As the interest in healthier living and no and low alcohol drinks continues and fermented foods are on a resurgence, it is good to know that there are some high-quality drinks in your fridge that taste great and are good for you.
Left Field Kombucha (“the healthiest fizz in your fridge”), is a pioneering small independent UK company, founded by a couple, Jo and Geraint Roberts in 2016. They wanted to create a range of grown up drinks with a full fermented flavour, a serious adult drink, but without the hangover. They discovered kombucha, an ancient Asian health tonic, revered as the ‘tea of mortality’. They created a range of drinks made with only the finest teas, which are low in sugar, calories, full of healthy acids, and as Jo says, “Also sit nicely beside you at the dinner table”. Geraint used to be a beer brewer, and since starting the company and their family, and becoming more sober curious, Jo decided to cut out alcohol entirely, and “put her money where her mouth is”. Kombucha, it turned out, was the ideal choice all round.
Kombucha is a fermented fizzy tea which, as a rule, has fruits or spices added. Left Field Kombucha take a different approach. They chose exceptional teas and add no flavourings, leading to a clean flavour profile. The company won a Great Taste Award in its first year and has been nominated for two Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards (2017/2019).
The Magpies tried all four of the Kombuchas and were blown away by the differences in flavours – form the zesty Japanese origin Sencha Green (our favourite) to the almost beery tasting Taiwan origin Oolong which has a refreshing taste and delicate nose, these two would be our go to alcohol substitutes especially if you served them in a Champagne glass! The Chinese origin Yunnan Black has not unsurprisingly won a Great Taste Award and has a more intense flavour and would make an excellent beer substitute whilst the Indian origin Darjeeling chilled and served over ice would send you back to times of the Raj with its delicate vine fruit flavours.
But quite apart from the alcohol substitution side, Kombucha is also a healthy option. The UK government tax on soft drinks came into force in 2018 to try to reduce sugar consumption. But getting flavour into and out of a drink isn’t always easy and that’s why so many soft drink options are heavy on sugar. Kombucha includes sugar as an ingredient but much of it is consumed by the fermentation process, so the end result is less sugar than most soft drinks, and somewhere on a par to beer. As the Left Field team says, ‘Kombucha has been consumed in East Asia for centuries as a healthy home-made tonic – 2,000 years of evolved culture can’t be wrong’!
Matching with food is an area where even premium carbonated drinks can fall flat. Jo says, “Kombucha works as a food match for two reasons. First, it’s based on tea, which by itself can be great companion to fine food. Second, when enhanced by fermentation, the underlying tea flavours evolve and become a lot more complex.”
Kombucha on tap has been highlighted as one of the key wellness trends in the UK. Fermented food and drinks are known for their beneficial gut health properties, and kombucha is at the forefront of the trend. Wellness expert Rachael Welford, says, “Fermented products have been all the rage this year, especially kombucha.” In fact, she believes Kombucha will feature alongside craft beer on tap in bars as the ‘sober-curious’ trend carries on. “Having a fizzy fermented drink like Kombucha on tap is many people’s dream. Not only does it taste awesome, but it’s actually good for you,” she says.
Left Field Kombucha was the first UK Kombucha brewery to have its drinks pouring on tap in independent bars. It also responds to an emerging trend where, for a number of reasons, people are choosing to drink less alcohol. In fact, 21 per cent of adults don’t drink alcohol at all and alcohol consumption in general has been falling for a decade.
You won’t find Left Field Kombucha in supermarkets. Instead the family business focuses on its online store and getting to know its customers. You can buy direct from leftfieldkombucha.co.uk. and Left Field are offering Magpie readers a discount – please use the code Magpie£5off at the checkout until the end of August 2019.