The 'booch is going big time.
All around the world, kombucha—the fizzy, fermented tea with ancient origins and obscure health benefits—is blowing up. It's one of the fastest-growing sectors of the beverage industry, with a global market share projected to reach nearly $6 billion by 2025, and even giants like Pepsi and Peet's Coffee are getting into the game.
What was once thought of as the province of hippie homebrewers is now big business. And nowhere is it bigger than in Portland.
Simply put, Portland is kombucha crazy. You could even call us the Kombucha Capital of the United States—a study in 2017 found that we drink 78 percent more of the stuff than anywhere else.
It flies off the shelves at New Seasons. It's on tap at bars and coffee shops all over town. Portland-based Brew Dr.—the third-largest kombucha brand in the country—has sponsorship deals with the Blazers, Timbers and Thorns, putting it on sale at Moda Center and Providence Park. It's even in the Legislature: Last month, Oregon lawmakers introduced a bill to ease tax burdens on brewers.
In this drink-obsessed city, kombucha is becoming as ubiquitous as beer, coffee and CBD-infused everything. And if you haven't tried it yet, now's the time.
We know it isn't for everyone. In its purest form, it looks like a high school science experiment and smells like wet mushrooms. But whether you guzzle it by the growler-ful or retch at the very thought of it, it's already an unavoidable part of Portland culture. So you might as well get acquainted.
In this issue, we're giving you a primer on all things kombucha. For complete newbies, we answer your most basic questions, from where it comes from to what it does to your body to how much you'd have to drink to get drunk. We held a blind taste test of eight locally made kombuchas and ranked the results, and sampled five kombucha-infused products, including candies, hot sauce and "cannabucha."
If you're interested in learning how to make your own, we have homebrewing tips from a local fermentation expert—and if that sounds like too much work, don't worry, we also tell you where to find it on draft. And we spoke to Robert Deering, a Portland native who, in the early '90s, launched America's first bottled kombucha brand, and is now returning to the business after 20 years away.
Kombucha might be an acquired taste, but there's no better city to acquire it than right here. Because in Portland, it's 'Booch City 'Til I Die.