Is Kombucha Vegan? The Complete Facts You Need to Know

Is Kombucha Vegan? Have you ever heard of this drink? Do you love Kombucha? In fact, what is Kombucha? If you are like me and you frequently go pick yourself up a healthier drink from the grocery store only to find a whole host of bottles labeled Kombucha (i’s pronounced kom-BOO-cha) and have no idea what it is, then fear not. Because not only did I decide to buy and drink some Kombucha, I also did a little research to answer two important questions: “What is Kombucha?” (or as I like to call it the “booch”) and “Is Kombucha Vegan”?

Is Kombucha Vegan?

As a general rule, most kombucha is vegan as it is simply made of fermented tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The two main non-vegan ingredients to watch out for are honey and sugar processed with bone char. Most of the main kombucha brands are vegan, including but not limited to, Health-Aid, Brew Doctor, GT, Kevita, and Humm.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is fermented tea. It is made by mixing tea (often back or green tea), sugar, bacteria (the good kind), and yeast and fermenting over a period. The result is a tart-sweet, and naturally carbonated drink which can also be slightly alcoholic due to the fermentation. The drink is thought to date back to as far as 220 BC originating in the Northeast China province known as Manchuria.

Is Kombucha Vegan – Is it “Good For You”?

Many people hail the drink as having healing properties. However, according to WebMD these claims are not scientifically proven. Fans of the drink say it helps with digestion, detoxing your body of toxins, boosting energy, boosting your immune system, helping weight loss, warding off high blood pressure and heart disease, and preventing cancer. These claims all come from the fact that the fermentation process creates probiotics.

Is Kombucha Vegan – Probiotics

At this point, you are probably wondering “what on earth are probiotics?” because if you are like me, you see them everywhere, assume they are good for you, but actually have no idea what they are. According to Cleveland Clinic, “probiotics” is the collective word for those good types of bacteria and/or yeast that naturally live in our bodies. Common probiotics include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium (both forms of bacteria), and saccharomyces boulardii (a form of yeast). You can, it turns out, add more of these “good” bacteria into your body by eating probiotic-containing foods.

We can all add those “probiotic” foods into our shopping carts and have a morsel of self-satisfaction now that we vaguely know what it means.

Is Kombucha Vegan – How Is It Made?

Kombucha is made from 4 main ingredients: SCOBY, Sugar, Tea, and Water.

Is Kombucha Vegan – The SCOBY

Is Kombucha Vegan
ABOVE: What a SCOBY looks like.

A SCOBY is 100% vegan.

You see Kombucha is made by fermenting black or green tea and mixing it with water, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The fermenting process uses what is known as a “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).

A SCOBY is a grown living culture of bacteria that starts the fermentation process to produce Kombucha. They are typically rubbery and mushroom-like looking. SCOBYs are made by fermenting Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), Acetic Acid Bacteria (AAB), and Yeast together. Once the fermentation of the three is complete you end up with a cellulose biofilm known as SCOBY pellicle or just SCOBY for short. SCOBY-DOBY-DO. To be completely honest it looks like a largish flat, ugly, and sad-looking brown mushroom/old teabag.

SCOBYs are also known as “Kombucha Mothers”. This is because they act as the home for yeast and bacteria in the Kombucha-making process. They also act to protect the Kombucha during the fermentation process from the air and other potentially spoiling bacteria by sealing off the Kombucha from the external environment.

After the fermentation is complete any remaining SCOBY is removed. Any remaining SCOBY can be used to make and grow more SCOBY-ies. It is truly a living process. If you are wondering, yes you can make your own SCOBY at home, and they take about two to four weeks to grow.

You should also know other foods like sourdough bread, ginger beer, and kefir (not vegan) use the same type of symbiotic cultures for their production. If you want to grow your own SCOBY just check out Google for a whole host of “how-to” sources.

Is Kombucha Vegan – The Fermentation Process

Is Kombucha Vegan

Once you have your SCOBY the Kombucha can be made. To make it simply steep tea (usually green or black tea) in boiling water, add sugar, place in a jar, and add your SCOBY. The bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY will start the fermentation process by converting the sugar in the tea mixture into alcohol, carbon dioxide (which makes it fizzy), and acids. The alcohol acts as a preservative, and the acids are what give Kombucha its traditional “tangy’ taste.

The whole process can take anywhere between 1 to 4 weeks to complete the fermentation during which you want to keep the Kombucha in a dark and even temperature spot.

Flavors for Kombucha can vary depending on the type of tea used, fermentation time, and the addition of additional flavoring ingredients (such as fruit, juices, or herbs).

Is Kombucha Vegan – Is the Fermentation Process Vegan?

The fermentation process of Kombucha is vegan and involves a completely natural fermentation process.

Is Kombucha Vegan – Is Kombucha Alcoholic?

Is Kombucha Vegan

Great question. As I mentioned above the fermentation process does result in alcohol being produced. This means that all Kombuchas are naturally alcoholic. However, in most instances commercially sold Kombucha will typically contain less than 0.05% AB – bacteria, and yeast control can help keep this in check. Most countries only consider drinks to be “alcoholic” once the ABV of 0.5% or above is reached. For example, in the USA, the FDA requires any 0.5% ABV to be labeled as “non-alcoholic” and only drinks above 0.5% are subject to alcohol tax.  Likewise, in the EU, drinks under 1.2% ABV don’t have to have an ABV percentage shown on the label.

To put this all into context, fruit juices typically have naturally occurring alcohol levels of between 0-0.86% ABV.

Traditional Kombucha will contain around 1 to 3% ABV with an average of around 1.5% ABV if fermented in the normal manner. Finally, there is “Hard” Kombucha on the market which is double fermented to produce a deliberately alcoholic drink with an ABV of 3% or higher.

Is Kombucha Vegan – Things You Need To Look Out For

Most Kombuchas are vegan, but there are a few things you need to look out for when purchasing any Kombucha brands. In the below, I break down all of these (including if the use of Bacteria is vegan).


Some kombuchas are sweetened with honey. Labels will sometimes list the ingredients but not necessarily – “natural sweeteners” or “natural flavors” could both mean honey. The only way to know is to contact the manufacturer (or just go off our list of six vegan kombucha brands below).


Okay, let’s talk about it. Sugar is possibly the one ingredient that can make much food and drink items potentially not vegan. This is especially so in the USA. This is because in the USA some sugar is processed using Bone Char. The Bone Char or also referred to as “Natural Carbon” is used to turn the sugar its traditional white color. Whilst there is no Bone Char in sugar it is processed using it and therefore by association is not really vegan. The only way to know if sugar is not processed with bone char is to only drink kombucha made with raw or organic sugar. Bone char doesn’t tend to be an issue outside of the US so if you are based outside of the US it is not something you need to worry about.

Concerned About Sugar?

If you are concerned about sugar, but like sweet drinks then you should also check out some of our other articles such as:

Bacteria – Is it Vegan?

Okay, what about the bacteria? Kombucha relies on it to be made. Bacteria and yeast are living organisms as well – so are they vegan? The important distinction to make is that bacteria and yeast are not living animals. They are single-celled organisms that do not feel pain. All food contains bacteria. It would be near impossible to survive without destroying or consuming some forms of yeast and bacteria (the good ones of course).

Nothing to worry about here.

Vegan Kombucha Brands

Now that we have covered everything on Kombucha I wanted to provide a list of Kombucha brands on the market that are vegan. Here are six vegan kombucha brands –

Health-Aid Kombucha.

Probably one of the most recognizable kombucha brands, Health-Aid is certified vegan. The Pink Lady is probably my favorite (you can try it for yourself on Amazon here).

Brew Doctor Kombucha.

Brew doctor is sweetened with organic cane sugar. My fave is the Island Mango (which is a delicious combination of passionfruit and ginger) – you can try it from Amazon here.

Equinox Kombucha.

This organic kombucha is made in the UK! I am yet to try it but like the sound of the raspberry & elderflower.

GT Kombucha.

Raw, vegan, and made in small batches (5-gallon glass jars) – what’s not to love? If you are going to pick one get the Gingerade, which you can try from Amazon here.

Kevita Kombucha.

Organic and vegan – the pineapple peach is my go-to, which you can treat yourself to on Amazon here.

Humm Kombucha.

Known for no sugar or low sugar. If you are watching your sugar intake this is the one for you. Definitely try the Mango Passion Fruit (can you tell I love passion fruit?). You can taste several different flavors with Humm’s variety pack on Amazon here.

Why Should Vegans Drink Kombucha?

One of the reasons kombucha is so popular is because of its claimed health benefits! This begs the question, is it good for you?

In my research, the most detailed study of the health benefits of kombucha was carried out by the University of Latvia and is published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods 2014. They found that “It is shown that Kombucha can efficiently act in health preservation and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of boosting immunity.”

As I mentioned above the health benefits of Kombucha are still not scientifically proven. However, Kombucha is naturally high in B12 and B Vitamins. B12 is normally found only in animal-based products, but it is also found in bacteria and yeast. This means Kombucha can be a good supplement source for vegans.

Is Kombucha Vegan – How To Make Vegan Kombucha At Home?

Is Kombucha Vegan

Kombucha really can be a craft just like making beer or wine. Many people choose to brew and make their own Kombucha at home (it has a Reddit). Whilst I must admit, I am not one of those people – I am happy getting my Kombucha fill from the grocery store – it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try it out in the future. If you are interested in it I strongly recommend this excellent BBC Guide. Also, there are a whole bunch of Kombucha-making packs on Amazon which you can check out. I can’t recommend one because I haven’t used one, but here is a link to Amazon where you can check them out. If this article is popular, I will do a review of the best Kombucha Starter Brewing Kits.

Is Kombucha Vegan? – The Final Sip

Is Kombucha Vegan

Are you all about the “Booch”? Do you swear by a daily Kombucha? At the time of writing, it seems to be the trendy drink of the moment but are you able to get past the concepts of fermented tea, the SCOBY, bacteria, and yeast? Well, if you are having trouble getting past these images then just remember Wine and Beer are both produced using similar fermentation processes. All that is happening with Kombucha is a controlled chemical reaction. So yes, most Kombucha is vegan and you probably should give it a go – I would just recommend going for a fruity flavor otherwise you may risk your first Kombucha experience being a sour one…and you don’t want that. In any event, at least you know what “probiotics” are.

Is Kombucha Vegan

…now you know.

Beverage makers may change ingredients and/or manufacturing processes. Always double-check ingredients before purchasing any beverages.

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The Vegan Bev HQ Editorial Team - helping you find the best vegan drink out there!

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