Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the products discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.
My exposure to kombucha prior to sampling this product had been sporadic at best, so I was excited for the chance to revisit a beverage that up until recently had left no significant impression upon me.
Without delving into the non sequitur surrounding its etymology, I will share that the term “kombucha” refers to various kinds of tea (typically black, green, or white) to which bacterial culture is added, the end result being a fermented, mildly effervescent beverage with flavor strengths tending more toward the tart than the sweet. Clearly Kombucha was a better reintroduction to the merits of kombucha than I might have hoped for if left to my own devices and research. For the purposes of this review, I received five flavor varieties to consider. These, presented in order from the flavor I most enjoyed to that which I least did, are Black Currant, Tangerine, Asian Pear, Ginger Berry, and Original. In reviewing them, I will work in reverse order.
As I felt that my first taste of kombucha in several years should be unadorned with additional flavors, I began my flight with the Original variety. My first impression was that it was tart in a way that has rarely been intentional when I’ve encountered it in the past. This echoed my first impression of kombucha many years ago, however, making it less jarring and more enjoyable than it might have been to an uninitiated palate. Having received more than one bottle of each flavor (twelve bottles in total,) I’ve had the pleasure of revisiting this flavor since that initial tasting and concluded that it makes an excellent thirst quencher, as it reminds me of the sports drinks/electrolyte replenishers I used to consume like a madman during or following a workout. It bears noting that the kombucha, embodying the boldness of green tea with a hint of effervescence, was far better-tasting than those.
The Ginger Berry flavor was the next one I tasted, and with this one, I detected more ginger than berry, which is not a bad thing. This seemed the one I would most often turn to in search of hydration exotic and mildly sweet, as well-suited to sipping as to chugging ice-cold right from the bottle. The subtle burn of the ginger and subtler sweetness of berries work well together to complement the beverage’s tartness.
On sampling the Asian Pear flavor, I found that the pear essence was most evident in the beverage’s aroma, and after swallowing. Its presence on the tongue was fainter, making it the most attenuated of the flavored samples. This aromatic quality succeeds without overpowering, imparting just enough sweetness to make it pleasant and light without distracting from the tea’s innate flavor.
The Tangerine essence was every bit as aromatic on first impression as the Asian Pear, but came alive both on first touching the palate and on swallowing in a more detectable and enjoyable way. The citrus notes here are bold and the sweetness lingers on the tongue.
The Black Currant flavor was my favorite. Its pairing with the kombucha brings together two strong, tart elements that I did not expect to play as nicely together as they do. Where such a combination could have tasted astringent or bitter, it works here. An elegant pairing that made each sip like drinking my kombucha with a bite of fruit, this darkest of the brews is one I could enjoy daily.
A product whose merits tend to deviate from the established range of experiences, from offering up the same old thing made the same old way, we tend to call an “acquired taste.” I won’t do so where Clearly Kombucha is concerned. It strikes me more as the kind of product that tasters will either find immediately pleasing or immediately unpalatable. I doubt many people tasting it for the first time will find themselves swayed from whatever prejudices they already hold toward kombucha in general, be those prejudices pro or con. These are not sweet teas in any traditional sense. Any person that opens a bottle of Clearly Kombucha expecting it to taste like Lipton with Lemon is in for quite the re-education. Having said that, I’m glad to have been brought aware of this company; so much so that I find myself rationing what unopened samples remain, because they’re so tasty that I don’t want to finish them too quickly. I believe the majority of people discovering Clearly Kombucha for the first time will agree with me that here is a beverage line with healthy products that energize and taste great while doing it. Bringing to bear the best of a variety of fruit essences and natural ingredients, these teas have ensured that my first taste clearly will not be my last. As more people taste it, I believe that this will more often than not be true for them as well.