Vancouver kombucha not symbiotic with new tax


By Rui Yang Xu

Dan Larsen believes in the health benefits of kombucha but worries that new government categorization of the beverage is going to affect customers.

The government will implement a seven per cent sales tax July 1 on sweetened carbonated beverages. The goal is to encourage consumers to consider healthier alternatives, however it remains unclear whether beverages with purported health benefits like kombucha will fall under the new rule.

“It’s an insult to the industry,” said Larsen, owner of Vancouver-based Culture Craft Kombucha. “Our efforts are being negated by the government and aren’t being recognized.”

Larsen said kombucha is a tea beverage fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as a SCOBY or mother.

Photo by: Rui Yang Xu.

Another Vancouver-based brewer, Kristin Zerbin, who owns Hoochy ’Booch Kombucha, said anywhere from a quarter to half a cup of sugar is used in the fermentation process. The end result is that the sugar effectively becomes healthy amino acids, trace vitamins and minerals.

There are also other health benefits to the drink, Zerbin said.

“Kombucha adds beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora.”

While there are many purported health benefits to kombucha, Tanya Choy, a registered dietitian at UBC, said there is no scientific evidence supporting these claims.

“All the studies that are relating to kombucha and improved health has been conducted in vitro [test-tube experiments] and it’s also on [non-human] animals.”

VANCOUVER, BC: MARCH 2 2020 — While already pricy, kombucha will become more expensive due to a seven per cent sales tax set to come into effect on July 1, 2020. Photo by: Rui Yang Xu.

Choy also said while most of the sugar that is used in the fermentation process becomes something else, some kombucha brewers still sweeten their drinks to counteract the acidity of the beverage.

“Some flavors contain enough sugar to make up for half a can of pop per cup,” Choy said.

If the seven per cent tax is applied to sales of kombucha, Larsen believes consumers will be the most upset.

“As a producer, I’m still going to get orders, people are still going to sell kombucha. This is something people value as part of their diet now.”

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