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Monday, March 9, 2009

Kombucha Wonder Drink

Here at the Weird Soda Review Testing Labs, we try to encourage diversity of opinion. For example, the Kibbitzer-In-Chief (one of the lead staff members here) doesnt actually like soda. She doesn't really understand the compulsion which led us to start Weird Soda Review, but she is brave and accommodating, and we love her.
In any case, while we were out gathering samples at Major Market, she spotted and acquired one of the weirder sodas we've seen. It comes in a very small bottle (8.5 oz) and advertises itself as "Kombucha Wonder Drink: A Sparkling Himalayan Tonic". Closer inspection reveals that it claims to be a blend of Rooibos (a South African red herbal tea) and "essence of red peach". This rated high on the Weird Soda scale (and claiming to be from the Himalayas adds extra weirdness), so we decided to try it out.

So this one is the special pick of the Kibbitzer-In-Chief. Let's see how it goes.

Where and when: purchased 2/28/09 at Major Market, Escondido, CA
Color: Opaque light reddish brown, with sediment. Sediment is unusual in Weird Soda, so we approve.
Scent: Tea, earthy, with vinegar. Kibbitzer-in-Chief: "It smells like someone was trying to dye their Easter eggs with Snapple."
Taste: Oh God.
K-i-C: "It tastes like my grandfather's morning health tonic. I swear it has apple cider vinegar in it, even though it doesn't. I'm guessing 'Kombucha' is secret code for 'apple cider vinegar.'"
Very, very tart. I can taste the peach. It is lightly carbonated, which adds to the acid bite. There is a clear note of tea, and it is recognizably rooibos (amazingly enough, I can actually recognize rooibos, although not as well as the K-i-C). It's carbonated peachy vinegar with tea.
Rather intensely foul at first taste, gets better with repeated exposure (or maybe it just numbs you).
K-i-C: "It would make an interesting salad dressing."
The K-i-C hypothesizes that it has a very small bottle mouth because smelling it while drinking it would make it much worse. Being who we are here at the Weird Soda Review Tasting Labs, we immediately get a wide mug to try it out. It turns out that she's right.
After offering some to Freya (the Lab's resident Chihuahua-Dachshund crossbreed), we can confirm that it makes excellent Dachshund repellent. She actually got up off the couch to get away from it, which is nearly unprecedented.

The ingredients label is informative:
An infusion of (filtered water, organic rooibos (red) tea leaves)
Kombucha concentrate (filtered water, organic cane juice, organic oolong tea leaves, yeast and bacterial cultures)
Organic cane juice
Natural peach juice concentrate
Natural peach essence

I'm guessing the complex tartness comes from baterial and yeast metabolism. Interestingly, the exact types of bacteria and yeast remain unspecified (more on that below).
K-i-C: "If I could be guaranteed that it would extend my life 2 to 5 years, I'd drink it."
As to exactly how the ancient residents of the Himalayas managed to get their hands on a South African herb to make this "wonder drink", I am baffled. However it came together, though, perhaps it shouldn't have.

A bit of research (i.e. entering "kombucha" into Wikipedia) gives us a fascinating and upsetting article, with paragraphs like these:
  • Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a "kombucha colony".
I can't help but notice that the ingredients list referred to this as "yeast and bacterial cultures", rather than "macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms (zoogleal mat) including Candida".

Weird Soda Review: We drink it so you don't have to.

Quaff rating: 1. This does NOT go down easily, although the taste is not wholly unpleasant
Cough rating: 3, until you read the Wikipedia article, at which point it goes to about 4. It's strong stuff, but not actively vile after the first taste. And then you learn about zoogleal mats.

15 comments:

  1. That was hilarious. I love the stuff. Actually buy it by the case. I am into really strong flavors though. Really thorough review although I would tell people that the flavor grows on you.

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  2. If you want a better tasting kombucha, try KT Dave's brand kombucha, available in a rainbow assortment of different flavors. I highly recommend Guava & Concord Grape. It's sweet and sour and sparkly all at the same time, which is a plus in my book.

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  3. Ok god this stuff is crap !!!!!!!

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  4. I freaking love kombucha. i've bought it a couple times at whole foods, but it's nothing compared to making your own. you get this little slimy giant (i named mine big fatty) growing in your kitchen. you see the brown tea turn to golden. you smell the vinegar. then you see it in your fridge for a week, naturally carbonating.

    it's supposed to be crazy good for you and help with digestion. i don't know - i really like the shock value when talking about it with other people, and i often find myself craving the weird yeasty/appley/tea flavour.

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  5. Kombucha is the shit. I have some Kombucha that i made from GT Dave's culture and its carbonating up right now-- Ginger blueberry-- can't wait!

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  6. Kombucha is totally a love or loathe prospect. KWD is, as far as I encountered, among the least vinegary brands, but to a cultivated palette, that's not always such a great thing. Their green tea and honey flavor was the one I personally dug, but I think it's been discontinued. Now it's popping up in cans?! I don't understand how that's possible, based on what you read about the nature of transporting kombucha, but whatev. Best of luck to em.

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  7. wow! great article! I love Kombucha so much!!If you want a better tasting kombucha, try Carpe diem Kombucha, less vinegary and weird stuff in it, as it is a bit filtered.

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  8. I tried some Kombucha and hated it. It tasted like total crap.

    If I want to 'feel better' I think I'm just gonna stick to smoking a bowl and drinking lots of water.

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  9. I think that testing crowd has had too many doses of sugar and salt in their diets. This would explain the strong aversion to flavor and taste.

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  10. ^or...the testing crowd could have a strong aversion to DISGUSTING "flavor and taste" (isnt that redundant?).

    i do eat sweet/salty things in moderation, like most people who dont binge eat on junk food, and i occasionally enjoy a soda/sweet drink. however, i also love tea - and i mean LOVE tea. and not that sugary lipton crap, but loose leaf, green or black or herbal teas, you name it, preferably unsweetened and unaltered...but i have to say, i did try kombucha, more than once, and i absolutely HATED it. i have heard about and respect the health benefits etc, and i'd like to consider myself open to tasting new things and like a lot of things "normal" americans call "weird," but something about the sour, fermented, carbonated stuff just totally repulsed me. i much prefer my tea uncarbonated and unfermented and altogether pleasant tasting.

    whatever floats your boat though, i always say.

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    Replies
    1. I'm just wondering, I can't seem to differentiate fermented and carbonated stuff, looks exactly the same for me. Anyone can explain the difference?

      Regards,
      Blessie Wills
      Fermented Foods

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  11. Hey Guys, thanks for reviewing.. I have to make few corrections though.. Kombucha was originated in Russia over 2000 years ago and later was adopted by Asia. Red tea doesn't belong there - that is pure creativity of makers. It supposed to be made with regular black tea. in Russia they actually add honey to it, so it is does not taste that sour as you described, and it is a cold drink, not a tea.
    Regarding bacteria and candida that you mention.. We ARE made of bacteria, all our body, including candida (which is not a bacteria - it is yeast), and not all of it bad type, these type of Candida actually fights the one that is bad for your body.

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  12. Thanks for the info. I have to take issue with the claim that "We are made of bacteria, all our body"; our cells are very different from bacterial cells. However, maybe you meant that we have symbiotic bacteria and yeasts all through and over us? I'll agree with that.

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  13. I don't know how it could be considered soda it's a tea, a fermented one, which as one might suspect with a fermented drink tends to be (very lightly) alcoholic. Kombucha (even the different ones in the "Wonder Drink" line) in my opinion ranges from being delicious to downright atrocious.

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  14. I just tried my first one and this it's gross. YUK-O. it was the multi-green. I can't get the smell nor the taste out of my nose and mouth. PUKE!

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