What to Expect the First Time You Drink Kombucha

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

Who: Happy Leaf Kombucha
What: Organic, small-batch kombucha and taproom
Where: Denver, Colorado’s River North Art District
Read the series: Part One

Do you remember your first impression of kombucha, that famous fermented tea? Or perhaps you haven’t tried it yet and have a few questions: What’s it made of? What does it taste like? And — what everyone always wants to know — what exactly is that hazy blob suspended within the drink?

Here are five questions people always have about that first sip, and expert answers to assuage your curiosity.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

I remember the first time I tried kombucha (pronounced, kom-BOO-cha). A few years ago, on a hot summer afternoon, I visited my friend Olga at her home. We sat down for lunch and she handed me a cold glass of her homemade kombucha tea. That amber-hued, fizzy drink smelled spectacular, like fresh ginger and tart Granny Smith apples. The unique flavors caught me off guard but quickly intrigued me, similar to the first time I tried a sour beer or a drinking vinegar. I wasn’t completely smitten at first, but after a few sips, the flavor grew on me.

I recently toured the taproom and brewing facilities at Happy Leaf Kombucha here in Denver, Colorado. The kombucha brewery, run by Mike Burns and Jenni Lyons, specializes in organic kombucha, made from locally sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients. As you would expect, first-time kombucha drinkers ask them a lot of questions. I figured I would ask the experts to break down some of their most frequently asked questions.

I liken my first experience with kombucha to my first experience with kale. I didn’t fall head over heels the first few times I tried either of those, but the incredible health benefits of each coaxed me to come back for more.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

5 Questions About That First Tentative Sip

What does it taste like?

Kombucha is effervescent, tart, and slightly sweet. Depending on the added flavors, it can even taste fruity, floral, spicy, or herbaceous. It has a flavor profile similar to sparkling apple cider but with a more pronounced sour taste. After the tea is fermented, the finished drink actually doesn’t taste like brewed tea anymore.

What is the texture?

Depending on the amount of carbonation, either added or naturally derived, the fizziness varies. It’s not as bubbly as soda and definitely not as syrupy-thick.

What’s it made from?

Kombucha is actually made from tea. Only green, black, or white teas are used to make kombucha, since the culture doesn’t really blend well with herbal teas. Sugar is added to the tea, and when it’s combined with a scoby, an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” the tea ferments.

Kombucha is sometimes described as “mushroom tea,” but this term does not actually apply to kombucha. The protective cap that facilitates fermentation, or scoby, is sometimes called a “mushroom” because of the shape it forms over the fermenting tea, but kombucha is not a fungus or variety of mushroom.

(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

What exactly is floating around in my kombucha?

That brown, nebula-like matter floating at the bottom of the kombucha is actually a byproduct of the fermentation process, mostly yeast. My description doesn’t make it sound that appetizing, but the flavor is totally neutral and completely safe to ingest. The texture, however, can be off-putting to some. Feel free to strain your kombucha through a fine-mesh sieve.

Does it contain alcohol?

Because kombucha involves a fermentation process, a trace amount of alcohol may remain. The amount of alcohol is so low (no more than 1%) that it doesn’t render any negative effects.

Want to make your own? Follow our tutorial → How To Make Kombucha Tea at Home

What are your thoughts on kombucha? Love it or hate it? Still haven’t tried it? On the fence?