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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

House Kombucha: Mild and Pure Enough For Doubters

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Even intestinal parasites, perhaps an occupational hazard, can't stop SFoodie.

When you're killing everything inside you with antibiotics, rather than the cocktails you normally employ, that leads you, when mobile enough, to the kombucha section of your grocer's beverage case.

Why? If you're a kombucha fan you already know the answer: the miracle drink is supposed to restore the nice bacteria in your gut, without giving aid and succor to those awful invaders that seemed friendly enough when you swallowed them.

I confess, I am not a kombucha fan. I don't like the sour, sharp, slightly rotting taste. There are plenty of fermented foods I do enjoy, wine being atop the list, and I'm also a big fan of sauerkraut and tsukemono (Japanese-style pickles).

However, I must have some Chinese ancestors, because in addition to thinking dim sum is the greatest breakfast ever, I believe food is as important as medicine in healing. Thus I grunted to the store to, well, drink my medicine.

Fortunately, Bi-Rite Market seems to be staffed by kombucha fanatics, and while they all had different favorite flavors, each one I asked separately recommended House brand kombucha, locally brewed in SOMA.

The 50-cent deposit jar with a label that looks like it was hand-applied with library paste appeals to my locavore, small-company aesthetic, which is a good thing, because when I explained to a Bi-Rite staffer that I don't like the taste of kombucha, she tried to talk me out of buying House.

"That's the real kombucha taste," she said. "Some of these others are easier if you just want the benefits."

I took home the Rose Black favor first; the "Black" stands for black tea. Sure, it tastes like kombucha, but with a first-day-fermented, gentler sourness. The rose petals are a light accent, as is the black tea.

Emboldened, I tried the Jasmine Green flavor and disliked it; the tea flavors are weaker, and the kombucha seems more intense.

But then I tried the Sun Blossom flavor and that may be my favorite. Flavored with white tea and sweet orange blossoms, it's very mild and tastes more of citrus, perhaps kumquat, than sourness. It does leave some sourness on the aftertaste, along with a slight yeastiness, but these are sensations open to interpretation. I can easily see how, if one drank it every day, one would begin to mark them as positives. And I much prefer these aftertastes to, say, artificial fruit flavors.

House Kombucha sprang from the now-departed Underground Market in 2009, and is yet another reason to mourn the market's demise. It's ironic, in this case, that the Health Department shut down a market that led to the development of this very healthy product.

House kombuchas are relatively expensive at $3.99 for 16 oz. with that 50 cent deposit. They're available all over town now, and even on tap at Rancho Parnassus at 505 Minna (at 6th St.) I won't say I'm a convert, but I do have three more jars in the house.

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W. Blake Gray


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