Kombucha is known for its distinctive flavour and unique set of potential health benefits. However, those that are new to the brew still have plenty of questions about how it’s made and who can drink it. We’ve covered a few of these topics so far — from the alcohol content of kombucha to consumption while pregnant — but there’s one concern in particular that specifically affects the Muslim community: is kombucha halal?
We want everybody to be able to confidently back kombucha, so we’re proud to say that No. 1 Living kombucha is considered 100% halal. This might surprise some readers — after all, how can this be when fermented products contain alcohol? Let’s discuss.
What exactly does halal mean?
Halal is the Arabic word for “permissible”, and describes something that adheres to Islamic law. The term is often used to categorise certain foods, drinks, cosmetics and clothes — in contrast with those that are haram, meaning “forbidden”. For the most part, whether something is considered halal or haram comes down to how it is produced, and whether this aligns with the moral principles of the Qur’an, the sacred book of Islam.
Lots of everyday food and drink is haram, for a variety of reasons — but one common theme is purity. If something is deemed impure by Islam’s teachings, it is generally considered haram. Some common examples include pork, shellfish, and indeed, all alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is considered haram because of its intoxicating effects that are believed to take away the purity of the body and mind.
Is drinking kombucha halal?
As we know, most commercially-produced kombucha contains traces of alcohol as a result of the fermentation process. To make kombucha, sweetened tea is combined with a SCOBY (a pancake-shaped culture of bacteria and yeast) that converts the sugar in the tea into ethanol (the key component of alcohol) and acetic acid, giving the brew its bold sour taste.
So, the end result contains alcohol as a by-product of fermentation — but the negligible amount that is naturally produced will not be intoxicating. This is what separates kombucha from haram alcoholic drinks. As a result, Muslims consider drinking kombucha to be halal — not haram.
In fact, store-bought kombucha tends to contain about as much alcohol as some varieties of bread or fruit, at around 0.5% ABV. Most fermented food and drinks (including our water kefir and health shots) are halal so long as they don’t contain over 1.2% ABV — at which point they are considered alcoholic.
How do the fermentation processes behind kombucha and alcohol differ?
So we know how tea fermentation produces kombucha, but how does this differ from the making of alcoholic drinks? The key difference here is the amount of sugar involved in either process. When fermenting tea, the SCOBY breaks down what little sugar there is and naturally produces a tiny amount of alcohol.
However, alcoholic drinks are typically made using a lot of sugar, which is converted into a lot of alcohol in the final product. Wine making, for example, breaks down the plentiful sugars contained in grapes to generate a high concentration of alcohol — providing the inebriating effects.
Still with us? Well, there is one nuance that complicates things a little: homemade kombucha, on the other hand, is sometimes haram. This is because home-setups are not subject to the same regulations and rigorous testing that commercial manufacturers are — and so the alcohol concentration you’ll get is hard to predict. ‘Hard’ kombucha is produced by using different ingredient ratios and fermentation times, and can often contain up to 3% ABV. So, if you’re following a halal diet or trying to avoid alcohol, you should steer clear of homemade batches that might be boozier.