You might be familiar with how traditional kombucha is made, but how does it compare to making hard kombucha? What makes this alcoholic beverage different from beer? And where did this stuff even come from?
Today, we’re spilling the hard, fermented tea on kombucha.
Where Did Kombucha Come From, Anyway?
Some people might think of kombucha as a health fad, but the truth is it’s been around for years. Like, a before-you-were-born amount of years. Like, over 2,000 years ago.
Kombucha is supposedly named after Dr. Kombu, a Korean doctor who introduced the fermented tea to Emperor Inyko of Japan, citing its healing properties. The drink’s popularity grew over the years and eventually made its way to Russia in the 20th century as trade routes expanded.
From there, it soon took the rest of Europe by storm. Popularity dipped during World War II, as sugar and tea shortages limited production. Kombucha soon bounced back in the 1960s and continued to gain popularity, eventually becoming what it is today.
Booch has come a long way, from being a trade route exclusive to reaching the shelves of your local grocery store. Even with years of innovation, the fermentation process and core ingredients are still fairly consistent with the most ancient kombucha recipes. The introduction of new flavors and varieties — including our favorite, the 21+ kind — has revolutionized the classic drink without taking away from its origins.
What Makes Kombucha Hard?
Let’s start with a quick refresher on how kombucha is made. Kombucha is a mixture of fermented tea, sugar, and yeast. The fermentation process is similar to those of other hard beverages, and the process actually does result in some alcohol in nonalcoholic kombuchas. However, it’s not enough to taste it or feel any effects after drinking.
What really makes a difference in the fermentation process is the “SCOBY,” a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. SCOBY is what separates booch from your average tea.
So, how does the brewing process differ between regular and hard kombucha? Well, it’s about time. The mixture is fermented for a longer time, so more of the sugar can turn into alcohol.
Fermentation time can vary, but it takes about 18-30 days for us. It might sound a little time-consuming, but fermenting to perfection ensures you’ll have a better time when, well, consuming.
Is All Kombucha Sugary?
Since sugar is part of the fermentation process, does that mean all hard kombuchas are sweet and sugary? Not exactly.
Once the base ingredients are combined — ours are premium black tea and our adaptogen blend of ginger, turmeric, and ginseng — sugar is added to get the fermentation party started. The sugar can come from a few different source ingredients, typically either honey or sugarcane.
Here at Flying Embers, we use organic cane sugar to keep our booch vegan-friendly and tasting incredible.
Remember SCOBY? That’s the next ingredient we add to the mix. The SCOBY eats all of the sugar, so by the time round two of fermentation is finished (using champagne yeast this time to achieve a bubbly texture), there’s no lingering sugar in the finished product.
At this stage, some other hard kombucha brewers choose to add sugar to flavor the base kombucha mix. We brew fully dry so there's zero sugar left in our hard kombuchas. Plus, we ferment with organic, plant-based ingredients for flavors that feel as good as they taste. The best part? They’re ingredients you can actually recognize and pronounce — they don’t sound like a formula you learned in chemistry class.
What Kinds of Flavors Will You Find in Hard Kombucha?
Once the base kombucha mixture is made, the flavorful fun begins. There are endless options for bringing complex flavors to kombucha, ranging from classic to creative.
Obviously, kombucha tastes like tea, so any ingredients you include need to complement that flavor. Some common flavors include Ginger, Mango Coconut, and Black Cherry, among other fruity and herbal flavors.
When crafting our hard kombucha, we combine ancient recipes with modern science to create our unique botanical flavors. When brewing, our flavors matches the quality of our ingredients, which is why each beverage is handcrafted with organic ingredients. As a result, our organic hard kombuchas are naturally delicious, without the use of unnecessary additives and sugar.
Some of our favorite flavors include:
And that’s just the beginning. Our brewers at Flying Embers are continuously innovating and imagining fresh flavors to marry the ancient art of kombucha brewing with contemporary tastes.
We also offer a variety of alcohol by volume levels, so you can choose the perfect brew for you. Our lower-alochol drinks contain 4.5% ABV. For a more bountiful buzz, our higher ABV drinks range from 6.8% to 8.5% ABV.
What Makes Hard Kombucha and Beer Different?
If you’re looking for a gluten-free substitute for beer, hard kombucha could be your perfect alternative. All kombuchas are fermented with naturally gluten-free ingredients, whereas beers are typically fermented from grains such as wheat, barley, or rye, thus containing gluten.
Flying Embers drinks are also vegan and keto-friendly, so you won’t have to worry about buying multiple beverages to satisfy everyone at your next party.
Our hard kombuchas are made with whole plant botanicals, superfruits, and adaptogens. The result of these organic ingredients is a lighter, brighter option that’ll fit into every lifestyle.
It’s important to note that hard kombuchas are technically classified as beer, even though they’re a very different product. Hard booch gets that label to distinguish itself from regular kombucha since all booch contains some amount of alcohol.
The threshold for hard booch in the United States is 0.5% ABV. If a beverage has that amount or more, it’s classified as 21+ kombucha.
Ultimately, beer differs from hard kombucha because of the ingredients it contains, the brewing process used, and the flavors you get from each sip. When shopping for hard booch, make sure to keep an eye on the labels to ensure that you get the drink you’re looking for.
Kombucha: A Drink With Many Names
Over the years, kombucha has racked up a list of unique nicknames. In its earlier days, kombucha was sometimes called “the elixir of life” or “tea of immortality,” relating to its health benefits. Even before modern research, our ancestors knew that this was no ordinary beverage.
Sometimes kombucha is also called “mushroom tea,” even though there are no mushroom ingredients involved. This name comes from the SCOBY that floats at the top of the drink, which resembles a mushroom cap.
Speaking of SCOBY, it has its own nickname too! Some refer to SCOBY as the “mother” of the kombucha since it’s the key ingredient in the fermentation process that essentially brings the drink to life. We’re still wondering if it expects a Mother’s Day present.
And of course, there’s the shortened form “booch” that you’ve seen while reading this article. This nickname for kombucha is more of an affectionate term often used by kombucha lovers like us! Out of all the nicknames, this one’s our favorite.
Craving More Interesting Kombucha Facts?
Despite being around for over 2,000 years, many facts about kombucha still slip under the radar. One of the best ways to learn new things is by doing, so trying out our hard booch for yourself might teach you something new — while leaving you feel refreshed.
Kombucha 101: Demystifying The Past, Present, And Future Of The Fermented Tea Drink | Forbes
8 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea | Healthline
Is Beer Gluten-Free? | Healthline
TTBGov - Kombucha General | Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Kombucha FAQ | Kombucha Brewers International