Is Kombucha Vegan?

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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?

If you’re vegan and are interested in trying kombucha, there are some things that you should know before you do…

Homemade kombucha

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 flavours 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…

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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, in the United States, some brands may use sugar that is filtered through bone char.

Why kombucha may not always be vegan…

1. Honey

Most kombucha that you can buy is flavoured. The flavours 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.

Kombucha with added honey
Adding honey to homemade kombucha

2. White sugar

In the United States, not all sugar is vegan. This is because white sugar is sometimes filtered through bone char to achieve a white colour. The bone char typically comes from cows that were slaughtered for meat.

The good news is that organic sugar is always vegan, as is brown sugar. Sugar that’s available in the United Kingdom and other countries outside of the US is always vegan too.

white sugar with bine char
White sugar is sometimes filtered through bones

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 labelled as vegan.

In practice, knowing which fruits have been waxed is almost impossible. Vegan Womble contacted every UK supermarket to ask whether their fresh fruits were coated in non-vegan shellac. The general response was that most citrus fruits are coated in shellac, but that it depends on the fruit and the country of origin.

For practical reasons, most vegans choose to eat fruit that may have been coated in animal-derived wax.

waxed lemons
Lemons are commonly coated in wax to protect them during transit

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.

kombucha SCOBY
This is a kombucha SCOBY

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.

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.

The Best Vegan Kombucha Brands

If you’re looking for vegan kombucha, here’s a list of some of the best vegan kombucha brands. To avoid shipping drinks around the world, it’s best for your carbon footprint if you buy kombucha that was made locally in your home country.

🏆 The best vegan kombucha in the UK – Hip Pop

Brewed in a traditional craft way on a farm in Cheshire, Hip Pop is organic, 100% natural vegan kombucha. It comes in four delicious flavours and is full of gut-friendly cultures.

Readers of this website can get 50% OFF a six-bottle case and FREE UK delivery. Just click the button below and your discount will automatically be applied.

🏆 The best vegan kombucha in the US – Health-Ade

Brewed in Los Angeles, Health-Ade is the best-tasting kombucha tea in the US according to online reviews. This vegan-friendly kombucha is certified organic and available in a variety of fruity flavors.

Kombucha FAQs

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.

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.

The bottom line

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.

vegan kombucha

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