What do Lindsay Lohan, indie rocker M. Ward, and employees at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, have in common? One word: Kombucha. Lindsay has been caught sipping it, M. Ward dubbed it his “Best Purchase of the Past Year,” and Google worker bees do shots of it—but none of these Kombucha fans are getting much of a buzz. This cultured or fermented tea, made with bacteria and yeast, contains no more than 0.5 percent alcohol.
Some believe that Kombucha offers many health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, balancing metabolism, and even fighting cancer. People have been drinking it in China since 221 BC, and it can be brewed at home, but recently two bottled brands—Kombucha Wonder Drink and GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha—have been attracting big-name celebrities (like Madonna and Cher) and low-profile heath nuts alike.
However, not everybody is lovin’ this slightly fizzy elixir. I asked a few friends if they’d tried it. “We bought it once by mistake, thinking it was a new type of tea—but it was foul,” said Howard Draper of Denton, Texas. His wife, Renée, added, “I hate to throw things away, but we had to dump it after two sips.” New York City’s Phoebe McGee has been drinking a bottle a day for the past month, but she admits that it’s an acquired taste:
It tastes a little bit like vinegar. And there are things floating in it, which look a little bit like loogies … OK, a LOT like loogies.
No joke. The extensive text on bottles of GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha warns that “Strands of the culture may appear,” and they most certainly do. In other words, if you want to reap the potential health benefits, you gotta get past the goobers. McGee enjoys GT’s Gingerade flavor but recommends the Synergy Organic & Raw Mystic Mango for beginners because “the thick almost-puréed texture conceals the floaters.”
My taste test left me with a (possibly unrelated) stomachache. Has anyone else sampled this stuff?