The answer to this question would seem to be easy, but because of the nature of our Kombucha, it is a bit complicated.
But, we'll get into it in a moment.
Sugar is essential for Kombucha production, as without sugar, fermentation process would not proceed. Sugar is needed by the Kombucha culture (Scoby) in the same way, as we need food to function.
So, during the fermentation process, this sugar is broken down and transformed into organic acids, a bit of alcohol, and also into those lovely, natural bubbles.
When this sugar is totally transformed Kombucha tastes like pure vinegar, so it is important to stop the fermentation process before Kombucha reaches that state.
Otherwise, it would be difficult to enjoy Kombucha if it tasted like a vinegar.
Since we use different teas and tea-like substances, we do not let our Kombucha reach that point. Too many vinegary notes would ruin delicate tea notes.
A residual amount of sugar is always needed to be present in Kombucha, as that sugar counter-balances the organic acids that are formed during the fermentation process.
When we make our Kombucha, we use the same amount of sugar, regardless which Kombucha we make. So, the starting point is always the same and it is as minimal as possible.
A certain amount of sugar is needed for proper fermentation and to maintain the proper Scoby health, it is not recommended to go below that amount.
We use 55 gr per liter and the amount is precisely measured, so it is exactly the same amount per liter, no matter how much, or which one Kombucha we make.
Just for comparison, medicinal Kombucha made in the 1980s and 1990s was calling for 100-150 gr of sugar per liter.
The sugar that we use is called Demerara and it it a form of sugar that is extracted from sugarcane, and it is minimally processed.
As a matter of fact, it is still considered to be raw sugar.
It is also Organic (BIO) certified.
Demerara sugar contains natural molasses and also trace amounts of minerals, like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B3.
It also imparts hints of molasses, toffee and caramel to our Kombucha, giving it more complexity of flavor.
This sugar is more expensive than the standard white sugar, but since we are against using and consuming any food (or drink) that is processed, Demerara just fits perfectly into our philosophy.
So, even though we initially use the same amount of Demerara sugar per liter, the amount of sugar at the end of initial fermentation will differ, depending which tea or which botanical we use to make our Kombucha.
Unlike most of the commercial Kombucha producers, we do not flavor our Kombucha.
That means that we do not add any additional fruits or juices. Those can elevate the sugar levels in the final product.
Our flavor comes naturally from the specific tea that we use to make Kombucha, like for example Jun Chiyabari black tea will give us natural chocolate notes in our delicious Jun Chiyabari Kombucha.
Or Darjeeling tea will give us nice dried fruit notes in our cold-brewed Darjeeling Kombucha.
The same goes for the botanicals that we use in our Special line, like for example Chaga (a medicinal mushroom that does not taste like a mushroom, but instead it imparts notes of vanilla, cherry and wood in our Chaga Kombucha, making it taste a bit like a Cola).
Now, if you tasted each one of those Kombuchas, your perception of the amount of sugar present, would be different for each one of them.
Darjeeling would seem to be less sweet that Jun Chiyabari and Chaga would seem to be the sweetest.
But that would also be due to the fact that Chaga contains natural sugars and vanilla compounds that make it taste slightly sweeter.
On the other hand our Jiaogulan Kombucha would taste like there's no sugar in it left.
And that is also correct, as Jiaogulan (herb of immortality) stimulates the yeasts and they break down the sugars faster than in other Kombuchas.
Hemp in our Hemp (Hanf) Kombucha also stimulates the yeast to work harder, and this Kombucha also loses its "sweetness" quite fast. In just few weeks after making it becomes quite dry (meaning barely any sugar).
Schisandra berries, even though they are known as five-flavor berries, lose the sweet notes during the fermentation process, and they give us Schisandra Kombucha with prominent sour-berry notes, with nuances of bitterness that are quite similar to grapefruit juice.
So, a particular tea, or a tea-like substance is one of the aspects of different sugar levels.
Another factor that influences the amount of residual sugar that is left inside the bottle, is the process called Second Fermentation (F2), which creates the natural bubbles right in the bottles.
During this process, the remaining sugar is additionally broken (read reduced) and, as the result of this process, natural carbonation is produced.
The vast majority of commercial Kombucha producers, skip this process and they opt for force-carbonation of their Kombucha, by pumping artificial CO2 into their product.
That stabilizes their Kombucha and usually the amount of sugar that is present at that time, is more stable and does not change.
Yeast filtration that is also almost always used (and sometimes abused).
When yeasts are removed, such Kombucha is more stable, as this process prevents the possibility of F2 from occurring naturally, so that the sugar amount does not change in such (filtered) Kombucha.
In other commercially produced drinks like sodas, colas, etc. the amount of sugar that goes into a particular drink stays the same, even years later. And in most of those drinks that amount is quite high.
For example, in 100 ml of Coca-cola, there's 10.6 gr of sugar
Since we do not filter and we do not force-carbonate our Kombucha, the amount of residual sugar that is left over after the initial fermentation (F1) changes. And that change is always downwards, which means a sugar reduction.
It is also impossible for us to measure that change, as we would have to open the already filled bottles every couple of days to measure that change.
So all we can do is to measure that sugar amount before we fill up the bottles. At that point, the average amount is the one stated on our labels.
But then, once the bottles are filled, they undergo the above mentioned process of Second Fermentation (F2), during which some of this residual sugar is further reduced and our Kombucha becomes naturally carbonated.
But that is not the end of it.
When our Kombucha sits inside refrigerators (regardless whether it' ours or yours), the fermentation process continues over time, even in lower temperatures.
During this time sugar get even further reduced.
For that reason our Kombucha tastes slightly sweeter after it's been freshly made, and more dry after it sits for a while.
But regardless, it is never overly sweet and you can't compare its pleasant sweetness to that of commercially made carbonated sodas.
And what about our Jun Kombucha, which is made with honey instead of sugar? Is it sweeter than Kombucha?
The answer is a surprising NO. It is not sweeter, even though we use more honey per one liter than we use sugar in our Kombucha.
Honey is a simple sugar and for that reason Jun fermentation process is shorter that in the case of regular Kombucha. During this process honey is further broken down and as a result a lot natural carbonation is created.
That is why Jun is usually drier than Kombucha, but more bubbly.
Because of those extra bubbles, Jun is often called the "Champagne of Kombucha".
So, if you are looking for Kombucha with reduced sugar amount, we have few varieties that we can always offer, but you can also ask us for other varieties that's been sitting for a while.
Those will definitely have, a still reduced amount of sugar.
As far as the so called "zero-sugar Kombucha" goes, that one we also have. But we call it Kombucha Vinegar (Kombucha Essig).
It has definitely zero sugar in it. 100% guaranteed!
But we don't thing you would enjoy it straight up.