Kombucha all over San Diego

“The last glass may be a little flat, but it will still have all the health benefits.”

Living Tea’s 16 taps
  • Living Tea’s 16 taps

“Kombucha is a fermented tea that originated in China about 2000 years ago,” says Danny Weigle, owner of local kombucha brewery Living Tea. (The brewery and first location are in Oceanside, but there’s a San Diego branch in North Park: 619-228-9326.) “We start with a sweet tea” — black, green, red, or white, all organic — “and ferment it with a scoby. That’s an acronym for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.”

Ginger is a favorite at Living Tea.

Ginger is a favorite at Living Tea.

Living Tea uses an in-house culture with herbs, roots, and spices to brew their teas. “Our stuff is small-batch brewed and fresher than most kombucha you would buy at a grocery store. And when we had it tested, it came back with more active yeast strains and bacteria than the grocery-store stuff. Those probiotics and enzymes and acid chains in our kombucha are very good for gut health — metabolism and digestion. And it’s also got lots of B vitamins.”

Living Tea usually has 16 varieties of kombucha on tap: 12 oz., $3.50; 16 oz., $5; 32 oz., $10; 64 oz., $20. “Right now, we have blueberry basil, which is really good. Ginger is always a favorite with our customers. And then there are pomegranate chi and lavender peach. We give free sample tastes from the taps, so you can decide what you like best. You can grab a glass for here or a growler to go.”

Living Tea’s glass growlers are priced as follows: 16 oz., $1; 32 oz., $4; 64 oz., $5. “You want to keep it in your fridge to stop the fermentation,” advises Weigle. “From the tap, kombucha will last about 5–7 days in your fridge, and it will slowly lose its carbonation. So if you buy a 64 oz. growler and drink five 12 oz. glasses over the week, the last glass may be a little flat, but it will still have all the health benefits.”

Living Tea offers kombucha-making kits for home use. “We sell the scoby for $10 and the brew kit for $30. The kit contains a one-gallon mason jar, a bandana, a rubber band, a cup of tea, a cup of sugar, and directions. Once assembled, you need to let the kombucha ferment in a dark spot, but it also needs to breathe, which is why you cover it with the bandana. Also, you want it at about 70 to 75 degrees, so since it is cold this time of year, you may need a heating pad.”

Finally, Weigle touted the kombucha cocktail trend. “Mixing kombucha with a spirit is a better alternative than soda. You get a better flavor profile. Our ginger kombucha with lime, mint, and vodka makes a great mule. We have a lot of accounts that buy kombucha by the keg and make their own cocktails.”

Included in the Homebrewer’s deal

Included in the Homebrewer’s deal

The Homebrewer in El Cajon (619-450-6165) offers kombucha kits and also workshops every one or two months. (Class only, $50; class and kit together, $90; check website for class dates.) “Class runs about two and a half hours,” said Scott. “If you get the kit with it, you get a two-gallon ceramic kombucha brewer with a bottom spigot, the ingredients for a one-gallon starter batch — tea and sugar — and one live scoby. You also get a 16 oz. bottle of kombucha that you can flavor yourself with seasonal fruits and herbs, and four or five tastes of different-flavored kombucha. If you do the class only, you still get the scoby, the bottle, and the tastes. And we have supplies you can purchase anytime. We get our scobys [$11.99] from Cultures for Life. A starter kit [$24.99] will include a scoby and supplies for a starter batch, but glassware is extra. The ceramic brewing crock is $49.99, and a case of 24 bottles is $16.99. Or we sell single flip-top bottles for around $3.50.”

Other places around town where you can find fresh kombucha on tap:

Bootstrap Kombucha in Middletown (858-746-9960); JinBucha in North Park (858-876-5464); Tapshack in Ocean Beach (619-663-5184).

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For a long time, well not so long really, I'd been wondering just what kombucha was. You have told me far more than I ever wanted to know. Decades of tea drinking have not left me wanting something more exotic in teas. I'll take my hot, freshly steeped tea, and be satisfied.

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