Which Kombucha Brand Is Best? GTs vs Kevita vs Health Ade vs Humm
In the last 12 months, it’s estimated that the world drank nearly 1.4 BILLION dollars worth of kombucha! Now geek out with us for a second and let’s do some fun math here...if we say the average price per bottle of kombucha is $3 that means us crazy humans guzzled down a whopping 466 million bottles of fermented tea last year! In fact, right now, as you read this article, almost 10,000 people will drink another bottle of kombucha! Given most people thought kombucha was just a drink for hippies that played hacky sack only 10 years ago, that is wild! So let's now find out which commercial kombucha brand is best - this is the battle of GTs vs Kevita vs Health Ade vs Humm!
Table of Contents
With this much kombucha being drunk, we thought it time to put the leading kombucha brands under the Essential Stacks spotlight, so we can show you how they compare, and of course help you work out what’s best. That way, the next time you're at the refrigerated section of your health food store, staring down at all those kombucha options, you’ll be able to make an informed choice.
Quick summary of our findings
How we're comparing the brands
So the 4 brands we’ve chosen for this article are GTs, Kevita, Health Ade and Humm. While GTs is the biggest selling brand in the USA by a mile, the other 3 are hot on GTs heels. And in this review we’re going to compare the brands on everything from how long they ferment their kombucha, to how they flavor it, and even what probiotics are included. By the end of this article, you are going to be a Kombucha expert!
Now, just before we get into the Battle of the Buchas, I just want to say that like all product reviews here at Essential Stacks we receive zero compensation or incentive from the companies we are reviewing, which means we are completely unbiased. And as you’ll see in this review, we don’t hold anything back when analyzing companies in the digestive health space.
And that’s because our mission here at Essential Stacks is to help you discover what truly works and what doesn’t, for good gut health.
Keeping things fair
Naturally, to make this comparison fair, we need to make sure that we’re comparing apples with apples. And after a bit of research we found that these 4 brands have 1 flavor in common, which is ginger. So in other words, in this Battle of the Buchas we’re going to compare ginger with ginger!
And in the spirit of keeping things fair, we’re also noting the bottle size of each kombucha. And as you'll see they do vary a bit. This will become important later in the article when we compare things like sugar content, probiotic count and so on. And that’s because we’ll need to standardize the serving size to accurately to compare them. So with all of that out of the way, let’s get into our findings...
Which brand makes the best quality kombucha?
1. Fermentation period
First up, let’s look at how long each brand ferments their kombucha. This is important, because kombucha should be fermented for some time in order to give the SCOBY the chance to work its magic.
As you can see from the table above, there are some huge differences here. While GTs kombucha undergoes a fermentation period of 30 days, the other brands are not so forthcoming. For Kevita, as of the date of this article - and this applies to all the data we talk about in this article - when it comes to their fermentation period we simply couldn’t find any discussion on their site or product literature.
Meanwhile for Health Ade, all you’ll find on their site is that they ferment for “a few weeks”. But after some digging, and I mean serious digging, we did find an old interview with the founders, where they said they typically ferment for 14 to 21 days.
Finally, Humm simply says they use a “proprietary kombucha fermentation process”. So when it comes to the fermentation period, we’re awarding GTs as the winner. Not only do they ferment for a good period of time, but they’re also fully transparent about it.
2. Type of tea
So now let’s take a look at what type of tea each brand uses for their kombucha. And here’s what we found. They are all using a mix of black and green tea. But the big difference comes from Kevita, who appears to be using tea extracts.
Obviously, when it comes to food and beverages - where possible we like to avoid extracts where we can and use the original ingredient itself. So for this round, it is a joint tie between GTs, Health Ade & Humm.
3. Organic ingredients
In the world of health products, organic is a big deal, because it means you get to enjoy a product free of fertilizers, pesticides and other growth regulators. So who’s using organic ingredients?
Well as we can see in the table above, bravo to all the kombucha brands here. Because they are doing a fantastic job when it comes to sourcing organic tea, as well as the other ingredients that go into kombucha, such as organic juices and flavorings.
Not only that, but they also all have the USDA Organic stamp of approval on their products. So let’s call it a tie.
4. Non-GMO ingredients
While we’re looking at purity standards, let’s see if they’re all avoiding GMO ingredients. So once again, they’re all doing a great job, including being certified by the Non-GMO Project. Once again, a tie.
5. How they sweeten their tea
Now let’s take a look at what sugar source they each use to sweeten the tea before it is fermented. Keep in mind that you always do need a sugar source when making kombucha - as this is what fuels the SCOBY and the fermentation process.
And as we can see, on the one hand we’ve got GTs using kiwi juice, while the others are using simple cane sugar. Funny enough, Humm is actually using a mix of fruit juice in the form of white grape juice, as well as cane sugar.
So who wins this round? Well, it has to go to GTs right. After all, they are using a less processed form of sugar, and one that fits our food-first philosophy.
6. Pasteurized vs unpasteurized kombucha
Now it's time to get a little controversial, as we look at how the brands treat their kombucha after it has been fermented. Meaning, do they heat it up, which is something we call pasteurization. Or do they stick true to the traditional kombucha brewing process and leave it untouched, which is to say raw and unpasteurized?
As we can see GTs and Humm are going the old school approach. Both are clearly unpasteurized. And this is in fact a huge point they like to mention throughout their branding. By contrast, for Kevita we can see they “gently pasteurize” it.
Meanwhile, for Health Ade...it’s not that clear. They actually don’t mention it on their website or in their product literature. But of course, we did some digging and contacted their team. In their email reply they stated “...we gently and quickly heat the liquid to prevent the growth of unwanted pathogens and limit the amount of alcohol…”.
If you want to learn more about how we view pasteurization in the context of commercial kombucha and whether we think it’s necessary, checkout our article on Kevita kombucha.
But in short, for us here at Essential Stacks where we are obsessed with gut health, we like to see kombucha made as close to its traditional brewing process as possible. And that’s because it means all the potential goodies made during fermentation, such as beneficial bacteria, yeasts & acids, can stay alive.
So on that basis, this round is a joint tie between GTs & Humm.
7. How do they flavor their kombuchas
Now, let’s look at how the leading brands flavor their ginger kombuchas. As you can see straight away, there are some big differences here as well. What’s really great to see is that GTs, Health Ade and Humm, are all using organic ginger juice. Which is fantastic given how well ginger can support digestive health. It’s also great to see Health Ade and Humm adding in some other juices from either lemon or apple. Simple food ingredients like this are to be applauded.
What’s less exciting for us, is seeing a lot of extracts, essences and natural flavors. Because let’s be honest - they are shortcuts and a missed opportunity to incorporate the original ingredients themselves, which often have beneficial health properties.
So for this round, we’re awarding a tie between GTs & Health Ade, who’ve both done a fantastic job of keeping their flavorings simple.
Which kombucha tastes best? (Taste test review!)
Even though the health properties of kombucha are important, I know the taste is probably just as important, because if something doesn’t taste great, you’re probably not going to come back and drink it again and again.
So I’ll do a taste test for you.
First, I’ll tell you how bubble or effervescent it is. And for this, I’ll use a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is flat and 10 is like the bubbliness of soda water. And then after that, I’ll tell you what the flavor profile is like.
1. GTs kombucha taste test
Okay, so straight up GTs is delicious. In terms of bubbliness, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. Which means it has some really nice bubbles like a naturally fermented kombucha should, but is not over the top like a soda.
In terms of taste, it has a really balanced flavor profile, which means you can taste the acidity of the kombucha itself, but then it is balanced out nicely by some sweetness and of course the ginger juice.
2. Kevita kombucha taste test
Now, Kevita on the other hand, is not my cup of tea. Although it has nice bubbles - probably a 5 out of 10 - they fall away pretty quickly.
In terms of flavor, it is bursting with sweetness, and you can really taste the ginger and lemon, as well as some bitterness. None of that surprises me, given the ingredients. But to be fair, a lot of people may like this, especially since it is more of a kombucha soda, than a normal kombucha.
And hey, Kevita sells a lot of kombucha. So there’s definitely a market out there for this type of flavor.
3. Health Ade kombucha taste test
Health Ade is really similar to GTs. Same level of bubbles and similar flavor profile, though a bit stronger. It feels like an amped up version of GTs. The ginger and lemon notes in particular, really stand out. And some of us may like that. I can definitely see it appealing to new kombucha drinkers.
4. Humm kombucha taste test
So now Humm - this one is interesting. In terms of bubbles, I’d say it is a bit flatter than the others, probably a 3 out of 10. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. And it kind of reminds me of the bubbliness you get when making kombucha at home.
In terms of flavor, it's a lot milder than the other drinks. Both the acidity and sweet flavors are toned down. And this might suit a lot of people. Particularly, those of us who drink a lot of kombucha.
So who wins the taste test? Well, for myself it’s GTs. But hey, taste is totally subjective, and so for this round we’re NOT going to award a winner.
How much probiotics in each kombucha?
1. Probiotic strains
So now let’s take a look at what probiotics are actually inside these 4 leading kombucha brands. After all, probiotics are a huge reason people are turning to kombucha these days.
Okay, so as you can see in the table just above...this is fascinating.
GTs is using 3 types of probiotics in their kombucha, while the other brands are just using 1 type of probiotic. Generally speaking, it's better to have diversity in strains, since they each help your gut health in different ways. So GTs is winning in this regard.
In terms of the quality of each strain they’re using - well, we could talk for days about this, and in fact, guess what, we have! So if you want to geek out on the probiotic strains and see what we think about all of them, you can find our in-depth analysis in the 4 kombucha brand review articles we did...
Safe to say, GTs wins this round.
2. Probiotic count (CFUs)
Now let's look at how many probiotics each brand puts in 1 bottle of their kombucha. Because it’s a funny thing right, so many of us buy products because we see the word “probiotics” on it. And we just assume they are bursting with billions of good bacteria. Yet many times it’s not the case. So it’s always a good idea to check the label to see the specific amount. And to save you time, you can find the data we found in the table above
So once again...some big differences here between the brands!
GTs for example, is including a whopping 9 billion CFUs of probiotics in every bottle. By contrast, Health Ade has just 1 billion and Humm 2 billion. And well, for Kevita - their official marketing says they include “billions”. But given how unclear that is, we in fact got in contact with them. And they said: “We aim to have 2 billion live CFUs in every 12 oz serving”. So given 1 bottle of Kevita is 15.2 oz or 450 mils, our rough calculations suggest they put about 2.53 billion CFUs in every bottle.
3. Probiotic count (Standardized)
Now, remember earlier in the article, we talked about how the bottles come In different sizes. Well, let’s see how many probiotics you get in each brand when you make them all the same size.
So as you can see above, if we make them all 12 fl oz or 355 mils in size - which we chose because it's the CDC consumption limit for kombucha - then their probiotic count changes a bit.
Nonetheless, the rankings remain the same, with GTs in first place by a mile, followed by Kevita, then Humm and finally Health Ade.
How much alcohol, caffeine, sugar and calories are in them?
Since kombucha is a fermented product, it can contain some alcohol, which is created during the fermentation process. Over the years the kombucha brands have been caught up in scandals that showed their products were over the non-alcohol limit of 0.5%. We actually called it "Kombucha Gate" and you can read more about it in our article on Kombucha Dangers.
So with that context in mind, let’s see how much alcohol you’ll find these days in their kombuchas.
Okay, so as we can see everyone is under 0.5%, which means these kombuchas meet the definition of non-alcohol drinks. So, we’ll call this round a tie.
Now, as a tea based beverage, it's worth us quickly looking at how much caffeine is in each of these kombuchas. That way you don’t need to worry about getting too buzzed after downing a few kombuchas.
So as we can see, GTs and Health Ade are pretty similar, sitting around the 10mg mark. Humm on the other hand says you’ll get 14mg of caffeine per 8 oz serve, which is not very useful given their bottles are 14 oz in size. So some quick maths tells us that in a full bottle of Humm, you’ll actually get around 25mg of caffeine. Which is now more than double the average amount in GTs and Health Ade.
Meanwhile, looking at Kevita we can see some even higher caffeine numbers, with a typical bottle delivering nearly 70mg of caffeine. That’s basically a cup of coffee! And that actually seemed strange to us, so we did a bit of digging for you and found out they intentionally add extra caffeine to their product.
3. Caffeine (Standardized)
Now, given the brands use different bottle sizes, what happens if we standardize the bottle size? Well as we can see, the results are much easier to compare.
In terms of who wins this round...well, kombucha is not meant to be an overly caffeinated drink. In fact, the fermentation process actually reduces the caffeine content in the original tea. So keeping in the spirit of kombucha, this round goes to GTs & Health Ade, who both deliver low caffeine kombucha, the way it should be.
Given kombucha is seen as a health drink and especially as a healthy alternative to soda, let’s take a close look at how much sugar you’ll find in these drinks. As you can see here Humm is doing really well with just 9 grams or 3 teaspoons of sugar per bottle. While GTs and Health Ade are close, and Kevita is a bit further out with 16 grams or 4 teaspoons per bottle.
5. Sugar (Standardized)
Now let’s quickly standardize the sizes, so we can more accurately compare the sugar content. And as we can see here the sugar rankings remain the same, with Humm winning the low sugar wars ahead of GTs. What we found really interesting to see here, is that the difference between the lowest and highest sugar kombuchas is just 1 teaspoon of sugar. So in other words, all the brands are doing pretty well.
It’s worth noting too, that Humm also offers a zero sugar version of their kombucha, called Humm Zero. And you can learn more about that, including the trade offs involved, in our review of Humm kombucha.
Whatever way you look at it, Humm is the low sugar winner.
Given that sugar is the main energy source in all these kombuchas, the amount of calories in each kombucha mirrors what we just saw with sugar. But let’s take a quick look anyways. So once again, they’re all very close. But I think the big takeaway here is just how low in calories these flavored kombuchas are.
7. Calories (Standardized)
For example, if we standardize them to 12 fl oz or 355 mils, we get these numbers. And if we compare them to say Coca Cola, which has 140 calories for this serving size, which is roughly 3-4 times as many calories, then we can really appreciate how much healthier kombucha is as a refreshing drink. And in terms of a winner here...well, it follows the sugar battle...and Humm wins again...but only just.
How do the brands compare on price?
Finally, let’s look at price. After all, kombucha might just be one of the most expensive non-alcohol drinks on the market. So as of the day of this article, here are the results just above.
2. Price (Standardized)
But again, to make it a fair comparison, let’s standardize the size to 12 fl oz or 355 mils. And now we get the results you can see in the 2nd row above.
So GTs and Kevita are neck and neck on price, with Kevita just winning at $2.37. Both are providing good value for money. Meanwhile for Health Ade and Humm, once we standardize the size, it turns out they are actually the same price per oz, sitting at roughly $3 each for a 12 oz size. Hopefully you can see why it’s important to compare apples with apples !
And in terms of calling a winner it’s Kevita by a nose over GTs.
3. Price per billion CFUs probiotics
Now, wrapping things up, if the main reason you drink your kombucha is for the probiotics, we have a metric you might find really useful.
And that is how much does 1 billion CFUs of probiotics cost with each of these kombuchas. Obviously, we can get this number by simply dividing the price by the total billion CFU count in each bottle. And since we’re dividing by price, there’s no need to standardize sizes.
As you can see from the results above, there are some huge differences here. GTs is giving us the best probiotic bang for our buck. It costs us just 37 cents to enjoy 1 billion CFUs of probiotics. Kevita is about 3 times as expensive at $1.19 per 1 billion CFUs, and Humm is not far behind at $1.75. Then in the last spot is Health Ade, where we find ourselves spending $4 to get this 1 billion dose of probiotics. So the clear winner is GTs.
Which kombucha brand is best? (Our verdict)
So there you go - you now know exactly how the kombucha brands compare, what to look out for when studying their labels, and hopefully, you can see which one is best for you.
In terms of our favorite, well, it has to be GTs. After all, GTs has an amazing founder behind it in GT Dave. They make kombucha in line with the traditional brewing process. Their end product is as authentic a kombucha as you can possibly buy.
And as we just saw it's an affordable kombucha too. And actually, the best value when you take into account probiotic diversity and CFU count.
An evidence hierarchy is followed to ensure conclusions are formed off of the most up-to-date and well-designed studies available. We aim to reference studies conducted within the past five years when possible.
- Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Controlled trials without randomization
- Case-control (retrospective) and cohort (prospective) studies
- A systematic review of descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method studies
- A single descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method study
- Studies without controls, case reports, and case series
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- In vitro research