Well Being

Kombucha: WTF? (What the Fuss)

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Kombucha has been around for at least two centuries, but it's really within the last ten years that it's started popping up in grocery stores, health food shops, and occasional restaurant menu. In recent years, it's become more than just a passing health fad; Hollywood celebs like Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Meg Ryan, Halle Berry, and Madonna have brought the drink into mainstream. (We know; some of those endorsements are better than others.)

For the uninitiated, Kombucha is a blend of teas that's been allowed to ferment until it forms a mass of cultured yeast, called the “mushroom” or “mother.” Kombucha-lovers say the drink promotes healthy digestion, thanks to its probiotics (or “good bacteria”), and that it can detoxify and cleanse the body, but skeptics say it's not worth your money, and that it might even be dangerous to drink. (We get that; it's made by growing bacteria and yeast, after all.)

To see what all the fuss is about, we took a few popular store-bought brands for a drive with four blind taste-testers: Two were Kombucha fans; two had never sipped the stuff. We can't tell you whether or not these bottles will give you Madonna's abs (although we're pretty certain they won't land you LiLo's time in jail), but here's what we have to say about how they taste:

Carpe Diem – Cranberry

60 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 15g carbs, 15g sugars, less than 1g protein per 8 oz. (Contains lightly carbonated water, sucrose, cranberry juice [5.1%], juice concentrates [aronia, apple, elderberry, lemon, acerola), herbal tea blend, Kombucha cultures, lactobacilli])

Kombucha virgins said: “It's good, it tastes like cranberry, and I like cranberry,” said one of our uninitiated testers. “It's really light, but it's a little spice like holiday spices. Otherwise, it doesn't have much flavor.”

Kombucha-drinkers said: “It's not too strong, which is nice, but it doens't have that kombucha flavor,” one taster said. Another suggested “this would be a good introductory kombucha.”

High Country – Goji Berry

20 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 5g carbs, 2g sugars, 0g protein per 4 oz. (Contains  organic kombucha tea* and organic goji berry. *Kombucha is a culture fermented in a base of purified water, organic tea, and organic sugar cane)

Kombucha virgins said: “Ew, this tastes like pee.” “It's like a bad, gross beer.”

Kombucha-drinkers said: “Incredibly sour and strong, and it smells yeasty,” said our most serious Kombucha-devotee. “Yeah, it has a hoppy taste.”

Ciara's Komboost – Totally Berry

50 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 13g carbs, 11g sugars, 0g protein per 8 oz. (Contains distilled water, kombucha cultures, organic tea, organic sugar and organic berry flavoring)

Kombucha virgins said: “This is fun, I like this!” “Yeah, this is just like drinking juice.”

Kombucha-drinkers said: “It's a little too sweet for me,” and “It tastes like a bright fruit juice, but it has more complexity — it doesn't taste much like Kombucha, though.”

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