Kombucha: The Best and Worst Brands

The kombucha craze is sweeping across the world and new brands are popping up left and right.

It’s comparable to what has happened with the craft beer industry. More and more people are taking their stab at brewing kombucha and starting their own brands with unique flavors and formulations.

But, how do you choose the healthiest brand?

This article will tell you what to look for and compares 22 popular brands.

What is Kombucha?

In case you’re new to the drink or have tried it but are unsure of what it is exactly, kombucha is simply a fermented tea beverage.

Water, tea leaves, sugar, and a substance called SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) are what’s needed to make kombucha. The final product has a tea and slightly vinegary flavor that is also a tad fizzy.

Some brands try to minimize the vinegar flavor by adding sweetness and other ingredients like fruit juices and flavorings. Other brands don’t mask it with a lot of sugar and prefer to keep their kombucha more natural.

Number One Benefit: Probiotics

What makes kombucha so good for you is the probiotic benefit it provides. When you drink kombucha, you are consuming billions of healthy gut microbes that help your digestive system keep working as it should.1

I’ve read all kinds of health claims on the websites of kombucha brands and some are a bit of a stretch. But, modern research has shown us time and time again that good microbes are responsible for so many aspects of our good health.2

When comparing kombucha brands this is our number one consideration. Some brands are pasteurized which kills the live cultures (which defeats the purpose of drinking kombucha for better health). Brands do this to stop alcohol formation which I’ll cover at the end of the article.

If you see “pasteurized” on a kombucha label, pick a different brand.

Here’s How Some Popular Brands Compare

For comparison sake, I’ve looked at just one flavor from each brand and tried to choose “original”, when possible. Other flavors may have slightly more or less calories, sugar, and caffeine.

Kevita Master Brew Kombucha

kevita masterbrew

  • 4 billion CFU’s of live probiotics
  • 35 Calories per bottle
  • 8 grams of sugar
  • 80 mg of caffeine
  • Sweetness enhanced with stevia
  • 100% organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives.

Verdict: This is a solid brand health-wise but may have too much caffeine for some. They increase the natural caffeine with green coffee bean extract. They also make a line of probiotic soda’s but these aren’t classified as kombucha.

Available at Amazon
Learn more

Humm Original Kombucha

humm

  • Number of live cultures unknown
  • 53 calories per bottle
  • 7 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives

Verdict: This brand ranges in sweetness depending on the flavor and other flavors contain more sugar. Humm is an all natural brand and uses organic ingredients but isn’t certified organic.

Learn more here.

GT’s Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha

gt kombucha

  • 2 billion live cultures per bottle
  • 60 calories per bottle
  • 4 grams of sugar
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: GT is a brand that will appeal to those that like a less sweetened kombucha. They offer many flavors and in GT’s case, the flavor doesn’t increase the sugar or calories as much as it tends to do in other brands.

Buy here.

Kombucha Wonder Drink Traditional

wonder drink

  • 0 live cultures per bottle
  • 100 calories per bottle
  • 24 grams of sugar
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: This brand is high in sugar and isn’t real kombucha. It is pasteurized to kill the active cultures and offers no probiotic benefit. They do offer a raw product so we suggest choosing this version if you decide to try this brand. This version is called Wonder Drink Raw and it’s lower in sugar and does contain active cultures. All other Wonder Drink products are simply “kombucha flavored” beverages.

Buy here.

B-tea Kombucha

B tea brand

  • Live cultures present but amount unknown
  • 54 calories per bottle
  • 4 grams of sugar
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: B-tea Kombucha is a raw kombucha tea and is low in sugar. It does contain live cultures but is unclear how many.

Available on Amazon here.

Tealixer Herbal Kombucha

tealixer

  • Live cultures present but amount unknown
  • 60 calories per can
  • 12 grams of sugar
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Not certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Tealixer is a brand available exclusively on Amazon and contains various herbs in addition to the tea, SCOBY, and flavors. Some consumers may need to be cautious of the herbs used in Tealixer. For example, St. John’s Wort can interact with some medications.

Buy here.

Brew Dr. Kombucha

dr brew

  • Billions of live cultures per bottle
  • 60 calories per bottle
  • 10 grams of sugar
  • 15 mg of caffeine per bottle
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Dr. Brew is a 100% raw kombucha with simple ingredients and herbal flavorings. While they offer no straight up tea flavor, the varieties they do offer are certainly interesting.

Learn more here.

Health-Ade Kombucha

health ade Kom

  • Contains live cultures but amount unknown
  • 60 calories per bottle
  • 4 grams of sugar
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Health-ade is another 100% raw kombucha with active cultures. It is low in sugar and other varieties contain real fruit juice.

Learn more here.

Live Kombucha Soda

live soda

  • 6.8 billion cultures per bottle
  • 60 calories per bottle
  • 13.5 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Live is another 100% raw kombucha and lists a very high number of active cultures. It is sweeter than many other brands and its sweetness is enhanced with stevia.

Learn more here.

Reed’s Culture Club Kombucha

reed's kombucha

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 80 calories per bottle
  • 17.6 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Reed’s line of kombucha beverages are 100% raw but do seem to contain more sugar than many of the others. They also use yerba mate tea as well as oolong tea in the brewing process. Yerba mate typically has higher caffeine than traditional tea so expect the caffeine in Reed’s to be higher than what would be expected in traditional black or green tea based kombucha.

Buy here.

High Country Kombucha

high country kombucha

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 30 calories per bottle
  • 4 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: High Country is 100% raw and is very low in sugar. It may not appeal to those that like a sweeter flavor, but this is a great choice for those that want a very low sugar choice.

Learn more here.

Bucha

bucha

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 96 calories per bottle
  • 24 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Bucha is raw kombucha but is one of the highest in sugar of the brands I’ve listed here. There is also an error with their calorie and sugar information 24 grams of sugar is 96 calories, not 94 as the label would suggest.

Learn more here.

Tonica

tonica

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 43 calories per bottle
  • 6 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine amount unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Tonica is a Canadian brand of 100% raw kombucha. It is low in sugar and is blended with both fruit and herbal flavors.

Learn more here.

Rise Kombucha

rise

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 62 calories per bottle
  • 14 grams of sugar per bottle
  • 2-8mg of caffeine per bottle
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Rise is another Canadian brand and is 100% raw kombucha. It’s a tad higher in sugar than others and they don’t offer just a traditional tea flavored variety. This brand can contain visible pieces of SCOBY.

Learn more here.

Katalyst Kombucha

katalyst

  • Live cultures but amount unknown
  • 68 calories per bottle
  • 12 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Not certified organic but uses organic ingredients
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Katalyst is 100% raw kombucha and all natural. Some flavors have a tad less sugar.

Learn more here.

O Organics Kombucha

o prganics

  • 2 billion+ live cultures per bottle
  • 100 calories per bottle
  • 22 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: O Organics Kombucha is a “store” brand of Kombucha found at Safeway and Albertsons affiliated grocery stores. It’s more affordable than other brands but is higher in sugar because of all the fruit juice concentrates used.

Learn more here.

Holy Kombucha

holy kombucha

  • Live cultures per bottle but amount unknown
  • 60 calories per bottle
  • 12 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Not certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Holy Kombucha is a 100% raw product with medium levels of sugar.

Learn more here.

Ucha Kombucha

ucha

  • Live cultures per bottle but amount unknown
  • 25 calories per bottle
  • 5 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Ucha is a 100% raw brand of fermented tea available in Europe. It’s low in sugar and comes in several flavors as well as a yerba mate variety.

Learn more here.

BluePrint Kombucha

blueprint kombucha

  • Unclear if live cultures are present
  • 70-90 calories per bottle
  • 19-24 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: BluePrint is known for their cold pressed juice line and these are used in their kombucha also. Therefore, they are higher in sugar than other brands. It’s unclear whether the product is raw kombucha.

Learn more here.

Kosmic Kombucha

kosmic kombucha

  • Live cultures per bottle but amount unknown
  • 80 calories per bottle
  • 14 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • Certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Kosmic is 100% raw kombucha and falls in the medium category as far as sugar content is concerned.

Learn more here.

Kombucha Dog

kombucha dog

  • Live cultures per bottle but amount unknown
  • Calories per bottle not listed
  • 9 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Caffeine per bottle unknown
  • No certified organic but organic ingredients used
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Kombucha Dog is a 100% raw kombucha that is not diluted so it contains 1.5% alcohol and is therefore classified as an alcoholic beverage. Alcoholic beverages are not required to post nutrition information on their labels. This brand is for adults over 21 years of age.

Learn more here.

Unity Vibration

unity vibration

  • Live cultures per bottle but amount unknown
  • 105 calories per bottle
  • 27 grams of sugar per bottle
  • 86+ mg of caffeine per bottle in the cold-brew coffee flavor
  • Not certified organic
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives

Verdict: Unity Vibration is a 100% raw kombucha that is classified as an alcoholic beverage because it contains more alcohol than the .5% limit. It’s one of the highest in sugar and only for those at least 21 years of age.

Learn more here.

Alcohol Content?

All 100% raw kombucha or fermented tea products will contain alcohol. Most are under .5% to avoid being classified as an alcoholic beverage. There has been some government scrutiny in certain States because, although they leave the factory at under.5% alcohol, under the right conditions fermented tea products can continue to ferment and produce more alcohol.

The only brands that would just contain zero or trace amounts of alcohol are the pasteurized ones and these aren’t true kombucha and offer little, if any, health benefits.

Caffeine Levels

Because most kombucha is made with traditional tea leaves, it will contain some caffeine. More if you make it yourself, less if it’s store bought. Generally, the caffeine is 15 mg or less per bottle since most are diluted to meet the below 5% alcohol standard. Brands that add coffee flavor or yerba mate will have more caffeine.

Make Your Own?

Brewing kombucha isn’t rocket science and you can pretty easily make your own.

Amazon.com sells kits with everything you need and once you have SCOBY, you can keep using it over and over again.

This allows you to experiment with different flavors and ingredients and will save you a lot of money. However, with fermentation, there is always a slight risk of contamination from undesirable microbes that could ruin the taste or even make you sick.

If you decide to make your own kombucha, follow the instructions and know what signs to look for that reveal a contaminated batch.

    References:

  1. Quigley, E. M. (2013). Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterol hepatol (NY), 9(9), 560-569. The Study
  2. Marchesi, J. R., Adams, D. H., Fava, F., Hermes, G. D., Hirschfield, G. M., Hold, G., … & Thomas, L. V. (2016). The gut microbiota and host health: a new clinical frontier. Gut, 65(2), 330-339. The study

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