Portland may be nicknamed “Beervana,” but another fermented beverage has recently taken the city by storm. Here’s your guide to what exactly kombucha is, along with where to find the best kombucha in Portland.
Kombucha is a fermented tea made using black or green tea, cane sugar, bacteria and yeast. To create a more dynamic flavor, many brewers add ingredients like ginger, fruit juice or even medicinal herbs. Although the fermentation process creates trace amounts of alcohol, kombucha is closely regulated in Oregon to ensure that each bottle contains less than 0.5% alcohol. This means Kombucha is safe for folks of all ages to purchase and consume.
Kombucha is rumored to date back to seventh-century China, becoming popularized in Russia and Germany in the early 1900s. Demand for kombucha has skyrocketed in America over the last 20 years, with the national commercial kombucha industry generating $500-600 million in sales in 2015 alone.
Why Drink Kombucha?
As a fermented beverage, kombucha is a source of probiotics. Considered an “adaptogen” (a natural product that promotes overall health) by herbal medicine practitioners, the drink is rumored to offer an abundance of health benefits. These include digestive support, energy boosts, immune support and even stress relief. While these claims haven’t been scientifically proven, they’re an extra excuse to enjoy the tasty, refreshing beverage.
If you’ve never tasted kombucha before, brace yourself for a vinegary, lightly carbonated juice. The taste may seem strange at first, but many start to love (and even crave) this uniquely funky beverage before too long.
Where to Find Kombucha in Portland
Portland’s most popular kombucha brand is undoubtedly Brew Dr. Kombucha. This brand uses Townshend’s Teas and organic botanicals to make lightly fermented beverages that are perfect for beginners. Their stubby kombucha bottles can be found in more than 100 locations across Portland, as well as select shops across the United States and Canada. For the freshest experience, visit a Townshend’s Teahouse location to sample from a rotating selection of flavors. These include spiced apple, “superberry,” vanilla oak and citrus hops. (Pro tip: The Montavilla teahouse has all 10 flavors on tap!)
Portland is home to a number of delicious up-and-coming kombucha brands, as well. North Portland brewer Lion Heart has pioneered a dry style of kombucha, offering low-sugar flavors like wild blueberry and lemon lavender. Find Lion Heart kombucha on tap at locations including Cultured Caveman and Academy Theater and on shelves at New Seasons grocery stores. Family-owned Oregonic Tonic also operates out of North Portland, brewing up seasonal flavors such as hibiscus blood orange, white peach and “chaibucha.” Find Oregonic Tonic on tap at The Arbor Lodge and at stores like Green Zebra and World Foods.
Eva Sippl of Eva’s Herbucha draws upon her education as a German Heilpraktiker (natural health practitioner) to craft functional brews filled with medicinal herbs. Try a relaxing Rose City Blend, which uses oat straw and passionflower to fight anxiety. The Uplifting Blend is made with mood-boosting St. John’s wort and damiana.
Lastly, local brand SOMA offers two Portland locations for kombucha lovers to sip and sample their eclectic brews. Their “speakeasy” in St. Johns and taproom on Southeast Belmont Street are both open 365 days a year.
Looking to try more ‘booch? If you keep an eye out, you’ll find a wide range of brands and flavors in restaurants, co-ops and supermarkets throughout the city, both bottled and on tap. You can even grab a glass of kombucha (or fill up a growler!) at the Saturday Portland Farmers Market.