Kombucha Starts Returning to Bay Area Shelves

As of last Saturday, Berkeley Bowl West was fully stocked with kombucha.

Things are still tense in the kombucha industry. Earlier this summer, several federal agencies announced they were investigating the fermented tea to see if its alcohol content was high enough to regulate kombucha like an alcoholic beverage (the Half Moon Bay Register has a concise, comprehensive article about the situation). Within days, most of the markets in the Bay Area yanked kombucha off their shelves. Rainbow Grocery's drinks case looked like a Soviet-era market, and the West Coast's best-known brand, Synergy Drinks (aka GT's Millennium Kombucha), disappeared overnight.

Kombucha appears to be coming back, albeit slowly. After spotting full shelves at Berkeley Bowl this weekend, SFoodie called many of the major natural-foods markets to find out what they had for sale. Rainbow, for instance, currently stocks Rejuvenation, locally produced House Kombucha, and High Country, though the market is selling through the bottles so quickly they're out of stock. Andronico's and Thom's Natural Foods now have Lev's Original Kombucha, while Real Food has only House in house. A few brands have returned to Other Avenues and the city's Whole Foods stores. In addition, the Whole Foods store in Noe Valley continues to sell its house-fermented kombucha on tap.

All of the above markets say that it will be several weeks before they are able to get Synergy drinks' reformulated kombucha from the distributor. Berkeley Bowl is the first local grocery store to carry the full line of Synergy products again, and a checker told SFoodie they've been back on the shelves for a few weeks now. We called Berkeley Bowl's head office to find out how the market scored a supply long before everyone else, but it hasn't responded yet. The bottle of kombucha gingerade we bought on Saturday may be less boozy than it once was, but it doesn't taste any different.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.
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