“Raw” is a word you may have seen on the bottles of many popular kombucha brands while at your local grocery store or browsing online. When I think of "raw" I think of uncooked foods like sushi, raw eggs, or uncooked steak. So what is raw kombucha?
Raw kombucha is kombucha that has not been pasteurized (heated to a point where all bacteria are killed) and still contains it’s naturally occuring, healthy probiotics. Most kombucha brands sell their kombucha as raw. Brands that do pasteurize their kombucha will replace the naturally occurring bacteria they pasteurized with their own probiotics, but added probiotics are not nearly as numerous, diverse, or beneficial as the natural ones.
Let's take a closer look at what exactly “raw kombucha” is and why it's so important that the kombucha you drink is raw.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
How is Kombucha Made?
All booch begins as sweet tea. What turns this sweet tea into sweet and sour probiotic kombucha is a living culture of bacteria. This culture of bacteria, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), eats the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea and produces acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol.
Once it has eaten enough sugar to make the kombucha bitter tasting, the SCOBY is removed and the 1st fermentation is complete. At this point the kombucha can be drunk, but it's not carbonated or flavored yet.
The carbonation and flavor is added in a 2nd fermentation. During this stage, the kombucha is sealed in glass fermenting bottles that are filled with fruit, juice, or herbs for flavoring.
Over the course of a few days, the kombucha in the bottles develops carbonation and flavor. It’s then refrigerated and ready to be drunk!
What is Raw Kombucha
Raw kombucha is kombucha that contains the naturally occurring, live bacteria that result from the fermentation process. It’s because of these beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, that many people drink kombucha.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeast that keep your gut and digestive system healthy. Usually, when we think of bacteria, we only think of the bad ones. The truth is, there are tons of bacteria in our bodies that we need to survive. In fact, at the current moment there are over 100 trillion bacteria in your gut alone!
When you drink probiotics, you're making sure your gut is supplied with enough good bacteria to help your body function properly. Some of the benefits of consuming probiotics are:
Improved digestive function
Lower risk of diarrhea
Improved mental health
Boosted energy levels
Probiotics are found in all sorts of healthy foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and some cheeses. Drinking “raw kombucha” ensures that these healthy probiotics that develop from the fermentation process are actually in the booch you're drinking.
What is Pasteurized Kombucha?
Pasteurization is a common process in the food industry that involves treating foods with heat in order to eliminate bacteria and pathogens in them to extend shelf life. Most store bought milk and fruit juice is pasteurized to ensure that it’s safe to drink.
Pasteurizing kombucha, which is not part of the traditional brewing process, treats the brew with heat to kill off all the naturally occurring bacteria in an attempt to keep the kombucha from contamination. Many pasteurizing kombucha manufacturers, after pasteurizing their brew and killing the natural probiotics, will then replace them with probiotic supplements.
Although pasteurizing kombucha prevents it from becoming contaminated, it completely goes against the entire purpose of the drink! Yes kombucha does taste good, but most people who drink it, do so at least partially for its probiotic benefits.
If a brand is going to kill off all the beneficial bacteria in a brew, they might as well just make a sour soda instead of going through all the trouble of fermentation.
Plus the risk of a kombucha brew becoming contaminated or moldy is extremely low if it's being brewed correctly, since the high acidity of the kombucha will prevent any foreign bacteria from developing.
You may be thinking, “if the manufacturers that pasteurize their kombucha add in probiotics afterwards, isn’t it the same as raw kombucha?” These were my exact thoughts when initially learned about pasteurized booch. But it turns out that these unnatural supplemented probiotics are not nearly as beneficial, numerous, or diverse as the probiotics that naturally develop in raw kombucha.
In fact, one study found that there are nearly 100x more beneficial bacteria in fermented foods like kombucha than in probiotic supplements.
Table of What Brands Make Raw Vs Pasteurized Kombucha
Below is a table designed to help you easily identify which kombucha brands are raw and contain all the natural probiotics that result from fermentation, and which ones are pasteurized and contain very few or possibly no probiotics.
Raw vs Pasteurized kombucha Brands
Brew Dr, Health-Ade, and Humm are 3 of my favorite raw kombuchas. If you’re interested, you buy any of them in bulk on Amazon for a really great price and with free shipping. That means no time or gas spent going to the store! Just click on the blue and underlined brand name above to check out their Amazon listings.
As a regular kombucha drinker who loves the health benefits that the drink provides, I would never waste my money on a pasteurized kombucha.
I admit that I have drunk pasteurized booch in the past, and it has a great taste that can satisfy that kombucha craving. But ideally when I’m drinking kombucha, I want to be getting probiotic benefits.
If you’re someone who isn’t as focused on the health aspects of kombucha, or just don’t care about probiotics, then a pasteurized brand is fine. But me and the others that love booch not only for it’s taste but also many health benefits will be drinking it raw.
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!