I HAVE NEVER tasted kombucha. I've smelled kombucha once. Kombucha smells exactly like a bottle-return machine in the middle of July. I don't mean kombucha kind of smells like a bottle-return machine in the middle of July, or that the smell reminds me of a bottle-return machine in the middle of July, like how "every time I smell lavender, I think of my dearest Abigail" or whatever, I mean it fucking smells like a bottle-return machine.
Now, five years after smelling kombucha for the first time, I'm forcing myself to taste it. I'm real bummed out about it, too. REAL bummed out. As I write this, I'm staring at three bottles of kombucha, and I can't stop grimacing. FUCK. Okay. Here it goes.
Townshend's Tea Company's "Brew Dr. Kombucha"
Presentation: "Dr. Kombucha" sounds like someone who'd ruin an outdoor music festival. I'm skeptical of the whole "Doctor" thing... like, this is definitely a kombucha that got a doctorate in creative writing or dance but still insists that you call it "doctor." The label boasts that each bottle contains 2.2 billion organisms, which is fun if only because this is the first time I've felt like Unicron before drinking something I bought at Whole Foods.
Smell: Fruity vinegar. It doesn't smell unpleasant, but I don't trust it. I was in a kitchen in LA that smelled like this, and the dude who lived there was in an open relationship, so...
Taste: Oh holy shit, I like it. I'm not even stoned. It's like bubbly apple-cider tea! The first swig had kind of a weird aftertaste, and my stomach grumbled like a Daughter of the American Revolution watching a couple of gay people get married. I'm skeptical of how much I enjoy it, like BIG KOMBUCHA heard of my dubious nature and switched out my kombucha with some Martinelli's. Oh god, what if I like kombucha?
GT's "Organic Raw Kombucha: Original"
Presentation: It looks kind of like a medicine bottle. Who's the real Dr. Kombucha, eh? Nobody. It's not a thing. The bottle has a message to its loyal customers assuring that they've changed their labeling rather than changing the way they make their product—not like those fucking punks at Townshend's Tea Company! (I added that part about Townshend's, but wouldn't a kombucha feud be fun? It would.)
Smell: Healthy breakfast, but like, during the last day of Burning Man.
Taste: Pleasant! It's fruity and effervescent and my tongue kind of feels like it's coated in something weird, but that's probably just my body's immune system making sure I don't enjoy the taste so much that I accidentally join the String Cheese Incident.
Búcha's "Lemongrass Ginger"
Presentation: Búcha? You want me to call you Búcha? Listen to me, I've learned through the writing of this column that I actually like kombucha, but if someone walked into my apartment and said, "Hey, we're gonna longboard down to New Seasons to pick up a sixer of 'bucha," I'd kill that person. I'd fucking kill them.
Smell: Lemongrass and ginger and compost, but not in a terrible way.
Taste: This is the fizziest one by far, and the ginger and lemongrass flavors are as subtle as ginger and lemongrass can be. It's tasty. It's a tasty treat and I wanted to fucking hate it so bad. I bought it like, "Yeah, this is the one I'll hate because it's called 'bucha."
Well, goddammit, I like kombucha. What else have I been wrong about? Stay tuned for my next column "I'd Fuck Kale." @IanKarmel