Kombucha has quickly become the world’s favorite fermented beverage, and for good reason -- it’s as versatile as it is delicious. If you're not a fermentation specialist (don’t worry, you don’t need to be. We have those) the various kombucha styles, flavors, and approaches can be somewhat daunting.
The last time you bought yourself kombucha, you may have noticed that some are labeled “raw,” while others read “pasteurized.”
You may not know it by taste, but there’s a big difference between raw and pasteurized kombuchas that’s worth knowing. The next time you’re strolling down the aisles of a grocery store, which should find a home in your cart and why?
The History of Kombucha
Historians believe kombucha tea was first brewed in ancient China in 220 B.C.—meaning it’s older than the Colosseum, Machu Picchu, and most of the Great Wall. So, we guess that makes kombucha one of the original seven wonders of the world.
The first batch of kombucha was brewed by fermenting tea within a pancake-shaped symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as SCOBY. Kombucha was initially valued for its supposed healing properties.
The fermented tea recipe traveled from there across the seas to Japan, Europe, and eventually the Americas as well. Modern popularity for the drink didn’t start until the 1990s when local, grassroots groups made their own batches from scratch and sold them to health-conscious buyers.
How Kombucha Is Made Today
We know, we know, you’re already a kombucha expert, but did you know it can be made from tons of different kinds of tea? Green tea, white tea, and even oolong tea can show up in a brew. (We’ve tried them all, and we prefer using premium black tea because it packs the most flavor into a single beverage.)
Flying Embers has our own recipe for brewing the perfect booch. We start off by steeping our black tea with an adaptogen root blend, containing ginger, turmeric, and ginseng. We then add organic cane sugar for the cleanest possible fermentation. The next ingredient up on the list is our SCOBY, which is what really kickstarts the fermentation process.
Most kombucha brands will stop here or add in a sugary mix of juices and flavorings, but we’re not most brands. To create our signature botanical buzz, we go through a secondary fermentation using champagne yeast, removing the residual sugar and upping the alcohol content.
Our kombucha bacteria colonies remain alive the entire time, much like other fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut. We also ferment with a World Health Organization recognized probiotic strain, as raw kombucha contains live bacteria but does not naturally contain probiotics. And with that, Flying Embers kombucha is born. Voila.
So what makes raw kombucha so special? Well, it’s pretty simple: It uses the natural process of fermentation by keeping that probiotic bacteria alive and wild.
What makes this drink “raw” (as opposed to pasteurized) is that the kombucha is never heated at any point after the fermentation, so it remains full of natural bacteria. It’s a classic tale of good and evil—bacteria can be good and bad, and our booch is full of the good stuff (AKA naturally occurring kombucha bacteria and our live probiotics).
Pasteurization is the process of heating a product in order to sterilize it of any living organisms. It may be great for food preservation but it removes the SCOBY and probiotics from kombucha turning it into a strange soda rather than the longstanding traditional drink.
We may be biased, but we think unpasteurized kombucha is the best because it is raw and real whereas pasteurized booch may as well be soda. And, the live organisms preserve freshness, making it taste better, too.
Certain kombuchas add extra steps for pasteurization, but going bigger isn’t always better.
Basically, instead of leaving the bacteria alone by keeping the brew under that initial temperature, they heat the kombucha to kill all remaining bacteria on purpose.
One of the biggest appeals of kombucha comes from its probiotic benefits. It almost becomes a different drink entirely without the natural bacteria and probiotics inside. When you pasteurize it, you’re losing all that good stuff—which is pretty boring, if you ask us. If the whole point of kombucha (other than its unique and delightful flavor) is that it’s alive and wild, why are you killing off the very thing that makes it so special?
Which Is Better: Raw or Pasteurized Kombucha?
In the kombucha community, a debate rages over which type of kombucha is better between raw and pasteurized. Which one should you buy?
Raw kombucha is a natural drink with a storied history and unique flavor profile, thanks to the fermentation process. By maintaining the kombucha culture of bacteria but fermenting dry, leaving no sugar (food for bacteria), our raw kombucha offers an organic beverage that’s brimming with life (and certain proposed health benefits).
It goes without saying, but raw kombucha has a richer flavor, too. Each batch of Flying Embers provides a flavorful infusion of herbal botanicals, bright citrus fruits, and even the occasional touch of tangy hops thanks to our raw brewing style.
Pasteurized kombucha has the same initial benefits as tea but without much more. The pasteurization process kills all bacteria through a spike in heat at the expense of any probiotic benefit.
So, while we might be just a little biased, we’re fully on team raw kombucha.
Flying Embers Hard Kombucha
Here's where our kombucha comes in.
At Flying Embers, we think it’s important to retain the natural vitality of kombucha. Combining his passions for organic winemaking and the ancient alchemy of fermentation, our founder was able to produce a style of kombucha that is unique to yours truly.
This alive and wild booch not only tastes great, but without any sugar or artificial additives, it feels great, too. The botanical buzz comes from our traditional, dry fermentation approach, naturally removing all sugar and leaving the perfect proportion of alcohol and simple, real ingredients. Proof that you really can have it all.
Flying Embers’s USDA organic-certified kombucha is handcrafted with whole plant botanicals, superfruits, and adaptogens, creating flavor combinations that feel as good as they taste. Always live and never pasteurized, we believe that kombucha is meant to be raw and untouched, avoiding any and all shortcuts that could affect the quality of our product. We want every sip of our brew to be crisp, clean, and effervescent in a way that only pure, unfiltered kombucha can be.
Our kombucha is vegan and gluten-free because we want everyone to be able to enjoy it the way booch was meant to be enjoyed. Our raw kombucha is even shelf-stable, which means our booch is here for a good time and a long time, with or without refrigeration.
If you’re looking for raw kombucha that packs a kaleidoscope of flavors, Flying Embers is the brew for you.