Kombucha: The Healthy Alternative to Soda

I remember the first time I ever had kombucha. I should; it wasn’t that long ago. It was August 2012 and I was vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland with my family and Val. Val and I had just started eating 100% plant-based only a few weeks before the trip and eating out every day was interesting to say the least. I don’t remember what we did for dinner during that vacation, but I do know where we ate for breakfast each day. The place was called Malia’s Cafe and there was nothing necessarily vegan about it. They had eggs, sausage, pancakes made with dairy…nothing different. But they had the best potatoes and oatmeal in the world and it was super affordable. So after a training run each morning, Val and I would head over to Malia’s for our usual dish. On the last day, we finally ventured out. We had the crazy idea to look up a different place to grab lunch; I don’t remember if it was because Malia’s was closed or because we got tired of eating there (likely the first reason as I could probably eat potatoes every meal, every day).  We found a small place that served light vegan deli fare and had a bunch of nondairy snacks and beverages in the front of the store. I guess we ordered a sandwich or something, but all I remember are two things: rice chips  and kombucha.

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My own Vanna White.

We had never had kombucha before, let alone heard of it. When the storeowner found out we were kombucha virgins, she got really excited. She was eager to share what this drink was and told us that she drinks at least a bottle a day…it was her healthy alternative to soda–a phrase I’ve since stolen (no, not borrowed, as I’m never giving it back!!). We learned that kombucha was a fermented tea and something about scoby. I wouldn’t figure out just what SCOBY (symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast) stood for until a couple months later, but I did know one thing right away: kombucha = delicious. This fermented tea is rich in probiotics and healthy acids. What are probiotics? They are living cultures of bactiera and yeast that are good for your health and digestive system. They can balance out and even lower the bad bacteria that is found in your gut which leads to better health.  Probiotics are also popoularly found in yogurts (nondairy is the preferred choice here). So that’s the healthy part. Why the soda part? Because te vinegary taste of kombucha makes it feel and taste like you just popped open a can of soda.

Over the course of the last 3 years, Val and I have had more than a fair share of kombucha. We have never tried to make this fermented tea beverage, but we have bought numerous kinds of it from various makers and of a variety of flavors. The flavors we had during our first try back in Ocean City were strawberry and another one with chia seeds. Grape, maybe? In our kombucha-drinking experience, some makers (virtually anyone can make kombucha, but I’m speaking of the companies that make and sell it glass-bottled) do it better than others. We went down to Asheville, NC one time and the first restaraunt we went to had a “Buchi Flight” on the menu of a locally made kombucha. We thought we died and went to heaven.

bucha Buchi FlightPhoto cred: Scantron

Val and I felt like that about kombucha only one other time and it was quite recenty. LA’s Vegan Beer and Food Festival was brought to Portland at the end of September and with admission, everyone was given a small glass for an unlimited amount of kombucha from any of the 8+ kombucha vendors that were there. An unlimited amount of beer was also included with the higher admission fee, but even if we were beer drinkers, Val and I likely would have still gone for the kombucha each time. After trying 4 different vendors’ kombucha, we arrived to the vendor that we had never had before and the one that would have, and still does have, the best kombucha we’ve ever had: Health-Ade.

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Health-Ade Kombucha is based in LA so I guess I should be eternally grateful that LA’s Vegan Beer and Food Festival was brought to PDX because who knows if I would have had Health-Ade otherwise. Why all the rave about Health-Ade? Let’s look at what makes Health-Ade stand out from the rest. Straight from their site (because really, who can say it better than them?)…Health-Ade ensures the best kombucha by:

“[P]roduc[ing] in an all-glass process to ensure no plastic/metal leaching, ferment[ing] in super-small batches (2.5 gallons!) to allow for premium control over quality, and flavor[ing] only with raw cold-pressed juice from organic produce. We never come close to using fake fermentation agents, flavorings, or chemicals, and rely heavily on nature, not dollars, to decide when the product is ready.”

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If their process doesn’t have you sold already, then their flavors should.

California Grape, Pink Lady Apple, Plum, Pomegranate, Original, Ginger-Lemon, Cayenne Cleanse, Beet, and saving my favorite for last, Carrot. What’s so impressive about how Health-Ade is that each of these flavors taste just like the organic fruit, not the artificial flavors or concentrate, from which the flavor comes from. The vinegary taste of Carrot and the light flavor of Beet…gah! So good. I’m actually drinking Cayenne Cleanse as I finish up this post and I have to admit that the lime, semi-spicy cayenne and vinegary-ness of the kombucha go perfect together. The other flavors are incredible as well, but we all have our favorites of everything don’t we?

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Hopefully you can see the nutrition facts label because what’s shown is also part of why I think Health-Ade is really great. Only 4g of sugar in an entire bottle for this flavor (Ginger-Lemon); 70 calories; and you can’t see it but the ingredient list above the bar code has “organic” in front of almost every item (water can’t be organic!!).

If you’re around Portland, there are many co-ops and grocery stores that carry Health-Ade. They have a “Where to Buy” feature on their site that can show you specific locations in other states. For example, I just learned that they are all over in New Jersey which means I get to have Health-Ade even when I go visit home and family this Christmas season! And if they aren’t near you, just request your local grocery store or co-op to start carrying them. Maybe it will be that easy.

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Health-Ade. You seriously need to try this kombucha.

Have you ever tried kombucha? What are your thoughts? Why do you drink it? Let’s talk!

Note: I want to stress that although I prefaced my first experience drinking kombucha with my decision to eat plant-based, this does not mean that kombucha is only for people who don’t eat meat. Kombucha is vegan, but it’s not a “Vegan” drink. It’s vegan like apple juice and soda is vegan. What is different is that kombucha is actually good for you. Consider it the healthy alternative to soda.

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