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Why Is Kombucha So Expensive? (And How to Reduce the Cost)

Why Is Kombucha So Expensive? (And How to Reduce the Cost)
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Kombucha is a drink that has been making quite the rounds over the past few years. For those who don’t know, Kombucha is essentially tea fungus, or tea mushrooms, as some people like to call it.

It has risen in popularity over the past few years mainly because of the numerous health benefits that it provides. Kombucha is lightly effervescent and fermented over time.

It’s essentially mixed with black or green tea, and many people like to drink it because of the health advantages that the drink is likely to offer. Some people even like to call it kombucha tea, mainly because they want to avoid the negative connotations attached to the presence of yeast or bacteria.

But, before we talk about the main reasons why Kombucha is so expensive, it’s important to understand the history behind the drink.

The History of Kombucha

While there has been considerable debate, you should know that the exact origins of Kombucha are still unknown. However, most experts agree that Kombucha probably originated in the region of Manchuria.

The history of Kombucha is still not clear about its origins. Some people believe that it became popular as far back as 2,000 years ago, whereas others say that Kombucha was only discovered a mere two centuries ago.

There have been reports of Kombucha being drunk in parts of Russia as far back as the early 1900s, and that is probably how the drink entered Europe.

During the 21st century, Kombucha became considerably more popular in the United States, and its consumption increased dramatically in the country too.

Kombucha has an alcohol content of under 0.5%, and because of this reason, the drink is not regulated in the United States under federal guidelines.

Before 2015, there were a few commercially available brands producing Kombucha that contained alcohol that exceeded the 0.5% mark.

This eventually sparked debate and a bunch of new testing methods were introduced. Even though its popularity was on the rise in the 21st century, especially in developed countries,

Kombucha sales actually skyrocketed due to the unique new marketing techniques used by business owners.

Companies began to tout Kombucha as an alternative to beer and various other alcoholic drinks sold in pubs and nightclubs. Kombucha is made by mixing the kombucha culture within a broth of sugared tea.

The sugar is a nutrient used to allow for bacterial growth.

Producing Kombucha

You might already know that Kombucha can be made at home, or you can buy commercial brands. It is essentially made by dissolving sugar into non-chlorinated boiling water.

The tea leaves must be steeped in the sugar water (while it is boiling) and are then discarded later.

The SCOBY culture must be added once the sweetened tea has cooled down, after which the mixture is transferred to a beaker (sterilized before use). The fermented kombucha tea is also added in the beaker to bring down the pH value of the whole mixture and kept for fermentation.

A paper towel or a thin piece of cloth is used to cover the beaker so that insects or flies are unable to enter the beaker and contaminate the mixture within the beaker. Have you ever wondered why Kombucha is so expensive? What are the factors that contribute to the rising costs?

Let’s look at everything in detail and determine just how much effort and labor goes into producing kombucha on a commercial scale.

Marketing

One of the main reasons why Kombucha is so expensive is primarily due to marketing reasons.

Companies that manufacture kombucha have now begun to tout it as a health drink. Some even claim that Kombucha is a healthier alternative to beer and can be consumed on a regular basis.

As companies have begun touting this notion that kombucha is healthier and a viable alternative to beer, there has been a major increase in sales, and companies have ended up increasing the price too.

Several companies have also introduced different kombucha flavors that you can choose from as well.

Needless to say, you need to understand the demand and supply equation to get a better idea about the difference in pricing. Remember, in many free market economies, the price of goods is usually not determined by the cost of the product.

In fact, the price is usually determined based on the supply of product in the market.

Since many people want to buy kombucha, and there are hardly a few sellers out there (the market is still gaining traction and increasing over time), it is easy to see why sellers try to maximize their profits by selling the drink at higher rates.

This is the basic law of economics that determines how prices tend to differ based on the supply of the product.

Space, Labor, and Time

Then, you also have to factor in the cost of space, labor, and time. To make kombucha, the tea leaves need to be prepared and brewed accordingly.

Not only that, but they must be strained and then transferred into jars. The SCOBY must be removed, the drink needs to be bottled, and then carbonated afterward.

Needless to say, this requires a considerable amount of labor and time. Kombucha that is made using machines is obviously less expensive and more readily available; you can easily find it on shelves at your local supermarket.

However, you should know that more artisan products, such as handmade kombucha, are obviously going to be expensive.

Furthermore, companies have to dedicate a considerable amount of space to the production of kombucha, and the cost is allocated based on the amount of rent. If a smaller company is producing artisan kombucha, they are obviously going to allocate the costs of the rent, which further jacks up the price.

Then, there’s the time factor. The brewing process for kombucha takes anywhere between a few days to a week or so.

Manufacturers usually increase the prices to factor in the element of time and the opportunity cost involved in producing the kombucha, such as allocating the resources needed to produce the drink.

The Ingredients

Now, here comes the funny part: the ingredients used for kombucha are certainly not expensive. The ingredients required for making kombucha are as follows: sugar, water, SCOBY culture, optional flavors (if needed), and loose leaf tea or tea bags.

As you can see, none of these materials are generally expensive, and are all easy to find.

Kombucha can be made using relatively simple ingredients, and you don’t need any specialized equipment unless you are going to make it on a larger scale. By using a mere 20 grams of loose leaf tea, one can easily make upwards of 1 gallon of kombucha.

Even if you use premium tea leaves, such as those that will cost around $5 for 20 grams, the price of the drink won’t go that high.

Other Elements

You should know that kombucha produced on a mass scale is generally pasteurized and filtered before being bottled. This increases the cost.

Companies often use expensive glass bottles, many of which are recyclable and come with a bunch of fancy labels attached, which increases the price slightly.

If you buy “natural” kombucha that hasn’t been pasteurized or filtered, the price is likely to be a bit higher. That’s primarily because the kombucha must be refrigerated for long periods of time so that it doesn’t continue to ferment over time.

There is a risk that the bottle might explode due to the excessive fermentation, so companies need to factor in the electrical costs of keeping their refrigerators running around the clock.

Then, you have the added flavors. If you go for flavored kombucha, such as acai berry or ginger flavor, the cost is likely to be a bit higher.

That primarily has to do with the fact that these additional flavors come at an extra cost, and companies usually factor those in when determining the price of the kombucha.

How Can You Reduce the Cost of DIY Kombucha?

Many people like to make kombucha all by themselves. If you are going to make the drink on your own, you should know that there are a few ways by which you can bring the price down.

As mentioned above, the ingredients used for kombucha are definitely not expensive, and they are all readily available in the local markets.

The Cost Breakdown

First and foremost, let’s talk about the cost breakdown for Kombucha. First of all, you are going to need something in which you can brew the drink, and you need a decent container that can hold at least a gallon of the liquid.

Metal isn’t a wise choice, so you should consider going for a container made out of plastic or glass.

They are both readily available, and shouldn’t cost you that much. In general, a standard container is going to cost you around $10 at most. Then, you are going to have to invest in a plastic funnel, and if you are going to put in extra flavors in your drink, you will need to buy some smaller bottles, either made of glass or plastic.

You can also reuse wine bottles that you have lying around the house, or you can just visit your local IKEA and buy everything that you need. By this time, you will have spent just around the $20 mark.

Now, you are going to need SCOBY. This is the probiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that will actually work to make the kombucha.

SCOBY is available online, but you don’t even have to pay for it in some instances. There are quite a few aficionados who believe that SCOBY should be given away for free since it is for the benefit of mankind, so all it takes is a bit of digging and you are good to go.

A good, healthy SCOBY is going to increase and double in size with each batch, so you can just peel it off and share it with others. So, you might want to do a bit of research and find out who makes kombucha. You can get in touch with them and see if they have any SCOBY to share.

Once you are done, you will be able to make the kombucha on your own. You will need to start by boiling four cups of water and steeping them for around seven minutes.

The method for producing the kombucha at home is largely the same, and it will take around a week for the drink to ferment properly.

Remember, you will have to leave the drink in a warm spot (don’t leave it directly under the hot sun), for around 20 days to make sure that the drink is properly fermented.

Ideally, you should start tasting the drink at least after a week. The best way to do that is by poking a straw through the floating SCOBY and then taste the drink on your own.

The drink will continue to become sour the longer you leave it out. Some people like the drink to be very sour, so for that, you will have to leave it for around 20 days.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to drink your kombucha that sour, you can just take it out after 7 to 10 days.

Now, if you want, you can always add additional flavors to your kombucha. You can add fruits, concentrates, and artificial flavors, all as per your liking, with relative ease.

Remember, you have to make sure that you open the kombucha bottles at least once in every 24 or 48 hours so that there isn’t an excessive buildup of pressure.

If you already have used items lying around the house, you can save money on the cost of buying new fixtures and assets. It’s a great way to save money.

Furthermore, you can always sell the kombucha online to offset the costs and save even more money in the process.

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