Is Kombucha Halal? A Detailed Guide – Grow Your Pantry

Is Kombucha Halal? A Detailed Guide

by Susan Grey on October 08, 2019
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Yes, kombucha is halal, a quote from askimam.org. states “The alcohol in kefir and kombucha is normally produced, like in vinegar, bread, etc. and it does not intoxicate. Kefir and kombucha are halal.” As the fermentation could naturally produce very low levels of alcohol, then it would be considered halal. With similar levels found in naturally produced bread and vinegar.

Does Kombucha Contain Alcohol?

Kombucha does contain alcohol, but in similar quantities to fruit juice. The amount of alcohol is very small, so small in fact that the FDA considers it non-alcoholic. Due to it containing such small volumes, there is a 0 chance that you could become inebriated or intoxicated from drinking kombucha. So for all legal purposes, it is considered to be a non-alcoholic beverage. This is also the light in which Islamic scholars have viewed it too. 
  • Store Bought Kombucha - In 2010, there was a case that the FDA tested many samples of store-bought kombucha brands and found that many contained alcohol over the 0.5% ABV threshold. Under US law, a drink that contains less than 0.5% alcohol is sold as a non-alcoholic beverage. After finding that many brands of kombucha broke the law, manufacturers changed their brewing method to make sure it meets the legal threshold of containing less than 0.5% ABV.
  • Homebrewed Kombucha -  Homebrew ABV content can vary wildly. The ABV depends on your home brewing methods as well as ingredients and type of SCOBY. If you’re concerned that you’re going to produce a slightly alcoholic ferment purchase an accurate alcohol meter, and follow a low alcohol fermentation method as demonstrated by thehappyherbalist.

What makes something Halal Or Haram?

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Halal Definition: “Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted...these terms are commonly used in relation to food products, meat products, cosmetics, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, and food contact materials.” For something to be considered halal, then it must follow and abide by the Koran, which means that you can’t do or consume anything that goes against their teachings.
Conversely Haram is something forbidden under Islamic law. “Which means unlawful or prohibited. Halal and haram are universal terms that apply to all facets of life.” Something that does not abide by the teachings of the Koran would be considered haram and therefore forbidden.
Although the definitions appear binary and clear cut, there is also a grey area that is in between — called mashbooh. Mashbooh is whereby the teaching of scriptures isn’t explicitly clear regarding whether or not you can do an action. Mashbooh can be translated as “doubtful or questionable.”
Source: What Is Halal?

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is produced using tea, sugar, water, and a SCOBY. After the tea has steeped and the sugar dissolved the batch is left to brew for 10-14 days until ready. 
Kombucha tea is thought to have originated in China over 2000 years ago. It has become increasingly popular due to the delicious taste and purported health benefits. Most of the health benefits are thought to have come from the tea that was steeped in the brew and also the bacteria within the kombucha. Many commercial brands have exploded in popularity, making kombucha tea a household beverage.

Why Is Kombucha Considered Halal?

By following the definitions of alcohol, halal, and haram. You can see that the amount of alcohol that may be contained in the kombucha drink is a tiny byproduct of the process. Comparable levels can be found in many other drinks and foods. Not anywhere near enough to be considered an alcoholic drink. Therefore kombucha can be considered halal and thereby not breaking sharia law.

Low Alcohol Production Methods

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There are a couple of methods to reduce the content of alcohol in your kombucha homebrew. 
The main change is the yeast and bacteria used in the SCOBY for the brew. By changing the yeast, the amount of alcohol can be reduced below the acceptable 0.5% ABV level.
The science suggests that the temperature that the kombucha is brewed at and the temperature the bottle is kept during the second ferment have an impact on the alcohol production.
Below are two simple methods to reduce the alcohol content in your brew:

Changing Your SCOBY Type

  •  Certain strains of bacteria will produce less alcohol during the ferment.
  •  One company that claims to produce low alcohol producing SCOBYs are “the happy herbalists”

Temperature Control

  • During the ferment keep between 72-84 degrees
  • Store the bottle product straight in the fridge instead of out for a second ferment
  • The reduced temperature of the fridge will stop the kombucha from fermenting and producing anymore alcohol

Fermentation And Islam

Fermenting has been a popular preservation method for over 2000 years. Popular ferments include sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir. Muslims have also created and eaten fermented food throughout history too. 
A similar explanation and reasoning as kombucha being halal also stands for other fermented foods. Remember all of the ingredients that are added into these ferments are 100% halal, and the ethanol quantity is minimal meaning that fermented foods are considered halal.
According to Hayek, “Most fermentation processes will not produce ethanol to the level that can make it prohibited in Islam or not halal. Examples, yogurt, and pickles are fermented foods that contain residues of ethanol which is acceptable for halal. The main haram fermentation is alcoholic beverages. Most fermented food products will not have high ethanol [content], but fermented drinks or liquids should be watched for ethanol levels even if they are not classified as an alcoholic beverage. Example: soy sauce may contain high ethanol.”

Buying Kombucha In Muslim Countries

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There are around 45 countries that have the national religion of Islam. So when traveling or living in one of these countries, can you buy kombucha?
The National, a UAE based newspaper, has covered the topic in the middle east regarding brewing, buying, and selling kombucha. The one clear answer is that there are no clear answers. There seem to be no specific laws, regulations, or guidelines surrounding the kombucha trade.
It appears to be available for sale throughout the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the respective authorities don’t all seem to agree on the halal status of this drink.
The best advice is if in doubt, speak to a legal professional or the police force to get a better understanding of the current laws that govern the drink before considering to consume, brew, or sell.

Kombucha’s Alcohol Volume In Perspective 

Other foods that undergo the fermentation process such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and sourdough all contain a residual amount of alcohol. To see their relative alcohol volume by percentage, we created a table for reference. 
Drink
ABV - Alcohol Content
Kombucha
0.5%
Kimchi
0.5% - 2%
Sauerkraut
0.05%
Kefir
<0.5%
Sourdough Bread
0.04%
Water
0%
Conclusion
To summarize, if you’re worried about drinking kombucha due to concerns about if it’s halal or not, then don’t worry. You can consume kombucha without worry about breaking sharia law. Kombucha is considered 100% halal. 
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