We Tried 12 Brands of Kombucha and There Was a Clear Favorite
I promised myself that I would focus on my gut health as a new year’s resolution; and because I am a woman of my word, three months in, I think I’m doing pretty well. Given the hype surrounding fizzy fermented teas, drinking kombucha was the obvious route to start on my gut health journey.
The kombucha craze is relatively new to the U.S., but this drink has been a part of Eastern cultures for centuries. Kombucha boasts a myriad of health benefits, and its main claim to fame that it carries gut-healthy probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that help maintain a balanced digestive system. (These are the “good” bacteria that are often found in other fermented foods like kimchi.)
At its most basic, kombucha is a sweetened black or green tea that’s fermented by using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, a.k.a. a SCOBY. The fermentation process transforms the tea into a carbonated beverage that is often further flavored with fruits, spices, herbs, or flowers. Since this is a fermented drink, small traces of alcohol can be found in each bottle; however, the bottles labeled “non-alcoholic” have only up to a 0.5 ABV.
As I began trying different brands, I quickly realized that not all kombuchas are created the same. And as fun as it is to “get into” a new-to-you food item, it’s also costly and annoying when you buy a product during your discovery journey, and it turns out to be… unsatisfactory. After trying out several brands myself, I decided I really wasn’t about continuing this expensive guessing game of searching for “the best” kombucha.
WATCH: How to make a grape kombucha cocktail
To definitively settle the matter, I gathered 12 brands of kombucha that were readily available in local stores (spanning from standard supermarkets like Publix to more specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods).
And with the help of my colleagues, we put them to the taste test—taking into account flavor, price, availability, sugar content, and carbonation strength. Most brands offered a some variety of ginger flavor, so we went with that as the common denominator for comparison purposes. While a clear (and unsurprising) crowd favorite emerged, there were a few that we felt deserved mention (not to mention, a few that were so offensively bad, we will never mention them again). With that said, here are the kombucha brands actually worth dropping your hard-earned dollars on.
# 1: The All-Around Best Kombucha: GT’s Living Food
- Price: $3.49
- Bottle size: 16.2 oz
- Sugar per bottle: 12g
GT’s Living Food kombucha is, by many standards, the OG of commercial kombuchas, holding its place in the U.S. market for 22 years. GT’s Living Food was the first company to bring quality kombucha, that’s made with 100% pure love (literally, it’s on the label), to grocery store shelves. We found that the Gingerade variety offers a well balanced level of ginger spice, acidity, and fizz. Many of the bottles that didn’t make the cut had a watery-weak ginger presence and lacked sufficient carbonation. GT’s delivers on all aspects of a good kombucha, and it’s convenient to purchase. This brand can be found virtually anywhere that sells kombucha.
#2: Runner Up: Kevita Master Brew Kombucha
- Price: $2.99
- Bottle size: 15.2 oz
- Sugar per bottle: 16g
Coming in second place with a close run for first is Kevita Master Kombucha. The fresh ginger flavor is spot-on and the bubbly-level was just what we we’re looking for. However, this brand lacks slightly in the signature kombucha tang we crave; this acidity (which GT’s nails) balances out the sugar and any other flavorings present in the kombucha, keeping the beverage bright and satisfying, as opposed falling flat. Even though it wasn’t our #1 pick, we recognize it as a totally legit kombucha option. This brand has also developed something of a cult following, and should be relatively easy to find in many stores.
#3: Honorable Mention: Brew Dr. Kombucha
- Price: $2.99
- Bottle size: 14oz
- Sugar per bottle: 10g
Brew Dr. Kombucha brand was one of the more delicately flavored kombuchas of the bunch. The company focuses more on the initial tea blends and fermentation process, and does not add further flavoring or juices after the kombucha is fully fermented. This likely explains why their kombucha is lower in sugar than some of the other options and more gentle on the palate. That said, we don’t say “delicate” to imply bland here. The ginger variety we tasted offered a subtle hint of cayenne pepper that paired delightfully with the ginger, but neither overpowered the taste of the tea. This would be a great beginner kombucha for someone just starting to acquire a taste for the probiotic beverage.
#4: Honorable Mention: Health-Ade
- Price: $3.99
- Bottle size: 16 oz
- Sugar per bottle: 6g
Of all that we tasted, Health-Ade brand contains the lowest amount of sugar per serving, making this brand ideal for anyone actively concerned about their daily sugar intake, as well as their gut health. Additionally, this brand offers strong acidity and vibrant bubbles, but the team was not overly impressed by the flavor (we tried a couple from this brand, actually), as it generally lacked depth or intensity, and was overall too vinegary. However, this may very well just be the price you pay for the impressively low sugar numbers.
Note: Health-Ade has been accused of misrepresenting the amounts of sugar and alcohol in its products. Depending on the outcome, we may no longer be able to recommend this product. See the full news story here.
#5: The Wildcard: Wild Tonic
- Price: $3.99
- Bottle size: 16 oz.
- Sugar per bottle: 14g
The Wild Tonic brand was our wildcard kombucha pick due to its interesting use of honey. Naturally, honey is commonly used to sweeten tea, so sweetening a bottle of kombucha with honey seems like a logical association—however, you rarely see it being done. The honey and prominent tea flavor distinguish this brand, as these rounder flavors overhauled most of the sharp tanginess that typically comes with kombucha. This brand was also gentler on the carbonation front. If you are new to kombucha and so far, not the hugest fan, we think Wild Tonic could be a good place to start your ‘bucha journey.