thing that made a noticeable difference in some of my chronic symptoms. My original "kefir mentor" harvested and drank all of hers every day, but that tasted insipid to me, so I let it go until it gets a bit crisp and effervescent (but before it gets vinegar-y). And I add a tiny pinch of Celtic sea salt to enliven the flavor and add to the micronutrients, and a tsp or more of ginger, which the grains love and so do I. For my taste, 30-40 hours is usually about right in summer, longer in colder weather. Google The Kefir Lady to get started. And if you try the trick of brewing in a closed container, please use a lid/jar combo that is designed to handle high pressure!
    But mainly you want what your body will respond to; so if you find one of the kombuchas that will work for you, you're golden. It doesn't seem right for me (thank you for corroborating my experience...), so I'm glad to have found the water kefir.

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  60. I love kombucha and have been making my own for a few years now. It's super simple. All you do is plop a scoby into sweet tea, cover it with a cloth, and let it do its thing for 7-10 days. I can then control how vinegary it gets. My spouse likes it so strong it could peel paint off the walls in the building next door. I prefer it sort of sweet. I don't like too many of the ones on the market, but sometimes an "on tap" version is better. The green one is one I just find nasty. It tastes like licking a muddy bunch of shamrocks.

    We also add crushed fruit to ours, after we decant it. It makes it have a slight sweetness.

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  61. I'm so glad that I read this when I was sitting at reception today instead of down with all my coworkers because I was just giggling through the whole thing. Love your commentary! I'm thinking the only one I'd be able to stand is the root beer. Might have to give it a try.

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  62. What on earth is cider beer? Cider with hops? I'm very confused. I know that for some reason Americans call real cider hard cider, though what you'd make of proper scrumpy...

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  63. Gotta chime in with the others that suggest making your own! Then you can control how vinegar-y it gets, and add your own flavor. I like mine with lots of ginger, but I like lots of ginger in everything! The friend I got my SCOBY (aka, mother, aka, mushroom) from, puts raspberries in hers... Mmmm! I did have a batch get away from me... forgot it for an extra week, and WOWIE!!! Un-drink-ably vinegar-y. But it is easy to make!! Make a batch of sweet tea, add the SCOBY, and let it sit till you like how it tastes. Poof.

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  64. we had a teacher in Massage therapy school that grew her own Kombucha. It was...yeah. And she even asked us if we wanted a spore to take home with us. No thanks, I'm fine without fungus. I nearly spit out my Virgil's Root beer during your "No words, only gagging" line. PERFECT description! I needed some validation that I wasn't the only "ick" one around here!

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  65. My friend has Crohn's.
    He used to drink Kombucha all the time to help with his tummy problems.
    He offered me a taste.
    I politely declined and then plotted his death for subjecting me to the devil's tea.
    Ever since then I cringe when I pass them in the grocery. :/ There's GOTTA be another way to promote gut health.

    --Piper P from Washington State.

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  66. Oh my gawd, I laughed so hard while reading this...both from your reviews, and from your declaration that you're lazy. Ha. I have actively avoided Kombucha, but maybe, just maybe I'll see if I can find something that sounds appealing (like the rootbeer or cherry...the only ones that look even remotely appealing) and give it a try. I recently tried Kefir and didn't care for it (or notice a difference to my "gut health"). I don't believe I have any real gut health issues, but I am hypothyroid, so probiotics are supposed to be helpful. Thanks for the laugh!!

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  67. I've tried a few of the GTs Syngergy ones and believe me, the Guava and Mango are the only ones worth your time. So I would recommend trying those. They are by far the best. But I do want to try some other brands.

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  68. I'll be curious to see if you like any just-fruit flavored ones better. Lemons don't count, and ginger should never count for anything *gag* I sometimes will drink kombucha but only in nice fruity flavors like strawberry or mango.

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  69. Jen, it seems as though we may be related in a "same guts by different mothers" way. I can't do dairy, either & have lots of g.i. problems - something other than lactose is the culprit so even label reading isn't always a guarantee I won't be stuck in the john crying all night at a dinner party (so I don't go). I also have bad cramps, etc. when I do something exciting or overwhelming - for instance, a trip to Disneyland always includes one day in bed. Have you had cramps (ETC) related to anxiety or stress as well? I've tried different probiotics, but saw that you've found one that helps. I know I wouldn't even get past the smell of the kombucha, but I'd love to know what your probiotic is...? Thanks for being so open to your struggles with us. It's nice to know that there's someone else out there who gets it!

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  70. I've seen a couple of my fellow PNWers recommend humm which I enjoy but I would definitely suggest KeVita (the lavender melon is my favorite). They are a whole probiotic brand so they have drinks other than kombucha as well.
    As far as the taste, it's definitely an acquired one! Your palette will adjust, just give it time!

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  71. I've seen a couple of my fellow PNWers recommend humm which I enjoy but I would definitely suggest KeVita (the lavender melon is my favorite). They are a whole probiotic brand so they have drinks other than kombucha as well.
    As far as the taste, it's definitely an acquired one! Your palette will adjust, just give it time!

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  72. Ha! I loved reading this! I drink kombucha daily, and my favorite one is the Trilogy one. HOWEVER, like fruit, not all batches are the exact same. If I buy a booch that tastes awesome, I jot down its batch number and buy those up. If it's nasty, I jot down the batch number and steer clear until new batches appear. The best is when the raspberry juice in Trilogy stands out-- sooo yummy!

    It's definitely an acquired taste; I found it absolutely horrid the first time I tried it. Then it grew on me (powered through knowing it was supposed to be good for my gut). Even now, though, sometimes batches will turn me off, and I *like* the stuff normally. Maybe give it a shot another time?

    If you eat salad, you can incorporate booch as the vinegar in an oil and vinegar dressing. Probiotic salad dressing.

    Water kefir is another good probiotic drink. I ordered grains from Cultures for Health. You might be able to find free grains (and SCOBYs too) at local health food stores. I got a SCOBY from a local store, and have given dairy and water kefir grains away to family and friends.

    Anyway, yay good bugs! Too bad about the booch. Maybe another time! :D

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  73. I literally LOLed at this post. Oh my, the mishaps and grossness! I'm so sorry!

    For what it's worth, the last one you tested - the creepy ass green one - that brand makes MUCH tastier flavors - particularly strawberry serenity. I like the ginger one too, but I don't recommed that for the faint of heart. Or sane. I'm kinda weird. Anyhow. The strawberry - if you brave it again, give it a shot!

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  74. You inspired me to try Synergy's Gingeraide Kombucha. SO GOOD. Slight apple cider vinegar taste with a great fresh ginger follow up. Loved it.

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  75. You know what? I think I'm going to trust the Mayo Clinic and avoid this stuff.

    http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/kombucha-tea/faq-20058126

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    Replies
    1. Looks like they're only referring to home-brewed Kombucha there, since a non-sterile environment can lead to contamination. I'm pretty sure the mass-produced stuff is safe to drink.

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  76. I just tried the Cherry Cassis this weekend. Got it at Aldi, of all places! I liked it until halfway through the bottle, it just tasted like vinegar salad dressing. :( Maybe I should have gently shook it.

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