Guest Post: Madeleine Starkey

Love Life and Lollipops- G.T. Kombucha

I've mentioned my friend Maddy before (here, here, and here, and most likely somewhere else;).  She is sassy and smart and I lover her to pieces.  And though she is years younger than me, she teaches me new things all the time.  Mad is the lady responsible for getting me on the vegetarian track! I asked her to write me something for the blog (which I'll undoubtedly do again and if she's willing: regularly).  So with no further adieu...Madeleine Starkey:

Kombucha is a big part of the vegan diet for many people.

If you are at all a health food aficionado you have most likely heard of kombucha.  Until recently, komucha was sold in Whole Foods across the country.  Whole Foods carried the most popular and ubiquitous brand, G.T. Other, smaller health food retailers similarly stocked the brand.  While other kombucha suppliers and manufacturers exist, G.T. has undeniably been the most frequently purchased, and the most recognizable.

According to Wikipedia, kombucha is "a fermented tea that is often drunk for medicinal purposes. There is limited scientific information supporting any health benefit and few studies are being conducted, although there are several centuries of anecdotal accounts supporting some of the health benefits attributed to the tea. Kombucha is available commercially and can be made at home by fermenting tea using a visible, solid mass of yeast and bacteria which forms the kombucha culture which is often referred to as the 'mushroom' or the 'mother'".

Proponents of the fermented beverage consider it an elixir that improves immune function, hair and skin health, and that supports the proliferation of of "good bacteria" of probiotics in the digestive process.

Skeptics feel such claims are anecdotal rather than proven, and further they fear the potential hazards of home-brewed kombucha.  The risks of home brewing include contamination and mold.

The underground kombucha culture was going strong until suddenly, earlier this summer, G.T. took a hiatus from distributing its products.  According to G.T.'s website,

Understandably evasive, G.T. fails to address on its website the reason for the recall.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Whole Foods pulled all Kombucha from its shelves after "determining it contained more than the usual trace amount of alcohol."
While the Baltimore Sun article suggests Whole Foods pulled all Kombucha brands, G.T. Dave only addressed its brand's alcohol content controversy:
"We are investigating reports of the potential for slightly elevated alcohol levels in our Kombucha products that may be occurring after the product has been bottled and has left our facility. Although our products are tested to be compliant at the time of shipping, a subsequent increase in alcohol levels could potentially cause the product to go above 0.5% causing potential labeling issues. We are working quickly to identify the possible causes and which lot codes and/or regions are being potentially affected. Please keep in mind that this is not related to any type of food contamination, is not a recall, had NOTHING to do with Lindsay Lohan and that you can still find our products at certain retailers. We are trying our best to get our product back on the shelves of every store. Until that happens, you can check the store locator featured on our website for further information on these retailers."

Furthermore, it seems the Whole Foods embargo incited a suspension of all kombucha sales at Whole Foods, and G.T. Kombucha sales at smaller retailers.

While smaller retailers have started to carry G.T. kombucha again, it has yet to return to Whole Foods.

To stay updated on G.T. Kombucha specifically, check G.T.'s facebook page, which promises to let its fans know the moment it starts supplying its product again.
Personally, I've had nothing but good experiences with kombucha (I do prefer G.T. brand, and my favorite flavors include Guava Goddess, Gingerberry, and Gingerade). I'm glad to have found the G.T. Kombucha facebook page, since I cannot wait until it's back at Whole Foods.  For now, I can find it at Yes! Organic Markets in D.C.  And this just might lead me to switch up my go-to grocery destination from Whole Foods to Yes!