Sales of Kombucha — the trendy, pricey, fermented tea beverage — generated more than $150 million last year. Now the smelly tea is being pulled off shelves at Whole Foods and other stores in the wake of estimates that kombucha contains somewhere between 0.5 and 3 percent alcohol (a typical beer contains 5 percent). Kombucha brewers say no alcohol is added during production, and that the drink is naturally fermenting on store shelves. As the federal government debates whether to label the drink an alcoholic beverage, devotees are going crazy trying to find it. Is a government investigation warranted?
What an overreaction: Many natural products ferment as they sit on store shelves without prompting investigations, says kombucha maker Rana Chang, as quoted in SF Weekly. "Even a picked orange ferments in its own rind sitting in a crate." So let's not get alarmist: "I believe properly made and stored locally produced kombucha can be easily kept under 1% alcohol."
"Voluntary kombucha ban spurs some makers to jigger the formula"
Kombucha's good properties overshadow any concerns: "This fermented beverage is full of good-for-you amino acids and vitamins," says Catherine in Phoenix Vegan Examiner. It's far less harmful than cigarettes or even Starbucks mochas. This hysteria over the alcohol content is only going to hurt smaller kombucha makers who can't afford the equipment to lower the alcohol content, like the big guys.
"A vegan's letter to the government bureau that banned my kombucha tea"
Kombucha is dangerous for other reasons, too: Kombucha consumption has been implicated in at least one unexplained death, says Peter Smith in Good, and the drink's antimicrobial properties can actually damage healthy digestive systems. Now that the "potent, foul-smelling beverage" is under investigation, "it might be time to raise a stink about its claimed magical or detoxifying properties."
"Dude, where's my kombucha?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- 10 things you need to know today: October 21, 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Will Kobani be ISIS's Waterloo?
Subscribe to the Week