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Kombucha Hunters: On The Road

As we travel about the country, we are always searching for new kombucha brewers and anxiously tasting new flavor combinations. One vendor called us “kombucha hunters” which seemed to perfectly sum up our interest in kombucha — so it stuck.

Most recently our travels have been predominantly in the United States. Since we have been intrigued by kombucha for several years, we wanted to share our overview of the changes we have observed in the landscape of kombucha.

Here are our current observations:

  • Kombucha started in many communities with vendors at farmers markets. As these vendors grow, they get into local stores or open a taproom. Think Panacea Brewing in Wilmington, NC (thankfully, they survived the hurricane), going from two markets to a taproom. Recent visits to the Hollywood Farmers Market and Santa Monica Farmers Market were surprising in that there were no kombucha vendors at either market. What that tells us, though LA is a very progressive market, is that kombucha is part of the local lifestyle and available beyond farmers market and similar outlets. Given that it is now available at Starbucks, that trend will probably continue. That doesn’t mean new vendors won’t start at local markets. Once such market vendor is Sanctuary Kombucha, in Round Rock, TX. They sell their apothecary goods as well as food products at the Wolf Ranch Farmers Market on Saturdays in Georgetown, TX.
  • Geographically, as we work on updating our directory, the number of brewers is growing. The map had many gaps when we first started two years ago and some states had no vendors at all. But these market opportunities are beginning to be met. A notable example is the new brewer, BareBucha available on a truck, in Waco, TX. Also, Phoenix, AZ had no local brewer until All About the Booch opened. It is exciting to see small business people with a passion for health jump into the market. It will continue to be, in most cases, a small market product given the challenges of producing and transporting kombucha while maintaining quality.
  • We cannot ignore the fact that big beer vendors are seeing the benefit of adding kombucha to their beverage lineups. The purchase of Clearly Kombucha by Molson Coors is a good example where the distribution network of a beer vendor is perfect for expansion. The challenge is successfully transporting a refrigerated beverage in some parts of the country with excessive heat. Bottling kombucha in cans will help address some of the transport issues. It also will broaden the market opportunities, allowing it to go to the beach, boating and other outdoor activities where glass is forbidden.
  • Existing brewers are adding new blends and varieties, including drinking vinegars, shrubs, and kefirs to name a few. Live Soda, here in Austin, TX, has several offerings in its product line after starting with kombucha. GT’s has added kefirs and coconut yogurts to its offerings. The kimchi flavor kefir is a definitely unique (and delicious) flavor offering. GT’s is fueling its growth by placing local brand ambassadors promoting their products in select parts of the US.
  • Alcohol content continues to be an issue for kombucha brewers. Controlling the quantity of alcohol in a kombucha requires careful management of the production process. One way to deal with that is to sell hard kombucha. Kyla Kombucha is a hard kombucha with two flavors. The alcohol content is 6.5% and adds kombucha to a range of alcoholic beverage offerings. We first saw it in Southern California (of course) and then happened to be in the mothership Whole Foods location the day it launched in Texas. There will likely be more entrants in to this market opportunity. We have noted that various states label kombucha differently when they contain more alcohol. We have seen a black label for some GT’s products in Florida that specifies higher alcohol content.
  • Millennials, aren’t they great? They drink kombucha with their meals, as their all day beverage and seek it out on tap in restaurants. DIY kits are now readily available in natural food stores, home brewing stores and online. When we first started brewing six years ago, it took a long time to find a starter kit at Wheatsville Coop in Austin. Now, that store has three flavors of kombucha on tap. We recently purchased a starter kit for our millennial, an avid kombucha drinker. She placed the first batch on the shelf next to a Sonos speaker, just above the vintage vinyl collection. Not sure if it was the music, or the light, or the good feeling of being in Southern California — but the brew was perfect and better than any of our recent ones.
  • Kombucha will continue to find acceptance in the mainstream grocery store as more people become exposed to it. In many outlets, it still requires a scavenger hunt to find where it is located, although many stores are beginning to have a cooler dedicated to kombucha offerings. First Starbucks, What’s next? 7-11?

To conclude, those are our current thoughts and observations from the road as we continue our hunt. Follow our travels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Please share with your thoughts and ideas.

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Around the Web, August 20, 2018

Apparently, a new Netflix rom-com, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” mentioned kombucha, and now its all the rage.

Take a look:

One Twitter person with the odd handle Celine Dijon Mustard said:

Roxy! (she had to add a bang sign to differentiate from other Roxies) is enamored:

To scare off those who are psyched to brew kombucha but have no idea what a scoby is, Insider Food proudly displays one in its full glory.

By the way, Starbucks has launched its own line of kombucha. People seem pleased.
Body by Jessica likes it:

Mad Magazine had an appropriate reaction:

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Kombucha Has Some Proven Health Benefits

Kombucha has always been touted for its health benefits—sometimes based on clinical research, sometimes based on the wisdom of the foodie forward crowd. In reality, recent studies find some unexpected benefit from the probiotic component in this popular fizzy brew.

As we age, it’s a fact our bones lose their calcium composition which can lead to such issues as obstreperous and osteopenia. With either of these maladies, bones become brittle and subject to fractures and other related problems. A study from the University of Gothenberg which was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri is effective at significantly cutting bone loss.

Lactobacillus reuteri is not only found in kombucha but also in such fermented foods as kimchi and miso soup.

Before rushing out to supplement your kombucha supply to keep your bones strong and supple, keep in mind that selecting a bottle (or can) that uses green tea as its base can offer your health benefits beyond a strong gut. Green tea has bioactive compounds that can do everything from reducing cell damage, offer powerful antioxidants, and provide a form of caffeine that stimulates your brain without giving you the jitters associated with coffee.

A British Heart Foundation study has found a “compound found in green tea, currently is being studied for its ability to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, also breaks up and dissolves potentially dangerous protein plaques found in the blood vessels.”

A few notable brands that offer flavors made with green tea include Wonder Drink Kombucha, CommuniTea, and if you find yourself in Germany (especially Berlin), Barbucha. Read the label of your favorite brew to see if it uses green tea in one of its offerings

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Molson Coors Makes a Bold Purchase With Clearly Kombucha

A while back, we commented that the commercial kombucha industry would likely face a period of consolidation and acquisitions. To be honest, both of those trends have been slow to materialize for several reasons that range from issues that include government regulations and market fragmentation.

Clearly Kombucha, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, moves the acquisition needle after being purchased by Molson Coors, brewers of such brands as Carling, Blue Moon, Coors and Molson (of course). The purchase was led by the company’s TAP Ventures group which is charged with expanding its overall line to include more brewed, fermented and distilled products.

According to a story in BevNET, “The TAP Ventures team has been looking into opportunities in the kombucha space for the past year and identified Clearly Kombucha as an attractive company based on the growth of the health and wellness category, as well as the strength and expertise of the Clearly Kombucha team,” a Molson Coors spokesman wrote in an email to BevNET.

A few interesting points to consider:

  • Molson Coors will provide Clearly Kombucha will the opportunity for greater distribution. But, as the story points out, the company’s beer distributor clients will have the option to carry the kombucha line or pass. It raises the question whether fermented beverages fit the profile of large beer distributors and larger retailers such as BevMo and Total Wine and More.
  • The need for refrigeration in both transport and storage/display could pose an issue, especially for beer distributors.
  • One of the reasons that many brands have not expanded is the lack of control that happens when the brewing process takes place at remote or partner facilities. Will Clearly Kombucha be brewed at its current location or move to some of Molson Coors production sites?
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Here Comes Vegan Gelatin

Like many, you have no doubt looked at the scoby used to brew your kombucha and gazed in amazement. As we have written about several times, beyond creating a batch of brew, there are many uses—some straightforward, some quite creative—for that odd-looking powerful, probiotic, squishy matter.

An article in Live Kindly profiles, perhaps—and we only say perhaps—that is some of the foundational thinking beyond the work taking place at Geltor, a company producing a vegan substitute for gelatin. Traditional gelatin—used in more recipes than anyone imagines—is a byproduct of animal collagen. Yes, it is gross. Gelator and others in this area may have looked at a scoby and wondered if a microbial-based vegan rennet could be created that resembles or has the same properties as a scoby.

The largest benefit to a vegan gelatin would be in the manufacturing of such tasty treats as marshmallows and Gummy Bears. It would also make sense that the makers of Jell-O (Kraft) might consider a line of vegan gelatins.

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Kombucha Scoby as Packaging

Young people are out to save the world. Or at least as much of it as they can.

Case in point: Polish design student Roza Janusz has devised a method to make edible packaging from a scoby (that odd looking biological substance used to make kombucha) that farmers can use for their harvest which allows them to bring them to market (or other destination) without any waste.

This story in Fast Code Design has all the details.

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Is Kombucha Healthy–The Debate Rages On

A piece in Pop Sugar debates the health merits of kombucha. Yes, there are millions of probiotics that add to the beneficial ones already found in the digestive tract. The fact of the matter is, that if it helps your body and digestive system stay healthy and balanced, and you enjoy drinking it, then you should enjoy it. Contrarians believe there is no scientific proof that long-term drinking of kombucha aids overall health conditions.

The same health debate exists for coffee — good for you or cancer-causing. For tea, fans weigh the value of green vs. black and hot vs. cold. Is there a magic formula for any of these beverages?

As more producers with health-inspired offerings, enter the market and are creative with their flavor blending –(for example, Health-Ade jalapeno-kiwi-cucumber or Caboost Kombucha’s hibiscus sangria) more consumers will be tempted to try it. Social media buzz and clever marketing campaigns will also begin to take hold and reach millennial consumers. And, as brewers also experiment with packaging, cans (such as Brew Dr.), bottle, flip top, the market will organically evolve and become a competitor to other lifestyle-branded drinks.

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News Roundup for April 24, 2018

Good news for the kombucha industry—it’s a hit with millennials.

Bravo’s Alesandra Dubin checked in from the annual Coachella music and all-things-cool fest to say that the kombucha bar was one of the best food-related things she found at the California event.

Durbin writes: Maybe it’s the L.A. girl in me, but I just love me some kombucha — nothing makes me feel more refreshed and detoxified than a swig of the stuff, even if most of the benefit is psychological. This year’s new curated on-site program featuring kombucha sommeliers, and I was pretty psyched to try some of the brews made just for the festival.

Cool down with an ice cold bucha @wacofarmersmkt

Here in Austin, as this article from the Baylor Lariat points out, we have about four or five kombucha brewers, but poor Waco (96 miles north of Texas’ capital) was probiotic beverage free until the launch of Bare Bucha. Sold from a van that makes its way around town to various markets, Bare Bucha also can be found at some local store.

“We are the only people in Waco who make our kombucha here, and sell it here,” Kelly Doolittle, manager of operations at Bare Bucha said in a recent interview. “There are several Austin companies that sell it here; Austin has at least five to six big companies that all sell nationwide.”

Doolittle goes on to expand on the claim that everything is bigger in Texas—including kombucha: “Because of Austin, [the state of] Texas is one of the biggest consumers and sellers of kombucha in the United States,” Doolittle said. “There’s a market for kombucha here, and we’re not necessarily trying to create it, but strengthen it. There are a lot of people who are adventurous, who are into this health-type stuff. Even if they don’t know what kombucha is, they’re very willing to try it.”


Perhaps it’s the influence of its new master, Amazon, but Whole Foods released some data that shows what its top sellers are in various regions.
In the Midwest (as tabulated from a store in Cincinnati), Live Soda (a probiotic beverage) is listed as an “up and comer.”
In the Northeast (as tabulated from a store in Piscataway, N.J.), KeVita Master Brew Kombucha is a top-selling beverage.
In the Northwest (as tabulated from a store in Whitefish, MT), GT’s Kombucha takes the top two spots followed by KeVita Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic Elderberry.
In the Southwest (as tabulated from a store in Sierra, AZ), the top up and comer is Wild Tonic Kombucha, on tap in the store.
In the West (as tabulated from a store in Concord, CA), GT’s Kombucha came in second in the beverage category.


From our best of Twitter:
You must love this Tweet from Wild Kombucha


And anyone who loves the beach will adore this Tweet featuring a bottle of Big Easy kombucha against the backdrop of a large, tantalizing stretch of sand (presumable somewhere along the Gulf).

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An Earth Day Special: Creative Reuses for Scobys

When brewing kombucha, there are many beneficial byproducts. A healthy, probiotic liquid is the primary reward, but after many brews, a typical result is a large number of spooky-looking substances called scobys. Like me, most home kombucha makers house them in scoby hotels that take up most of the tall refrigerator space.

Personally, I have experimented with scoby sorbet and dehydrated scoby fruit leathers, as well some chunks of treats for my 90-lb. chocolate lab — who surprisingly loved it!

Kombucha Kamp, with Hannah Crum, shares five ideas for using scobys around the house and garden. Tips on using scobys for facials, gardening, feeding pets and as an ingredient in vegan sushi are the start of creative ideas.

Most fascinating of the potential uses is topical as a living band-aid or, in some cases, as a second skin or a biofilm. Kombucha Kamp points out that “one of the terms for the SCOBY is zooglea, which translates as “living skin” and helps heal the skin from burns, wounds and other skin ailments. Biofilms are not new and have a wide range of applications from medicinal bandages, replacement blood veins, speaker diaphragms and more. They have one of the bacteria native to the Kombucha culture – to create this biofilm.”

At home, you can apply pieces of the scoby topically. Put a piece on a cut, burn or wound and place a band-aid over it. This will prevent the growth of bad bacteria and start the healing process.
But there is so much more that can benefit others with this goopy mass of bacteria. And there are some people that are doing amazing things. Suzanne Lee gave a Ted talk about making clothing from dried scobys, given that it contains the cellulose similar to some fabrics. It is called ScobyTec.

Sasha Laurin is manufacturing the material in the form of a leather, making Kombucha Couture a trendy fashion statement. It creates a sustainable fabric out of the natural brewing byproduct.

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News Roundup for April 12, 2018

Newton’s Law of kombucha states that, for every five people that love this probiotic beverage, there are one or two who hate it. Hate it with a passion. Seems that those who truly dislike kombucha love to shout their displeasure from the mountaintops.

Sarah Weinberg, an author for Delish, lists five reasons to avoid kombucha. Let’s either debunk or verify each claim:

1. The sugar content is scary. Weinberg says that a bottle can contain up to 20 grams of sugar. True enough, but most have 10 grams or under. Personally, I’d never touch one that has so much sugar. BTW, some sugar content is per serving and some are by a bottle, so check before imbibing. All this is not to say that some of the sugar levels on the label are incorrect; that is another story for another day.

2. It’s possible to overdose. I guess that’s true, but it’s also possible to overdose on soda pop and a few zillion other things.

3. There is a bit of alcohol in each bottle. That is a specious argument and one that is made irrelevant by various state laws that require ID to buy any kombucha containing a high level of alcohol. In fact, some Dijon mustards and cooking sprays also have alcohol.

4. The yeast content can mess with your body. Weinberg says that the yeast levels can mess you up if you have candida or a yeast infection. Seems to me that anyone with such an ailment would ask his or her doctor what food and beverages to avoid. And also drink the beverage in small doses to make sure it helps, not hurts.

Wait. That’s only four. The headline says five yet the story lists four. Maybe too much kombucha impacts headline writers and editors.


Time to grab one of those Southwest Airlines low fares and head to Baltimore. BevNet reports that Mobtown Fermentation is releasing a new flavor that sounds amazing—Tart Cherry and Ginger Juice. We’ve tried tart cherry from some other kombucha brewers, and the taste has been wonderful.
“I’m excited to be adding a spring flavor to our line,” Sid Sharma, Owner of Wild Kombucha told BevNet. “Cherry is one of the most popular flavors there are, especially in the warmer seasons, and pairing it with ginger has created a unique kombucha that I think people are really going to enjoy.”
Sounds like a refreshing summer brew.


Et tu Trader Joe’s?
Trader Joe’s has been added to the lawsuit against kombucha bottlers who, plaintiffs argue, mislabel the sugar and alcohol content in their brews.
The suit is being brought by Kombucha Dog, a Los Angeles-based brewer. Kombucha Dog’s kombucha has a level of alcohol which makes it an alcoholic beverage and subject to taxes and shelf placement for such beverages. The claim is that other brewers, including Trader Joes, mislabels theirs to avoid the tax and shelf placement.
Kombucha Dog, according to the article in the San Francisco Chronicle, has 1.4% alcohol which is more than twice the .5% which is the cutoff between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.