If you enjoy man buns, hot yoga and/or outdoor music festivals, then you probably already love kombucha. However, it's 2016, and even those of us who detest the man-bun trend have at least heard of the drink. The bubbly beverage is everywhere, popping up in bars and restaurants across the country, and being brewed at home by some brave souls. I even know of a friend's cooler-than-me yoga teacher who had it on tap at her wedding.
And yet, there are those of us who missed the boat. We see the oddly labeled bottles of Synergy at our local Whole Foods but pass by skeptically, too afraid to ask what the strange, unknown drink actually tastes like. After all, a tea that's fermented using a "symbiotic 'colony' of bacteria and yeast" doesn't sound all that appetizing.
I once was among you skeptics, convinced that kombucha would taste like watery vinegar swill. However, in a moment of intense bravery, I tried the beverage for the first time, and I'm here to tell you: Kombucha isn't just for hippies anymore. With a jolt of surprise and pleasure, I realized the Health-Ade Pink Lady Apple Kombucha I was drinking tasted remarkably similar to the hard ciders I know and love, but contained probiotic health benefits and only 70 calories.
RELATED Homemade Fire Cider »
What was this miracle juice? I decided to find out. So I tried a slew of brands and spread the good word of fermentation to the people. Some were bright, sweet and incredibly easy to drink, while others were less likely to convert kombucha skeptics: spicy and vinegary with an off-putting smell, and sometimes containing (gulp) flecks of floating, wispy yeast.
And so, in an effort to help all of those out there teetering on the cliff of kombucha doubt, I present the best "gateway kombuchas" to get you on the probiotic train, as well as those you may want to steer clear of at the start.
Now, does anyone know if one can have too many probiotics in one's body at once?
If there is one brand I would recommend to kombucha non-believers, it would be this one. The lightly sweet, effervescent drinks are refreshing and delicious: a fantastic replacement for a soda or a beer, and even contain trace amounts of alcohol if you want to feel slightly reckless while drinking them at work. While the apple, grape and maca-berry were far and away the most delicious and addictive, all of the bottles in this line go down easy. The only downside, however, is the price. At around $5 or $6 a pop, Health-Ade is the most expensive brand I tried.
This may be the most well-known brand I tasted, and with its extensive line of flavors and types, the most readily available. These bottles are really playing into hippie stereotypes with labels like Synergy and Enlightenment, but the tastes are good. Although slightly funkier than Health-Ade's flavors, I found the Gingerade, Mystic Mango and Cosmic Cranberry to be fruity and refreshing (even if they didn't actually help me achieve enlightenment).
KeVita Master Brew
KeVita serves as a good kombucha for beginners: It's more affordable at around $3 a bottle, and offers interesting, approachable flavors like raspberry lemon and pineapple peach. The flavors are fruity and sweet, especially because the drinks contain added stevia, but I found the taste to be a bit artificial. Non-kombucha pro tip: Try their Sparkling Probiotic Drink in Mojita Lime Mint Coconut.
Kombucha Wonder Drink
So does the drink live up to the name on this one? Not exactly. This kombucha is simply a little weird. The smell is particularly vinegary and unappetizing, and the drink itself has a very strong, tart flavor that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. And although the brand seems to offer a wide variety of fruity flavors on its website, it was difficult for me to find anything but the Traditional flavor in stores.
With its 70s-style logo and psychedelic names like Free Ride, Tropic Wonder and Campfire, this is not the everyman's kombucha. It's the beverage you drink with a flower in your hair as you contemplate existence with other like-minded souls in a sunny field. I wouldn't recommend this brand to anyone who doesn't possess the clarity of mind to somehow enjoy it.