Kombucha: The Outer Limits

As the kombucha category continues to expand worldwide, there are several “interesting” variations on the gold standard of authentic, unpasteurized, raw kombucha coming onto the market. In the absence of a Standard of Identity for the drink, vendors are free to sell a variety of products labeled “Kombucha.”

Of course, hijacking (or absorbing) popular beverages into other products is nothing new. Take a look at how one of Ireland’s most storied drinks has been repurposed.

Varieties of orange juice

In a presentation to the 2019 KombuchaKon, industry pioneer GT Dave listed the types of orange juice available. He commented that consumers have a range of choices when it comes to something as simple as a glass of OJ, and most know they get what they pay for. The more authentic, the higher the price.

Source: GT Dave, 2019 KombuchaKon Presentation

And that’s not even counting the various ‘orange-ish’ powders and liquids that are on the shelves.

So what’s out there that’s piggy-backing on the trend, trying to seduce the unwary consumer who might have heard of kombucha and have positive associations that transfer to something that is, shall we say, less than authentic?

Check out the list below and prepare to be amazed, as we explore The Outer Limits of what’s being labeled “Kombucha.”

Kombucha cosmetics

T’else Kombucha Essence is “infused with 74% Kombucha Extract which is a lightweight, yet effective anti-oxidant. This Essence, is especially formulated with probiotics for the calming relief of sensitive skin. It can also soothe blemish prone skin and as an added plus, brighten and help reduce puffiness. And, to aid in replenishing moisture, it contains triple Hyaluronic Acids.”

At $27 for a 150 mL bottle, we thought this might be the most expensive ‘booch anywhere. But that’s before we saw Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner by Youth to the People. At $38 for a 4oz bottle, it’s a tad pricier.

This triple-action power toner blends 8% lactic acid and 3% glycolic acid to smooth skin texture and minimize the appearance of pores. The two ferments, kombucha black tea, and tree bark work as prebiotics to enhance the skin’s natural microbiome.

The ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau (Aqua), L-Arginine, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Betaine, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Water, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Water, Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Pichia Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Caramel.

If you’re after a bargain, then try the Rose Kombucha Flower Powered Face Wash from Pacifica Beauty. It promises to let you “disobey time with the power of flowers and fermented tea.” A steal at $10 for 5oz.

The ingredients: aqua, sodium cocoyl isethionate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, cocamidopropyl oxide, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, cyamopsis tetragonoloba (guar) gum, glycol distearate, myristic acid, argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, saccharomyces/xylinum/black tea ferment, rosa canina flower extract, cocos nucifera (coconut) water, sodium citrate, hydrolyzed quinoa protein, hydrolyzed rice protein, carica papaya (papaya) extract, sodium hyaluronate, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, citric acid, parfum (natural).

Rather than pay top dollar for commercial kombucha skincare products, Hannah Crum’s Kombucha Kamp has suggestions for ways to make your own at home and have a Kombucha Spa Day with family, friends, or just to spoil yourself!

Kombucha tablets

Advertised with a nod and wink to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests of the psychedelic 1960s, these kombucha tablets dissolve (like Alka-Seltzer) in plain water and, hey presto, turn into “kombucha.” After all, says Qula, why wait for anything as time-consuming as fermentation when you can “transform water into kombucha” by “dropping a tab” that lets you “explore the universe.” They give you “The Freedom to have Kombucha Anytime, Anyplace. The Freedom to Make MAGIC with your WATER.”

⚡️QULA KOMBUCHA TABS (Kool-Ah)⚡️PREMIUM BOOCH – NO BOTTLE⚡️Loaded w Probiotics⚡️Gr8 4 your Body & the Planet⚡️Ridiculously Delicious⚡️DROP A TAB⚡️

It is, undoubtedly, “A Whole New Kombucha Experience.”

SodaStream Kombucha Syrup

SodaStream, the venerable company founded in England back in 1903, offers another variation of the “turning water into ‘booch” theme. Where they once produced classic British soda flavors like Tizer (yum! my favorite!) and Irn-Bru, they’ve caught up with the times. They are offering new Kombucha Original and Kombucha Passion Fruit & Mandarin flavors. These are available in twin packs from SodaStream.co.uk for £15.98. It’s nothing less than “the world’s first certified organic Kombucha concentrate.” (Not to be confused with the organic starter liquid concentrate most kombucha brewers use to kick-start fermentation.)

Tiago Alves, Managing Director of SodaStream UK, says:

With many people looking for a natural health kick right now, adding a dash of Kombucha to sparkling water is a great way for consumers to enjoy a refreshing and healthy drink. We’re incredibly excited to announce this partnership with Soda Press Co. and the launch of its new organic Kombucha syrups crafted specially for SodaStream.

Yogi Green Tea Kombucha

Yogi tea claims their Green Tea Kombucha blend “combines Green Tea with Kombucha to supply antioxidants.”

Kombucha comes from north central Asia. It is a strain of one bacterium and three or four different yeasts. When grown (sic) properly, the culture produces glucuronic acid, acetic acid, and many vitamins and amino acids that can help support the immune system. It is valued by herbalists for its ability to support intestinal function, supply nutrients to promote balanced intestinal flora and its ability to help circulate the energy in the body. It can be detoxifying to the entire body and can help to support elimination and support metabolic harmony.

Frugo Blueberry & Kombucha Fruit Drink

Polish beverage company FoodCare sells a range of sports and energy drinks. Their Blueberry & Kombucha drink is available in the UK at £1.50 a bottle from Tesco. The list of ingredients includes “0.04% of fermented tea concentrate comprising water, sugar, glucose, tea, and kombucha cultures”. Wow! No danger of OD’ing on ‘booch if you drink Frugo, then. Together with the FCF brilliant blue dye, this gives their kombucha drink a truly special place in our list of kombucha-esque beverages.

Ingredients: Pasteurized. Made from concentrated juice (juice content min. 20%). Ingredients: Water, apple juice from concentrated apple juice (14.7%), sugar, juice from concentrated fruit juices: lemon (5%), blackcurrant (0.1%), blueberry (0.1%), raspberry (0.1%), fermented tea concentrate (water, sugar, glucose, tea, kombucha cultures) (0.04%), aroma, stabilizers: acacia, glycerol and plant resin esters, pectin, dye: FCF brilliant blue.

Authenticity

As kombucha sales increase worldwide, companies that actually do produce authentic kombucha need to work together to protect the integrity of the product and remind consumers that, as with orange juice, you get what you pay for.

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19 Responses

  1. the_editor says:

    Adding to this list: Ittella Raspberry Kombucha Bowl for $17.09 from Costco

    Ittella Raspberry Kombucha Bowl

  2. the_editor says:

    Some claim kombucha will track the same path of acceptance as yogurt has over the past few decades. Yogurt was once a weird, sour, Eastern European thing that hippies made in their kitchens. Now countless varieties and flavors fill the refrigerated sections of the supermarket.

    No need to ask where the idea for this new product from Brownes Dairy came from. “Raspberry Lime are kindred Kombucha flavour spirits that burst with freshness and tang” that can “make a body roar.” A steal at $2.70 for 160g (of which 17g are sugar).

    Roar & Tonic Kombucha Yogurt

  3. the_editor says:

    Australian company Lookfantastic sell “EmerginC Scientific Organics Kombucha Cleanser” 120ml for A$39.20 (reduced from the RRP of A$49.00).

    Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract*, Glycerin, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract*, Quillaja Saponaria (Soapbark) Extract*, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Coco- Betaine, Xanthan Gum , Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract* , Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract*, Spirulina Maxima Extract, Pinus Sylvestris (Pine) Bark Extract*, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract , Sacchromyces/ Xylinium/ Black Tea Ferment, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Cell Extract , Isomalt, Lecithin, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Water (Aqua), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil*.

    The “Black Tea Ferment” must be what qualifies the product as “Kombucha”. Hey, it’s scientific and organic!

    LookFantastic Kombucha Cleanser

  4. the_editor says:

    People slapping T’else Kombucha Essence (above) on their skin can be reassured it’s certified vegan by the European Vegetarian Union. What’s more, it’s created by an expert who has conducted research in “skin barrier Science” (sic).

  5. the_editor says:

    Social Media Influencers in Japan are promoting this “Kombucha Supplement” that promises weight-loss while eating all you want.

    “These Kombucha Supplements is a simple and effective way to receive the health benefits of this trendy new Asian diet beverage without even needing to make the usual black or green tea drink. Just take one capsule of these supplements each day and rejuvenate your body’s power through the power of yeast, enzymes, lactic acid bacteria, and butyrate-producing bacteria.”

    Priced at just over $1 a capsule.

    Orkis Kombucha Supplements

  6. the_editor says:

    More from the endlessly inventive world of women’s cosmetics, Sephora sell a fresh Kombucha Antioxidant Facial Treatment Essence for $72 per 5oz / 150ml bottle, or $104 for the 8.4oz / 250ml Value Size.

    The “fresh” brand claims: By combining potent natural ingredients, ancient rituals, and modern science, fresh creates products that perform with experiences that transform. Discovery drives innovation. fresh’s Founders travel the world uncovering the highest quality natural ingredients and time-honored cultural traditions. But the real journey is using science to harness and heighten nature—developing effective formulas that look, smell, and feel as good as they work—to bring you the most beautiful skin and sensations.

    What it is:
    A bestselling anti-pollution treatment essence powered by antioxidant-rich kombucha for visibly smooth, luminous skin.
    Highlighted Ingredients:
    – Kombucha (Fermented Black Tea): Helps to visible [sic] smooth, increase luminosity, and protect against pollution and free radicals.
    – Hyaluronic Acid: Works to maintain moisture for supple-feeling skin.
    – Mandarin Peel Extract: Helps promote an even-looking complexion.

    What Else You Need to Know:
    This powerhouse essence with antioxidant-rich kombucha protects skin against three kinds of pollution (indoor, outdoor, and digital light) while supporting suppleness. It also minimizes the look of pores and fine lines, hydrates, and preps for the next steps in your skincare routine.
    Ingredients:
    Water, Saccharomyces Ferment Filtrate, Glycerin, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Polyglycerin-3, Kigelia Africana Fruit Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Adenosine, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, Butylene Glycol, Diglycerin, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium Benzoate, Parfum (Fragrance), Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Citrate, BHT, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Biotin, Phenoxyethanol, Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol.

    It gets a 4+ star rating. However, savvy homebrewers might prefer to just slap a SCOBY on their skin and save beaucoup bucks!
    Sephoa Fresh Essence

  7. the_editor says:

    In addition to the Fresh Kombucha Facial Treatment we just added to the list, Glamour Magazine in the UK reviews more of the same.

    Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray, £35, Cult Beauty

    Sake Spray

    A skin cocktail of fermented sake extract, kombucha, amino acids, ceramides and electrolytes, the ingredients mimic the components that keep your acid mantle (which makes up your skin barrier) strong and balanced. It protects, nourishes and soothes skin whilst leaving it softer and more supple.

    Orveda Sheer Brew Botanical Gel, £270, Net-A-Porter
    Orveda Gel

    This lightweight gel moisturiser mattifies oiliness whilst boosting hydration for up to eight hours to balance skin. It’s formulated with bio-fermented kombucha black tea to rejuvenate skin. (and lighten your wallet!)

    Elemis Superfood Glow Priming Moisturiser, £39, Look Fantastic

    Elemis Moisturiser

    An energising blend of Kombucha, prebiotics and fermented Ginger is what powers this nourishing formula, bringing collective anti-ageing properties. Also enriched with fermented Green Tea Seed oil, the formula supports a healthy barrier function and respects the skin’s delicate microbiome.

  8. the_editor says:

    If you live in the Land Down Under you’ll be pleased to learn that The Natural Confectionery Co. has just released a new range of jellies inspired by your favourite probiotic drink.

    The new jellies come in three flavours, original kombucha, strawberry hibiscus and ginger peach, and each has a liquid centre that, its claimed, contains prebiotic fibre.

    While kombucha contains probiotics (live good gut bacteria), these jellies just contain prebiotic fibre, which, they say, is a food source for good gut bacteria.

    Paul Chatfield, the Marketing Director for The Natural Confectionery Co. Australia said:

    “We noticed Aussies embracing the kombucha trend and couldn’t resist creating a fun and unique recipe for everyone to enjoy. Being the first of its kind in the country, we’re excited for Australians to experience the deliciously different taste of these game-changing jellies.”

    The Natural Confectionery Co. Kombucha jellies are available from Woolworths supermarkets for $4 for a 180g pack

    Kombucha Flavored Jellies

  9. the_editor says:

    Teazen Kombucha from Korea has the following features and benefits (so we are told):

    Teazen Kombucha

    • Kombucha is a type of tea that has been fermented. This makes it a good source of probiotics, which have many health benefits.
    • Famous among the Hollywood starts (sic)
    • Including a little vitamin C, B1, B6, B12, helps to strengthen immune system
    • Using the Germany organic kombucha
    • Non-alcohol
    • Can be well mixed with cold water
    • Easy to drink it anytime and anywhere
    • Only 15 kcal per cup

    How to use

    • Mix well with 250ml water.
    • Also can mix it with soda to be a healthy a ade to replace coke or any soft drinks.

    Preservation method
    – Avoid placing it in a wet or sunny place
    – Please eat as soon as possible after opening

  10. the_editor says:

    This review of Yogi Green Tea Kombucha (listed in main post above) by We Just Compare, London, shares these insights:

    It’s not clear what percentage of kombucha this tea blend contains and Yogi’s customer service did not want to reveal the percentage of each of the ingredients, saying that “this is proprietary information”. However, they stated that “ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance”.

    Here is the process explaining how dried kombucha for Yogi kombucha green tea is made: First, a live kombucha culture is used to create a kombucha, black tea and water infusion. The kombucha starter is added to the black tea infusion and a fermentation process begins.

    After fermentation, the water from this mixture is subsequently removed by a spray dry pasteurization process. Due to this pasteurization process, Yogi Green Tea Kombucha tea does not contain living organisms or probiotics like traditional raw kombucha. However, Yogi have confirmed that acids, a beneficial by-product of the kombucha, remain in the tea when brewed according to the directions on the carton.

  11. the_editor says:

    Youth to the People

    Explore InStyle reports “Shoppers Say This Kombucha Toner Is ‘Magic’ for Minimizing Pores and Acne Overnight” recommeding Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner by Youth to the People:

    The newest addition to your nightly routine. This triple-action power toner blends 8% lactic acid and 3% glycolic acid to smooth skin texture and minimize the appearance of pores. The two ferments, kombucha black tea, and tree bark work as prebiotics to enhance the skin’s natural microbiome.
    Ingredients:
    Proprietary Super Tea Blend: Kombucha Black Tea Ferment, Tree Bark Ferment, Ginger, Lactic Acid + Glycolic Acid, Citrus Bioflavonoids, and Lemon Water Extract.

    A steal at $38 4.0oz

  12. the_editor says:

    Qumba (dehydrated) Kombucha Powder is available in two flavors. The FAQ lists the ways it differs from “traditional” (liquid) kombucha:

    • Due to the dehydration process, our kombucha powder does not have the vinegary flavor or carbonation that comes with traditional kombucha drinks.
    • Qumba does not have the pungent vinegary taste of traditional kombucha.
    • Qumba does not need to be refrigerated.

    Qumba Kombucha Powder

  13. the_editor says:

    We’re seeing more products aimed at using ‘booch on your bonce: as a hair rinse and conditioner. Which is ironic since the mega-brand Health-Ade was the result of the founders looking for a cure for male pattern baldness!

    R+Co Teacup Peacholine Kombucha Detox Hair Rinse “Peach leaf extract and fermented kombucha are the stars of this detoxifying rinse. Not only does it nourish dry strands, but it also helps prevent color fade-out.” $32 for 6oz from Dermstore.

    R-Co Detox rinse

  14. the_editor says:

    Love Beauty and Planet Black Tea Kombucha and Red Ginger Shampoo “will make your strands extra soft and shiny.” A steal at $6.99 for 13 oz from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
    Love Beauty Rinse

  15. the_editor says:

    Lapp It Up Kombucha Hair Conditioner Rinse “will restore your hair’s natural shine while helping rebalance your scalp’s pH levels.” (for the acid-heads among us? Eh, Qula?) $12 for a 12 oz bottle.

    Lapp it Up Hair Rinse

  16. the_editor says:

    The XX Revolution Kombucha X Eyeshadow Palette seems to contain everything *but* kombucha:

    MICA, MAGNESIUM STEARATE, POLYETHYLENE, HYDROGENATED POLYISOBUTENE, PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRAISOSTEARATE, CERA MICROCRISTALLINA (MICROCRYSTALLINE WAX, CIRE MICROCRISTALLINE), PENTAERYTHRITYL TETRACOCOATE, PTFE, HELIANTHUS ANNUUS (SUNFLOWER) SEED OIL, CARTHAMUS TINCTORIUS (SAFFLOWER) SEED OIL, STYRENE/BUTADIENE COPOLYMER, PHENOXYETHANOL, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL. [+/- MAY CONTAIN (PEUT CONTENIR): CI 77491 (IRON OXIDES), CI 16035 (RED 40), CI 77891 (TITANIUM DIOXIDE), CI 19140 (YELLOW 5)].

    On sale for $20.00 “Join the Revolution” “Express your inner artistry.”
    XX Eyeshadow

  17. the_editor says:

    Botanics Revive and Protect Postbiotic Aqua Oil

    “Inspired by Nature, Powered by Plants. Fueled by the power of probiotics and postbiotics from black tea kombucha, Botanics Revive & Protect Postbiotic Aqua Oil leaves skin glowing with vitality and feeling hydrated and revived.”

    Ingredients:

    Key Ingredients:

    • Black Tea Kombucha: Consumed for thousands of years in Asia and known as the ‘elixir of immortality’.
    • Vitamin E: Age-defying antioxidant with hydrating properties
    • Jojoba Oil: moisturizes without clogging pores.

    $17.99 for 0.8 fl oz.

    Revive and Protect

  18. the_editor says:

    From Taiwan comes InstaKOMBU™ powder.

    The process to obtain InstaKOMBU™ starts from an attentive selection of premium small-leaf black tea from Taiwan’s Alishan Mountains (800-1,000 metres above sea level).

    Retrieved leaves are then roasted and brewed to a golden amber and rich tea liquid, which is fermented for 14 days to produce a non-alcoholic and high-quality kombucha using a carefully selected food-standard Scoby.

    MCB’s sophisticated Scoby is particularly rich in probiotics, including Acetobacter aceti, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus plantarum.

    Its patented microencapsulation and spray drying process enable optimum composition of the powder: a 100% reconstituted kombucha solution, complete with tea polyphenols, flavonoids, organic acids and SOD-like, but free from any food additives and tea flavourings.

    InstaKOMBU™ is a product of MCB now distributed in the USA market by Faravelli.

    InstaKOMBU Process

  19. the_editor says:

    Yet another hair product touting the magic of “kombucha” in it’s name is the British M Kombucha Shampoo.

    One review claims “British M’s Kombucha shampoo is what they call a “teatox” for your hair and scalp.” With a list of ingredients to make your eyes water (hopefully not literally):

    Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Glycerin, Alcohol, SodiumChloride, Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment, Polyquaternium-10, PPG-3 Caprylyl Ether, Coco-Betaine, Sodium Benzoate, Coco-glucoside, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Tetradecene, Salicylic Acid, Hexadecene, Panthenol, Sodium Citrate, Niacinamide, Disodium EDTA, Malt Extract, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Acetate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Caffeine, Cocamide MEA, Xylitylglucoside, Isopropyl Alcohol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glucose, Ethylhexylglycerin, Denatonium Benzoate, Fragrance, Benzyl Benzoate, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Linalool.

    Yikes, that’s a LOT of ingredients. The “kombucha” part of the shampoo is the fermented black tea. No doubt it won pride of place in the product name as it’s more appealing than the Hydroxy-this and Dipotassium-that.

    Available for $36 on Amazon.

    British M Shampoo

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