Is kombucha vegan?

Things you should about kombucha.

Kombucha tea is growing in popularity as more people become aware of its health benefits. This ancient Chinese beverage is full of vitamins, amino acids, and nutrients. But is kombucha suitable for vegans?

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What is kombucha made of?

Kombucha is a fermented, fizzy, sweet tea drink. It’s made from green or black tea, yeast, bacteria, sugar, and water. Fruit flavors are often added as well.

So, is kombucha vegan? Well, it almost always is, but there are a few things that you should look out for to be sure

Is kombucha vegan?

Kombucha is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It is made from tea, yeast, bacteria, and sugar. Occasionally, honey may be added and, some brands may use sugar that is filtered through bone char.

Why kombucha may not always be vegan

Here are the reasons why kombucha may not always be vegan:

1. Honey

Most kombucha that you can buy is flavored. The flavors can include anything such as fruits, herbs, spices, and botanicals. If the manufacturer uses honey as a sweetener, the kombucha will not be suitable for vegans.

Almost all vegans choose to exclude honey from their diets because honey production exploits bees. Most commercially-produced kombucha doesn’t include honey in the ingredients, but it’s something you’ll want to look out for.

2. White sugar

Not all sugar is vegan. This is because white sugar is sometimes filtered through bone char to achieve a white color. The bone char typically comes from cows that were slaughtered for meat.

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The good news is that organic sugar is always vegan, as is brown sugar.

3. Waxed fruit

Sometimes, fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, and mangoes aren’t strictly vegan. This is because they may be coated in wax to maintain their appearance and freshness. This wax coating may include beeswax (from bees) or shellac (the secretions of the female lac insect).

The use of waxed fruit is the reason why some fruit juice drinks cannot be labeled as vegan.

In practice, knowing which fruits have been waxed is almost impossible. For practical reasons, most vegans choose to eat fruit that may have been coated in animal-derived wax.

4. Live bacteria

Kombucha is brewed using something called a “SCOBY”. This acronym stands for ‘Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’. It looks like a thick, beige, rubbery mass and it hosts the yeast and bacteria that aid the fermentation process.

The bacteria and yeast in the “SCOBY” break down sugar and convert it into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and acids. This produces the tangy taste and fizz that you get with kombucha.

So, what about the live bacteria in kombucha? Do vegans care about bacteria?

Bacteria are not animals, nor are they able to feel pain. As yeast and bacteria are too simple to have the biological apparatus for self-awareness, vegans do not need to avoid harming them.

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The average human body contains around 39 trillion bacteria. That’s more than the 30 trillion human cells that we each have! Every time you take a shower, millions of bacteria will be destroyed. Taking antibiotics will wipe out large numbers of good and bad bacteria, yet this is acceptable to vegans.

The presence of bacteria and yeast is not a reason for vegans to avoid Kombucha.

Frequently asked questions about kombucha

Here are the most common asked questions about kombucha:

Is kombucha a plant?

Kombucha is not a plant. It’s a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, yeast, and bacteria. Although it is sometimes referred to as mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom.

Does kombucha contain alcohol?

Kombucha is made by fermentation which creates a small amount of alcohol. Most kombucha has less than 0.5% ABV, although some hard kombucha contains 4 to 8% ABV.

Can vegans eat fermented foods?

Vegans can enjoy an array of fermented food including tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, wine, beer, and kombucha tea. Fermentation using microorganisms like yeast and bacteria is acceptable to vegans.

Suggested read: What’s the difference between vegan and dairy-free?

Can vegans eat bacteria?

All food contains bacteria and vegans have no problems with eating bacteria. Vegans do not eat foods of animal origin and bacteria are not classed as animals.

Summary

When made to the traditional recipe, kombucha is vegan. The use of sugar that may have been filtered with bone char and fruit that may have been waxed with shellac or beeswax is something that strict vegans may wish to avoid.

However, just as it’s not possible to avoid destroying bacteria, most vegans will agree that avoiding white sugar in the US and avoiding waxed fruit is something that’s not reasonably practical to do.

The easiest way to make sure that your kombucha is vegan is to choose a trusted brand that’s certified as vegan. And as always, try to shop closer to home where possible to cut down on carbon emissions caused by transportation.

Alternatively, you may wish to try making your own vegan kombucha at home.

Last updated on September 2, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on August 18, 2021.

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