I’ve always been a fan of kombucha, the fermented tea touted for its health benefits.
But the buzz I would get from store-bought kombucha always made me feel like a light-weight. The labels claimed that the tea had less than a 0.5% alcohol content, but drinking a bottle of kombucha would make me feel like I’d had half a glass of wine.
Well, apparently I had no reason to feel embarrassed by my reaction to kombucha. In mid-June, suppliers of unpasteurized kombucha agreed to a voluntary withdrawal of the tea after tests indicated alcohol levels as high as 3% – the same alcohol content as a light beer.
Kombucha makers insist that the tea leaves production with only a trace amount of alcohol. But raw kombucha might continue to ferment in the bottle after it has left production facilities as live yeast continue to convert sugars into alcohol.
Interestingly, the removal of raw kombucha from Whole Foods and other stores has been linked to tabloid star Lindsay Lohan, after rumors surfaced that kombucha set off Lohan’s alcohol monitoring bracelet. Lohan was recently sentenced to jail time for unrelated probation violations in a drunk-driving case.
The government is currently testing samples of unpasteurized kombucha to determine how it should be labeled. In the meantime, kombucha producers are weighing their options. Obvious solutions include pasteurization, which fans fear would inhibit health benefits, or marketing the tea as alcohol, which would add taxes and government regulation.
If you’re missing your kombucha, you can still find pasteurized versions of the beverage in stores. Or you can always try to brew your own raw kombucha at home!