With the rise in popularity of the plant-based diet, many kombucha lovers are wondering – is kombucha vegan? We’re breaking down all of the ingredients in kombucha to determine whether or not kombucha is vegan (along with an important reason why vegans should be drinking kombucha!)
As veganism and vegetarianism gain momentum, so does the kombucha movement! But do the two play well together? Naturally the question has been coming up more and more as to whether kombucha can fit into a plant-based diet. Is kombucha vegan?
The short answer: kombucha is vegan (except sometimes not…). Read all the details below!
what is veganism?
Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that avoids all animal-derived products, to include meat, dairy, eggs, and often honey. While that may seem pretty restrictive to the uninitiated, veganism is growing rapidly. While 1% of U.S, consumers identified as vegan in 2014, that percentage grew to 6% by 2017. That’s a 600% increase (and it’s expected to continue)!
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a sweetened tea that has been fermented to create a slightly tart, carbonated beverage. A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is added to tea and sugar, then left to ferment for a few days or weeks. In this time, the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY “eat” the sugars in the tea, producing flavor, acidity, and carbonation.
So is kombucha vegan?
Most kombucha is vegan by default, because the only ingredients are tea, sugar, and a SCOBY. There are, however, some instances where kombucha may not be vegan:
White Sugar May Not Be Vegan: It may surprise you, but some white table sugar, which we use in the 1st fermentation, isn’t vegan. White sugar gets its stark color from a refining process in which bone char is used. Although you don’t actually consume the bone char, it is an animal-derived product used in the process and therefore makes some white sugars non-vegan. For strict vegans, home brew your kombucha with organic, evaporated can sugar crystals. (More about the best sugar for kombucha here.)
Honey Isn’t Vegan: Honey is sometimes used in the 2nd fermentation to make the kombucha flavorful and fizzy, and it’s inclusion would take kombucha off the table for many vegans. While most store bought brands of kombucha will list honey on the bottle if it is used, be on the lookout for “natural sweeteners”, and check their website to determine what exactly these natural sweeteners are.
But what about the living bacteria and yeast? True, kombucha is packed with living cultures of bacteria and yeast (part of what makes kombucha so healthy), but these are commonly consumed in a vegan diet. Vegan favorites – like vegan yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, bread, and beer – are all full of these single-celled microorganisms! To avoid eating them would be virtually impossible.
Why vegans should drink kombucha
Not only can vegans drink kombucha, but they should drink it. And it’s for one important reason – Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 – a nutrient involved in maintaining healthy nerves, cells, and DNA – is found almost exclusively in animal products. This makes it particularly challenging for vegans to get enough of, who do not consume animal-derived products.
But there is one plant-based source of Vitamin B12 in nature…bacteria and yeast! And as you now know, kombucha is full of bacteria and yeast. Just one 8-oz cup of kombucha can contain as much as 8870% of your daily needs for Vitamin B12, making it a great choice for vegans. (Don’t be too concerned about overdosing on B vitamins; these are water-soluble vitamins and any excess amounts will pass right through you).