Kombucha

If you’ve perused the ready-to-drink section of your local health food store, chances are you’ve noticed a dominating category: fermented beverages. And you’ve probably noticed the sticker prices, too. These drinks can range from $3 to $5, or more. Once a little-known mushroom-esque fermented folk remedy used for curing a number of ailments from the mild to the malignant, kombucha has become the it-drink of the decade, but is it really worth the spend?

Kombucha, like all naturally fermented food, can boost immune function, contribute healthy bacteria to the digestive system, and give you a lasting burst of energy. Compared with other bottled beverages that simply quench your thirst, it makes the high ticket price seem like a much more worthwhile investment. But of course, we also want to know, do they taste good? We sampled some of the most popular kombuchas sold at Erewhon Natural Foods in Los Angeles to determine whether or not they’re worth the coin.

GT’s: Credit GT’s Dave for the category explosion as this is virtually the top-selling brand in every cold case it’s placed. With a range of flavors (we love the superfruits, ginger, citrus and trilogy) blended with pure fruits and juices, GT’s (and sister products, Synergy) sets the bar with just the right amount of effervescence and great range of flavors along with billions of friendly bacteria that do the magic work. Typically priced around $4

High Country Kombucha: This brand is popping up a lot lately, but we weren’t impressed with the flavor. We found the brew to be completely lacking in bubbles (which aren’t necessary for a kombucha to be effective or tasty, but we do enjoy them!). The flavor was completely flat and vinegary, and the ginger in the Ginger Brew was hard to taste, especially compared to GT’s. Typically priced around $3

Kombucha 2000: We almost didn’t buy this one because the name is so hokey, but we’re really glad we did. The product was our favorite from the lineup, with enough bubbles to tickle our tongues, and the pure fruit flavor (we highly recommend the apricot) was not overbearing at all. They also offer home-brewing tools for those of you interested in making your own kombucha. (And there are a number of great DIY websites and tools to help you brew your own booch.) Typically priced around $4

KeVita: Technically not a kombucha, KeVita is made from water kefir, which is also a very rich source of friendly probiotics that help with digestion, energy and immune function. The flavor is distinctly different than kombucha, but just as good. In fact, it’s a bit lighter than the kombuchas, which we really enjoyed. We found the product to be consistently fermented, and with super yummy flavors like mango coconut and lemon ginger, we’re pretty excited to add this to our diet. Typically priced around $4

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Eric C Bryan