Kombucha Rules


Editorial Policy

Published on

Last updated on

[K]ombucha makers, lead by Kombucha Brewers International, are calling for a different method of testing the alcohol content in their products.

In October, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau updated—with stronger language—its online information regarding the production, sale, and labeling of kombucha, and sent fines to an undisclosed number of kombucha companies regarding their labelings’ lack of information about the drinks’ alcohol content. The ATTTB has closely regulated kombucha since 2010, when, at the height of kombucha’s growing popularity, new labeling restrictions and increased scrutiny about the product’s safety lead it to be suddenly pulled from grocery store shelves.

Since then, brewers of the drink have rebounded, and an onslaught of new brands have joined the fray, but the ATTTB continues to push for kombucha to be regulated similarly to beer (which usually contains around five percent alcohol, compared to kombucha’s 0.1 to one percent). Some kombucha is in fact sold next to beer, requiring identification for purchase.

The fermented tea is different, however, the KBI argues, and therefore requires a different method of testing its alcohol content, one that takes into account the unique organic acid profile of kombucha. KBI has partnered with the Association of Organic Analytical Chemists to develop a new, internationally approved testing method that will guarantee accuracy and repeatability.

The current method of testing alcohol content was developed in the twenties and thirties, before kombucha’s commercial growth.

According to Hannah Crum, master brewer and KBI president, “it relies on density, which at higher alcohol concentrations is a fairly accurate way to measure alcohol as it tracks the change in weight of sugar as it converts into lighter ethanol.” Crum says kombucha’s bacteria and its low alcohol content require more sophisticated testing.

“Alcohol in kombucha and other healthy, low-alcohol fermented beverages such as kefir, kvass, naturally fermented ginger ale and root beer serves as a preservative and a nutrient rather than an intoxicant,” says Crum. “Humans have historically always consumed fermented beverages as water has been largely impotable. These beverages were also consumed by children with no ill effects, again, because they are not intended to inebriate.”

—Regan Crisp

Share This Article

Regan Crisp

Join 7,000+ coffee pros and get top stories, deals, and other industry goodies in your inbox each week.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Other Articles You May Like

Through Turmoil, Zambia’s Kawambwa Tea Lives On

Despite decades of political disruption and leadership changes, Zambia’s Kawambwa Tea brand is on course to succeed with new government investment.
by Fiske Nyirongo | June 21, 2023

Tea Shots Are Changing How Coffee Shops Serve Tea

Making tea drinks to order can sometimes slow service, but Tea Shots, a new product by Maya Tea Company, might be the solution we’ve been waiting for.
by Anne Mercer | April 19, 2023

Chai Trends of 2023: Seasonal Drinks, Chai-Infused Snacks, And More

Seasonal drinks, chai-infused snacks, and more: here’s what to look for in the world of chai in 2023.
by Anne Mercer | April 5, 2023

Green Tea Inspiration: Five Green Tea–Infused Recipes

Fresh flavors and new influences are changing the tea game dramatically. Step up your green tea game with creative flavor combinations.
by Kei Nishida | January 31, 2023