Guest Posting: Is Kombucha Halal? by OMbucha®, Wilmslow, UK.
Sabia Khokher and Andrew Langhorn run OMbucha® in the Manchester suburb of Wilmslow in the northwest of England. They founded their company in 2017 with the belief that there is a large population of health-conscious consumers looking for alternatives to alcohol for the non-drinker. This includes Muslims, who do not consume alcohol for religious reasons. They specifically market to the British Muslim community. Coming from a Muslim background and faith, with lifelong experience of Islamic viewpoints towards the restrictions on alcohol, they wrote this article to address the question of the ‘halal’ nature of kombucha. Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur’an — the Muslim scripture. The opposite of halal is haraam, which means unlawful or prohibited. This article first appeared in their blog and is reprinted here with their express permission.
From our roots in Kenya, and our own mixed spiritual background, so many of our friends and family are Muslim. One of the biggest questions we are asked often is whether producing or drinking kombucha, due to the fermentation process, is haraam or halal. Kombucha, the fermented tea beverage that has gained massive popularity over the past few years due to the many health benefits it possesses, as we know is a fermented tea product. When people see the word “fermented” they often automatically assume it is an alcoholic beverage (especially being a drink in glass bottles) and therefore believe it to be haraam. As you will discover below, this is actually not the case with the elixir of life – OMBucha® Kombucha!
Kombucha normally is any of a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly intended as functional beverages for their many reported health benefits. OMBucha® Kombucha, an organic home-brewed craft kombucha, is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY). Now, the actual alcohol content of the kombucha is usually less than 1% but increases with fermentation time. You can read about how we brew our OMBucha® Kombucha here and also, how we ferment our tea here.
Does the alcohol in kombucha tea make it haraam?
The big question of course, regarding the fermentation of tea in the production of Kombucha, is whether the beverage is Halal or Haraam, according to Islamic law. As with all fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in kombucha. The alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation process. The yeast consumes the sugar and converts it to alcohol. The bacteria converts much of the alcohol to acetic and other organic acids. You can read about the full process of fermenting tea here.
When we hear the word “fermented” we automatically turn the other way and assume it is not halal. However, with kombucha, the general consensus is that, YES, it is, halal. Fermentation is simply a natural biological reaction. If you eat bananas then you should have no issue with drinking kombucha.
A fatwa (non-binding legal opinion on a point of Islamic law) was passed in November 2015, suggesting that it is permitted the consumption of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. The caveat of the fatwa being that as long as the beverage contains an amount of 0.5% or less leading to the consumption being none intoxicating. This was in response to qualms about non-alcoholic beverages still constituting a certain percentage of alcohol. Some have even likened these alcohol-free drinks to be the same as drinking grape juice.
A ripe banana has more naturally occurring alcohol than OMBucha® Kombucha!
The amount of alcohol in the final OMBucha® Kombucha product is so low and insignificant that it would have no effect on the person drinking it. There is no added alcohol and only naturally occurring alcohol that is common in many fruits.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Everything that is called water is pure and a means of purification, whether some impurity has fallen into it or not, if it is known that it has dissolved into it and disappeared. As for that in which traces of impurity are apparent, it is haraam to use it, because it comes under the heading of using something haraam.
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 19/236, 237
He also said:
Allah has forbidden impure things (khabaa’ith), namely blood, dead meat, pork and so on. If any of these things fall into water etc and disappear, so there is no blood, dead meat or pork left at all, similar to the case where alcohol disappears in a liquid, then the one who drinks it is not drinking khamr.
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 21/501, 502
Remember also, that the fermentation of tea that is mentioned in this article is not the same as the fermentation that happens to grapes, dates, etc in order to make them intoxicants. Rather what is meant by fermentation here is more-so like oxidisation, i.e., exposing the tea to oxygen to create a chemical change, according to the experts.
With green tea, the leaves are treated with steam after picking, then they are dried immediately, and not exposed to any oxidisation, rather they are preserved with the same properties as are found in fresh tea.
This differs slightly with black tea, where the leaves are separated after collection and are sorted into fine layers on a net made of wire or sackcloth in order to get rid of excess water, then the leaves are crumbled and sifted, then subjected to an oxidisation process, by exposing the fresh leaves to oxygen for three hours, until the tea loses its green colour and becomes dark coloured, after which it becomes black tea.
If this oxidisation is done only partially, we get tea that is partially fermented, between green and black. This is called tannin and it combines the qualities of both black and green tea. Tannins can be extremely beneficial for you.
For further reading, please see: Mawsoo’ah al-A’shaab al-Tibbiyyah by the pharmacist Dr Ahmad Muhammad ‘Awf; Qaamoos al-Ghidha’ wa’l-Tadaawi bi’l-Nabaat by Ahmad Qudaamah, published by Daar al-Nafaa’is; al-Ghidha’ la al-Dawa’ by Dr. Sabri al-Qabbaani, published by Dar al-‘Ilm li’l-Malaayeen. All of these books are arranged in alphabetical order.
We feel strongly that the increase of such non-alcoholic beverages has proven how inclusive Islam strives to be, and we certainly feel that the bigger picture highlights how Muslims around the world always have a choice when it comes to deciding between what’s right and wrong. The religion also encourages that if we’re not comfortable or not 100% sure about something, it’s better to stay away from it. Certainly, in recent years, the Muslim world continues to evolve and attempts to be accommodating to trends and ever-changing needs such as in the alcohol-alternative market.
The rise of “halal alcohol” might also be a movement to promote inclusiveness amongst the Muslim community so that no one is left out in any celebration.
This is what we have been able to find out about expert opinions on this matter, and with great thanks to Islamic Questions and Answers.
Thus it is clear that the process of fermenting tea leaves is not haraam, and we do no know of any scholar who says that this is haraam.
Based on that, there does not seem to be anything wrong with drinking this fabulous health promoting OMBucha® Kombucha tea.
And Allah knows best.
So, does kombucha contain alcohol?
When learning about the process of fermentation, then, yes, Kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol; a natural byproduct of the fermentation process that preserves the brew and protects it from harmful microorganisms. The trace amounts of alcohol are similar to what you’d find in unpasteurised fruit juice. Kombucha is considered halal because it is non-inebriating and the ethanol serves as a preservative. The alcohol content would have to be significantly higher to cause inebriation, thus making it haraam, and this is not the case.
Did you know that alcohol naturally emerges in vinegar, grape juice, pickle, boza, bread and other fermented bakery products due to fermentation. As an example in bread, alcohol on the crust evaporates by heat. However, significant amount of alcohol do still remain in bread. In kombucha products alcohol rate is usually 0.3-3% at a maximum, unless the brand adds extra alcohol to it. At the same time, natural products such as orange, lemon, mint contains 2-3% alcohol. However, none of them intoxicates.
We never add any alcohol to OMBucha® Kombucha, our organic, home brew, craft kombucha.
Conclusion – Halal Alcohol Alternative
Accordingly, the alcohol that naturally emerges in OMBucha® Kombucha will not intoxicate the drinker. Therefore, under Islamic Sharia law it is not objectionable to produce, sell or drink kombucha, meaning it is not haraam.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.