Over the weekend, hot and sweaty from schlepping groceries, I cracked open a new bottle of kombucha to cool off because I, like the rest of the world, have been obsessed with it lately. But taking a look at the ingredients list, I was surprised to see black tea listed right up top. How'd I miss the fact that kombucha is often made with black tea? And therefore, how did I not know that kombucha has caffeine? Though I'm chocking it up to simply being a kombucha noob, I'm a big tea fan and, uh, I write about this stuff for a living. So I set out to figure out what else I'd missed: Is kombucha always caffeinated? And is there decaffeinated kombucha?
Let's go back to the beginning and establish what kombucha is exactly: Made with tea, sugar, yeast, and probiotic bacteria, kombucha is a fermented beverage that kind of tastes—to me—like extremely effervescent, slightly vinegar-y apple cider. It's delicious. In all the wellness madness, its dose of probiotics is thought to be very good for you. It's also relatively easy to make your own kombucha at home, if you're into that.
Most kombucha you can find in stores is made with black or green tea, which varies in caffeine content from 37-90 grams per eight-ounce cup. (Green tea has less caffeine than black.) The amount of caffeine in kombucha will also vary widely, as there are several variables in every kombucha recipe, starting with the kind of tea, but also including how long the tea was steeping, what the fermentation time was, and even what temperature everything was kept at. Still, it's generally accepted that kombucha will have about 1/3 of the caffeine of whatever tea it was made with. So, if your kombucha was made with a black tea, it's likely that an eight-ounce serving of your kombucha will contain roughly 20 grams of caffeine. It's not a lot, but still some.
However, kombucha doesn't have to contain caffeine. You can make your own kombucha with herbal teas (or just take a look in stores for non-caffeinated tea bases).
Or, if you're like me, stick with the caffeine and drink kombucha to wake you up in the morning.