It’s been two years now since I was first introduced to kombucha through local friends who launched Bambucha Kombucha and it’s since become a regular part of my beverage consumption as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up and as a cocktail mixer.
I do keep my consumption to about 4 ounces per day, as the acidic nature prohibits me from drinking as much as I’d like as I have taken quite a fancy to it. I’m wondering what brand will get smart and be the first to offer smaller, single servings like most of the soda makers do.
Part of the fun of kombucha, for me anyway, is reading the poetic and somewhat over-the-top flavors and mission statements on the bottles.
Lines like “Sometimes all the energy you need flows clean through you, the Earth’s vibes generously sharing their effortless power,” are abundant on these bottles and well, entertaining to say the least.
I’ve tried several brands over the past two years and decided to sample and rate seven of them available at Lazy Acres in Encinitas.
I’ll start with my favorite and work my way down from there.
It should be noted that most of these start with a variation on ingredients that include organic green tea, black tea, cane sugar and kombucha culture plus the natural flavors they add.
As it turns out, Bambucha Kombucha, the brand that introduced me to the category, set the bar quite high and is still my favorite by far.
As I mentioned in my column two years ago, Bambucha Kombucha was founded by accomplished local chefs Michael Zonfrilli and Steven Strupp, hence their brilliant tag line “Chef-Crafted” on their bottles.
That culinary experience is very evident in the flavors they integrate into their kombucha including beauties like Mango Masala, that combines organic mango with turmeric, ginger, lime and cayenne. Their Sicilian Sunrise combines Valencia orange with fennel pollen and anise and the Blueberry Tart with blueberry, vanilla and almond is fabulous.
The great thing is they produce all these amazing flavors with only 6 grams of sugar per serving. That is the chef-crafted culinary experience at work, same with their unique and exotic flavor profiles.
Bambucha is also the only brand amongst these that suggests the cocktail potential on their label and it’s become a favorite mixer of mine. I’m noticing them in more and more restaurants and stores in North County, which is good news for this local brand poised for big success. Give Bambucha Kombucha a try. You will not be disappointed and you will be supporting a North County business.
Ironically, my second favorite happens to come from the most established brand on the scene, going way back to 1995, and one that can now be found in your local 7-Eleven along with just about every major retailer.
GT’s Synergy Cosmic Cranberry is a delight to drink and in this case has the disclaimer “contains alcohol, must be 21+.” Not sure if this got put on the wrong shelf as none of the others had anything other than “contains traces of alcohol.”
It’s on the high side of sugar content at 10 grams, but honestly I think that’s why I enjoyed it and that’s really not that much sugar. It also says “this product is considered a beer and contains natural effervescence, please open carefully.”
Again, it was the only one of them that stated that. Anyway, it provided a mild, great tasting buzz on its own while cooking Sunday dinner. Great backstory on GT’s in INC. Magazine, easy to find if you Google it.
Next up is Humm brand out of Bend, Oregon, another one that has found mass-market appeal with chains like Target selling it.
All the flavors are nice but the Coconut Lime is my favorite. While they are located in the very cool town of Bend, a bit of research shows a lot of their executives come from the world of big box retailing, which is probably a big reason for their impressive distribution.
Revive Kombucha out of Petaluma plays to the surfer crowd with their Free Ride Hibiscus Fruit Herbal Refresher. Revive provided the quote above that segued into a long ramble about the spiritual nature of surfing and its correlation to kombucha and has some cool 1970s retro fonts going on.
As touching as their ramble was, it did not really translate into loving their kombucha. Not bad by any means, but definitely in the middle of the pack as far as flavor. I would feel very cool popping one of those open in the parking lot at Beacon’s after a surf session though, so there is always that.
I travel back to Oregon next with Brew Dr. from Townshends Tea Company and their Happiness flavor.
Yep, that’s the flavor and there is not much of it.
I did not feel a rush of happiness that I fully expected when a claim like that is made.
Health ADE Kombucha California Grape was my next sampler, which had the slightest hint of grape going on. Dry is the word I would use to describe this one and while I prefer dry in my white wine, not so much in my kombucha. Again, not bad by any means, but I will not be purchasing it again.
Better Booch – Premium Kombucha Tea in Ginger Boost flavor with ginger, lemongrass and mint rounded out my sampling. The combination of flavors drew me in but did not deliver. It had a funky aftertaste that did not work for me at all.
So there you have it. I have a feeling kombucha is here to stay, so I hope this provides some insight and direction on how to enjoy it.
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Coast News Lick the Plate columnist David Boylan is celebrating 10 years and 500 columns with the Coast News in 2019! His feature covers the ever expanding North County culinary scene that includes restaurants, culinary personalities, trends, observations, tributes and his popular takeover column where area businesses, bands or teams contribute to the column. Lick the Plate has also been a popular radio show for the past eight years in San Diego on 100.7 KFMB, and on stations in Detroit, Michigan, Windsor Ontario and Traverse City, Michigan. Besides the column and radio show, David runs Tatonka Digital & Analog, a boutique marketing agency headquartered in Oceanside, California. Reach him with show suggestions at email@example.com or www.lick-the-plate.com