Why is kombucha so expensive?
If you love kombucha or have heard about it and want to try it out, this might be one of the top questions on your mind. Several factors contribute to this drink’s high price, which we will cover in this article.
Thankfully, you’re not stuck having to buy your kombucha; you can easily make yours at home. The ingredients for making kombucha are not hard to find, and the price is much more affordable than the store-bought product.
This article will answer three critical questions, focusing on the costs of kombucha. You will also learn about the alternative to kombucha. But first, let’s discuss kombucha history and some of its health benefits.
Did you know? Kombucha is fermented tea. There are several debates on the exact origin of kombucha, but most people argue that its origin is unknown. However, a 2017 Forbes report revealed that kombucha originated in Northeast China.
The fermented tea, historically referred to as Manchuria, was first created around 220 B.C. and later spread along the Silk Road. It is commonly brewed in Korea and some parts of eastern Europe, particularly Russia.
Kombucha did not gain popularity in the domestic markets until the 1990s, when many started appreciating its health benefits. But the drink did not become popular in the American market until the 21st century.
One unique feature of the drink is its inability to intoxicate consumers like other fermented drinks. But this does not mean that kombucha is entirely alcohol-free. It contains less than 0.05% alcohol, and as a result, it is not regulated under the United States federal guidelines.
However, the United States Department of Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau stated that kombucha would be subject to federal law if the alcohol content is at or exceeds 0.5% at the time of bottling or during production.
There are several commercially available beverage brands producing kombucha. These companies bottle the beverage and sell it in stores. While store-bought kombucha is the go-to for most people, kombucha can be expensive, which is why it is good news that you can make your kombucha at home.
What Are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?
If you’re familiar with the fermenting culture, kombucha has a very devoted following. But there are some significant evidence-based advantages of consuming kombucha.
The following are the known health benefits of consuming the fermented drink:
● Kombucha Is a Source of Probiotics
Kombucha combines specific bacteria strains, yeast, and sugar. It is added to black tea and left to ferment for a week or more. During fermentation, the yeast and bacteria form a mushroom-like film on the liquid’s surface.
The blob is a SCOBY, a living symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. In addition, the fermentation produces acetic acid, also present in vinegar.
Furthermore, kombucha has different species of lactic acid bacteria with a probiotic function. Probiotics give the gut healthy bacteria that can help with weight loss and digestion.
● Kombucha Contains Antioxidants
Antioxidants help you fight free radicals that damage your cells. Antioxidants from food and beverages are healthier than the ones from supplements. For example, when you use green tea for kombucha, it has antioxidant effects on your liver.
● Kombucha Kills Bacteria
As mentioned, acetic acid is produced during the fermentation period when making kombucha. This acid is similar to the polyphenols in tea and kills many harmful microorganisms. In addition, making kombucha from green or black tea gives you a healthy dose of antibacterial properties that fight against Candida yeast and other infection-causing bacteria.
Why Is Kombucha So Expensive?
Having learned the history of kombucha and some of its benefits, it’s time to answer the question: why is kombucha so expensive? As mentioned, kombucha costs a lot for several reasons, discussed below.
High Demand for Kombucha Raises Costs
The foremost reason why store-bought kombucha is so expensive is the high demand. Companies manufacturing the fermented drink advertise it as a healthy and refreshing beverage, which is absolutely true! The more the public has become aware of the idea of kombucha as a health drink, the more the demand has increased, which ultimately affects the price.
However, the high demand does not match the supply. This is because making enough kombucha for commercial use takes a while, and there are not enough sellers to keep up. Therefore, the economic law of demand and supply affects kombucha prices.
Simply put, the higher the demand for a product with less supply, the higher the price. The sellers are aware of this fact and increase the cost of kombucha to maximize profit.
Kombucha’s Labor, Space, and Time Add to its Price
This is the second reason for the high kombucha cost. If there’s one thing kombucha makers know, it is that making the drink is time-consuming, even if you follow the most precise and simplified kombucha recipe.
When making kombucha, you need to prepare the tea leaves before brewing. Next, you must strain the tea leaves before putting them in a jar and adding the SCOBY. Then you bottle the drink for a second fermentation afterward to get the final carbonation.
The process is labor intensive. Even with modern machinery, it takes time. Plus, some kombucha is more handmade and artesanal. The machine-made drinks are obviously less pricey than artisan kombucha, but sometimes the character of great kombucha gets lost in too much automation.
Manufacturers also dedicate a lot of space to kombucha production. If they are renting a building, the rent factors into the price of the drink. This is more common in small companies producing artisan kombucha.
Finally, there’s the time factor, as it takes days to weeks to brew kombucha. That time means that large quantities of kombucha need to be warehoused and the process just can’t be rushed. As with the space and labor, manufacturers factor in the time spent making the fermented drink when determining kombucha prices.
The Expense of Kombucha Ingredients
Interestingly, the price of kombucha ingredients is not on the high side. The ingredients are sugar, water, kombucha SCOBY culture, loose leaf tea or tea bags, and optional flavors. These ingredients are not only inexpensive, but they are also easy to find.
Furthermore, kombucha does not need specialized equipment unless you want to go into commercial production. You can make a gallon of kombucha with 20 grams of loose leaf tea. Even if you opt for premium tea leaves, you still will not spend much making kombucha.
Other Elements that Contribute to Kombucha’s Price
While the above three are the most common reasons why kombucha is expensive, other elements affect cost. For instance, the price goes up if the manufacturer pasteurized and filtered the drink before bottling it when producing kombucha on a large scale. While this process kills the probiotic bacteria, it makes the kombucha much easier to store and transport.
Responsible companies also use expensive glass bottles (which are recyclable, but have a higher up-front cost than plastic), and they have fancy labels that slightly affect the price. Additionally, “natural” kombucha that wasn’t pasteurized or filtered costs more as it is refrigerated for a long time to keep it from continuing to ferment. If not properly handled, the prolonged fermentation can even cause bottles to explode, but normally just results in acidic and unpleasant kombucha.
Then if the kombucha is flavored, like with acai berry or ginger, the price also goes up. This is because the additional flavors have an extra cost, and companies factor it in when determining kombucha prices.
How Much Is Store-Bought Kombucha?
There is no fixed price for store-bought kombucha. The cost depends on the brand you are buying from and the type (flavor). Although they use the same primary ingredients, the manufacturing process may not be the same, hence the price difference.
Below are some common brands and their prices:
- Humm Blueberry Mint Kombucha: $36 for a 12-pack
- GT’s Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha:$2.97 per bottle
- Wonder Drink Prebiotic Kombucha: from $9 for three cans
- B-Tea Kombucha: $3.24 per bottle
- Live Raw and Organic Kombucha: $35.99 for a 12-pack
Generally, most 16-ounce bottles of kombucha cost between $3 and $5. If you drink one 16-oz bottle weekly, you would have spent $260 for a $5 drink at the end of the year. If you drink it more than once weekly, the price goes up.
So, how much is kombucha in such an instance? Drinking store-bought kombucha daily throughout the year would cost you $1,095 at $3 per 16.0z bottle and $1,825 at $5. When you calculate it this way, you’ll find that it adds up very quickly.
How Much Does Homemade Kombucha Cost?
Before making kombucha, note that you must consider the initial investments and daily costs. So, how much does kombucha cost when you make it yourself?
The following are the kombucha supplies you need and their cost:
- Ingredients: The essential elements will cost about $4.29. You need black tea, and a cup of sugar, plus a kombucha starter, which Cultures For Health sells for $19.99.
- Large Jar: Depending on the size and quality of the jar, you can get a large glass jar for as low as $5. The seller you choose also determines the price.
- Fermentation Bottles: Fermentation bottles cost as low as $5. We recommended these cool grolsch flip top bottles.
So your upfront cost to start brewing kombucha will be somewhere around $40-$50. But that, of course, will vary based on what equipment you purchase.
The beautiful thing is that once you buy these supplies—aside from the tea bags and sugar—you won’t have to keep spending money. After that, you’ll spend 10¢-20¢ on tea, and about 30¢ worth of sugar for each gallon of fresh kombucha! Meaning that kombucha can cost as little as 40¢ per gallon when made at home and it will have healthier, fresher probiotics as a bonus. When compared to the cost of purchasing kombucha daily or weekly, making your own kombucha is far more economical and a better option.
How to Make Kombucha
The process is simple, and you can refer here to our kombucha recipe, but here’s a quick rundown on how to prepare homemade kombucha:
- Make a strong sweetened tea and let it cool.
- Transfer it into a jar with a little left over kombucha and place the SCOBY inside.
- Cover the jar with a finely-woven dish towel and secure it with a rubber band.
- Keep the jar away from direct sunlight in an area with 70°F to 75°F.
- Leave it to ferment for one to three weeks. The SCOBY will consume the sugar at this time, making the kombucha tart and tangy.
- Start tasting it after a week, and bottle it once it tastes good to you.
Kombucha Alternatives to Consider
While kombucha is an excellent fermentation drink, there are alternatives you can consider. We discussed the two most common ones below.
Water kefir is also full of probiotics and is pretty similar to kombucha, but is not made with tea. So while kefir and kombucha are both made from fermentation, they differ in several ways. One essential kefir vs. kombucha difference is the taste.
Kombucha has a slightly sweet and tangy taste, and the culturing time and flavor affect the taste. On the other hand, kefir is relatively sweet, but it depends on the type and amount of sugar used. Water kefir is also generally flavored somehow before fermentation since it doesn’t have the natural tea flavor that kombucha has.
● Apple Cider Vinegar
When you leave apple cider to ferment, it turns into vinegar, giving you apple cider vinegar. To make this fermented drink, you need apples, a large jar, and water; it takes three to six weeks for the apples to ferment. This is longer than it takes to make kombucha, making kombucha a more time-saving (and arguably much tastier) drink.
Thinking of Making Kombucha Yourself?
If you have always gone for store-bought kombucha, consider making yours from scratch. It saves you money, and making the drink is not difficult. Once you have a healthy kombucha colony going, you can drink all the kombucha you want for just pennies a glass.