The Great Kombucha Freakout: Are You Getting Your Fix?

The Great Kombucha Freakout: Are You Getting Your Fix?

Faith Durand
Aug 17, 2010

About a month ago, the drink of the moment, kombucha, vanished (poof!) from Whole Foods and other major groceries. Why? Concerns that the alcohol level might be a tad too high.

Did this freak you out? How have you been getting your kombucha fix since then? And what's the report in your area? Are there bottles of that addictively fizzy, sour tea back on your grocery shelves yet?

The facts: In late June, the Treasury Department issued a warning about kombucha, saying that it was investigating some kombucha manufacturers (read the document here). They were concerned that some kombucha had alcohol levels over the allowed 0.5%. The problem, you see, is that raw kombucha sits in the bottle and continues to ferment, potentially, with all that extra yeast and sugar, and it could reach as much as 3% alcohol content. This would require new labeling and warnings.

Right around this time, Whole Foods (prompted, perhaps, by the impending Treasury warning) pulled most major brands of kombucha. Said brands raced back to their production facilities to retool their processes and make sure that their product met alcohol content standards. (See more about that here at BevNet.)

I confess I've drunk my share of this sour, fermented tea, and when I visited my co-op a few weeks ago and found the drink shelves bare, I was a bit put out. But it's also an opportunity for local brewers; the local kombucha guy has had the shelves all to himself. His bottles fly out the door, though; I've only nabbed one since the Great Kombucha Freakout of 2010.

Fortunately for all of you who need a kombucha fix, the bottles are returning to stores. The photo above is a recent shot from the Berkeley Bowl grocery store. (See story here.)

If you don't want to wait, get your own batch going. Here are some instructions:

How To Make Your Own Kombucha

What's your opinion of all this? Silly? Do you even like kombucha?

Related: Have You Ever Brewed Kombucha Tea?

(Image: SF Weekly/Jonathan Kauffman)

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