Is Kombucha a Good Alternative for Coffee, Wine, Snacks, or Naps? I Tried It to Find Out.

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Perhaps you all have already tried kombucha. Well, I hadn’t until recently. This fizzy drink, made by fermenting tea with a special mixture of bacteria and yeast, is a favorite in the health set, with some people believing it can do anything from prevent hair loss to cure cancer.

While there’s little science to back up those claims, it’s certainly better for you than a lot of other things we eat or drink. And as one person explained to me, “You don’t eat a carrot because you see an immediate health benefit, you eat it because you just know it’s good for you.” Got it.

So, on assignment, I agreed to try it to see where kombucha could fit in to my life. I called the folks at Health-Ade and they generously agreed to send over a case of their product. They make small-batch kombucha the old-fashioned way out in California, and flavor it with cold-pressed, organic juices.

Right away they dispelled my first fear: that it would taste terrible. Kombucha is, in fact, delicious. Theirs is, anyway — every flavor I tried, from beets to berries and greens to ginger, got a thumbs up from me. I’m Health-Ade’s new biggest fan.

On to my experiments (I’ll preempt the comments: this is not science). Because I’m not really looking to add anything to my diet at this stage in my life, the question was really the following: Can Kombucha replace my …

Morning coffee?

Kombucha is made of tea, so it has a little bit of caffeine in it. The amount varies, but generally it’s less that what you’d find in a cup of coffee, around the same as a caffeinated beverage. I typically make myself two flat whites over the course of the morning. So I tried swapping them out for kombucha one day last week. While it did feel slightly energizing, it was not quite enough to make up for a 6 a.m. wakeup after my underpants-training toddler wet the bed in the middle of the night. Plus, I love coffee.

Verdict: No, it’s not a replacement for coffee.


Another selling point for kombucha: It’s being offered more and more places as an alternative to alcohol. While it does have a small percentage of alcohol in it (about 1/6 of a light beer, depending on the exact kombucha you’re drinking), it’s much less than you’d find in a glass of wine — and lower in calories, too.

Perhaps it could be my new beverage of choice for dinner? I tried it out. And while the kombucha was refreshing and special-feeling enough that I didn’t miss the wine, that little bit of caffeine mentioned above was too much for me to have after 5 p.m. I was awake until midnight (I like to be in bed at 9:30!) and then had weird dreams.

Verdict: No, it’s not a replacement for wine.

Afternoon nap?

One of the most wonderful things about working from home is that I get to take a nap almost every day. Just a short one! But one day I tried not napping and having a kombucha instead. It almost worked, but then I saw a sunny spot on my sofa and lost my willpower.

Verdict: No, it’s not a replacement for an afternoon nap.

Afternoon snack?

With the early mornings, I tend to have early lunch (I try to hold out until 12:01 p.m.) and then I’m starving again by 3 p.m. Typically I’ll have a little handful of almonds or something to tide me over until dinnertime. Not a bad habit, except when one handful of almonds turns into two, or when sometimes I have a few pieces of chocolate instead of almonds.

So I tried to swap in kombucha and … success! This was an easy one-for-one swap. It was early enough that the caffeine gave me a boost but didn’t keep me up at bedtime. And it’s easier to savor a tall glass of kombucha than a small pile of almonds or a couple squares of chocolate, so I consumed it more slowly and felt more satisfied. Plus, the drink is a little savory and a little sweet, so it satisfied both of those cravings.

Verdict: Yes, it’s a good replacement for an afternoon snack.

Final Thoughts

After just one week, I’m a total kombucha convert. And my family is getting on board, too. My poor kids think it’s juice, and my husband has been drinking it with dinner (he doesn’t have a problem with the caffeine). I’m happy to have a new beverage in the rotation and a new snack alternative in the afternoon.

More on Kombucha

What about you, have you tried it? Do you like an afternoon kombucha as much as I do?