When someone steps up to our booth at the farmers’ market or gazes as we pour samples to share around the campfire—we often hear, “What’s a switchel? Is it like kombucha?”
We laugh because, well yes, it sort of is—but actually, not quite. Compared to most health beverages, juices, and sodas, kombucha and switchel both take the lead as impressive alternatives. They are both loaded with vitamin B and have those natural probiotics that keep your gut bacteria happy and active. But when it comes down to the science, flavor/taste and process, these two couldn’t be more different.
Digging into the science of it—kombucha contains living bacteria coming from the main ingredient behind it all called a SCOBY. This bacteria and yeast culture is the driver of the kombucha making process. As it ferments among a mixture of tea and sugars, it emerges 10 – 15 days later bubbly and ready to be bottled. This carbonation is a natural bi-product of the full fermentation process, leaving traces of the fungus to keep it fizzing.
While many kombucha beverages have some tartness in their flavor–there is nothing quite like the tangy, spicy, zip of switchel. This comes from the unique combination of ingredients including apple cider vinegar, ginger, and water, lightly paired with a natural sweetener of maple syrup or honey. Our traditional process — pulled from an American recipe of the 19th century haymakers — isn’t fermented and doesn’t rely on bacteria to curate the right flavor profile, which means you can safely whip up a batch of switchel to your taste in a matter of hours. Although switchel doesn’t have the live cultures of the SCOBY floating about the brew, it is a rich source for potassium, which means it’s the perfect all-natural alternative to sugary sports drinks, and will help maintain a good electrolyte balance in the body.
If you still aren’t convinced that drinking vinegar is enticing, know that switchel, once brewed is similar to drinking kombucha, just without the bubbles and a few more benefits. Our stovetop brewing process brings out some natural sweetness and allows that burst of spice from the ginger to come through. You’ll hardly notice that your drinking vinegar at all!
Ingredients: SCOBY, Tea, Sugar
Process: Brewed tea of choice, 10 – 15 days of fermentation
Ingredients: Apple Cider Vinegar, Ginger, Filtered Water, Honey/Maple Syrup
Process: Stovetop, a slow simmer of flavors
If you are a kombucha lover, you’ve got to give switchel a try. We are both honest-to-goodness health-minded beverages, here to provide you with all the energy boosts and power packed probiotics necessary to keep you out of your afternoon slump. But at our core, we’ve got something a little different to offer with different ingredients and entirely unique brewing processes.
Taste them side-by-side and let us know what you think. While there is room for both, we’ll be here when you are ready to make the switch!