In the last decade kombucha has gone from the suspicious health drink brewed in your woo-woo neighbor’s basement to an $880 million dollar industry in the United States. And Oregon's got a pretty large slice of that.
Home to a combination of the nation’s largest producers and numerous small DIY operations, Oregon is the third largest producer of kombucha in the US, according to Kombucha Brewers International.
Whether you are new to kombucha, taking a break from alcohol with a fermented alternative, seeking the health benefits, or a longtime lover of the “booch,” you can find it all right here, brewed in our backyard.
From humble roots as tea makers first, Brew Dr. got their start in 2008 fermenting their own hand curated tea blends in the basement of their Alberta teahouse. No added flavors or juices: just dried fruit, flowers, botanicals, and spices of high-quality tea.
Since its inception, Brew Dr. has expanded its flavor portfolio for more fruity or ginger forward recipes with carefully sourced local and exotic ingredients. Think organic watermelon juice from Hermiston, mint from Washington, and ginger juice from Peru.
“We try to take kombucha, which can be a very bracing, vinegary, and acidic experience, and we try to bridge that flavor challenge of sweet and sour,” says Brew Dr. CEO and founder Matt Thomas. “It has been really fun to take those constraints off of how we get to our final flavor profile.”
Recently Brew Dr. launched its Founder’s Series for the PNW market, which features rereleases of past recipes. Its current recipe: Northwest Hops, which is “truly a celebration of what you can do with NW hops outside of beer,” explains Thomas.
Unsure where to start? Use the handy tasting notes on the back of the bottle to guide your selection: fruity, spicy, floral, or herbal. Our picks? Clear Mind and Love, for its light herbal and botanical undertones balanced with a sweet finish and slight fermented edge that's easy to drink.
If you are in it for the health benefits, look no further than Soma kombucha, which claims it's the “healthiest kombucha” in the market, with an especially hefty dose of probiotics in every offering.
“It is accessible, but it doesn’t cut corners on being accessible,” says Jean-Pierre Parent, founder and sole owner. “It has all the good stuff, but is easy to drink as well.”
Soma’s slow fermentation process both naturally sweetens each brew with fructose (twice as sweet as table sugar, but without the blood sugar spike—health bonus!) and produces a light, bubbly, carbonated effervescence. The end result? A smooth, drinkable kombucha without the vinegar bite that can be a common deterrent for newbies.
Soma also offers a lineup of allegedly health-promoting ingredients: CBD, medicinal mushrooms, and colloidal silver.
Where to start? Ditch the soda and grab a Flourish Root Brew. At first sip, this Soma Rii kombucha is all sarsaparilla. Hints of ginger, earthy herbals, and a light sweetness shine through in this refined, health-forward root beer replacement.
For the purists out there, Camellia Grove takes its brews back to the true roots of kombucha with a simple fermented tea beverage, with no added sugar, juices, or flavor extracts.
“We are not anti flavors, we just wanted to do something different in the market,” explains co-founder and CEO, Joe Mayol.
Make no mistake, simple ingredients does not equate to simple flavor. Each brew, which is named for the tea varietal used at its base, offers a complexity you would expect from high quality tea. Grassy notes found in green tea and rich, malty notes in black tea shine through in these mildly fermented brews.
“We find a balance. It is not too tart, not too sweet, just something that is very refreshing that you can enjoy with food,” says Mayol.
In just three short years, Camellia Grove has gone from a shared vision between co-founders Mayol and Robert Deering in an online fermentation forum to an award-winning kombucha company.
In the last year, Camellia Grove has partnered with many local restaurants, including Obon Shokaudo, Boke Bowl, Danwei Canting, and the new Smith Teamaker café to pair their kombucha with special food pairings.
Established in 2013 as a spin-off of local teahouse Tea Chai Tea, Happy Mountain has two non-negotiables: stay local and put quality first.
With fewer than 10 employees, CEO Ben Calkin likens the company’s growth to that of a goldfish, outgrowing each small warehouse space until they landed in their current shared production space. The old potato chip factory in NW Portland is a haven of creativity and has afforded Happy Mountain enough room to grow into the local grocery market.
“We have been able to do everything the way we want which has allowed us to keep the quality of our kombucha really high and we haven’t had to make any compromises," says Calkin.
Tea people through and through, Happy Mountain is made simply with a white peony tea base, herbs, extracts, flowers, and spices. “We intentionally designed the taste of Happy Mountain to appeal [both] to the most advanced kombucha drinker and someone that has never had it before," says Calkin.
Grab a peach blossom or dragon fruit from the shelf and you will be pleasantly surprised. Bright fruit flavor comes through at the first sip, balanced by a combination of sweet and tart, but minimal sugar content.
Feeling inspired? Try your hand at brewing with a Happy Mountain home brew kit. It comes complete with all the tools, the same tea used in their brews and that intangible feeling of DIY self-satisfaction.