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Photograph: Kausmo/Instagram

Where to get the best kombucha and kefir in Singapore

Forget yoghurt – these fizzy, addictive drinks pack a whole lot more probiotics for optimum gut health

Written by
Kylie Wong
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Lest you think that kombucha and kefir are part of some newfangled health food trend, we're here to set you straight – both types of drinks have been around for hundreds (possibly thousands) of years, and their origins have been muddled. Regardless of where they started, however, we can be sure that the process for creating the drinks is essentially the same: fermentation, which is an age-old practice. And the result is always tangy, refreshing and delicious.

What is the difference between kombucha and kefir?

Kombucha is a sweetened tea-based drink fermented using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (that's SCOBY for you). Kefir (pronounced 'kuh-fear') is a milk-based drink fermented using kefir grains, a specific type of symbiotic culture. There's also water kefir, a variation of kefir grains that thrives in sugary water.

The result is a tart, almost vinegary drink that gives off a delightful fizz, like soda or sparkling water. There is scientific evidence that kombucha and kefir may ease digestive problems, and they make excellent milk substitutes for the lactose intolerant, but most of the purported benefits are anecdotal, with much of the research in progress. 

Nevertheless, there is something to be said about the kombucha and kefir found at these spots in Singapore – organic ingredients, fresh fruits, botanicals and raw honey abound, making the drinks tasty, low in sugar, and infinitely healthier than those guilty-pleasure cups of bubble tea.

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  • Restaurants
  • Orchard

While Kausmo is better known for its six-course carte blanche menu ($75) that highlights ‘aesthetically filtered’ ingredients and secondary cuts of meat – its range of kombucha are also worth a shout. It's available to pair with your tasting menu at $20 for three glasses or you can purchase them by the bottle during its weekly pop-up fruit market, which takes place every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Harbourfront

Located within VivoCity's massive NTUC Xtra, Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee offers a quick caffeine boost before you continue your marathon shopping adventure. It serves the same great brews you'd find at the Stirling Road outlet – brewing everything from its signature house Gachala espresso blend served to bottled kombucha specially fermented in small batches by @starterculture.sg. Instead of loading the tea with various fruits, juices or spices, it keeps things simple, using only leaves like tieguanying oolong or Ceylon tea and sugar to allow the natural flavours to shine.

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  • Health and beauty
  • Nutrition
  • Bedok

Fizzicle founder Melissa Mak is well-known on the local kombucha brewing scene for being one of the first few prolific brewers who kickstarted the fermentation frenzy in Singapore. She is also the creator of SG Fermentation Friends, which was started in 2015 as an interest group for budding home-fermenters of kombucha and kefir. Mak now spends most of her time working on Fizzicle, her own kombucha brand that specializes in brewing and bottling junboocha. Junboocha is essentially the sister beverage of kombucha, the difference being that junboocha is made with raw honey instead of refined sugar.

Fizzicle offers a range of seven flavours, including ginger and pink guava. One of their best-selling products is the aptly named Number 1 ($7.50), a fruity-tasting green and black tea blended with over 10 ingredients. Most kombucha retain some caffeine from the tea base it is made with, but Fizzicle has created a non-caffeinated version for those looking for a good night's rest. Named Calmboocha ($8), the blend is made with green rooibos, lavender, rose, cinnamon and blueberries.  

Yocha
  • Health and beauty
  • Nutrition
  • Bedok

Yocha's founder Amanda Tan is a seasoned kombucha brewer, having started her brewing journey five years ago. Since then, her love for kombucha and belief in its health benefits prompted her to develop her own line of kombucha tea blends, and business has been doing so well that her husband decided to leave his private banking role earlier this year to help grow the business.

Yocha currently has a range of six different flavours, from the refreshingly delightful lemongrass and mint to the floral-scented earl grey and lavender. Each bottle retails for $8.80. An item unique to Yocha is their kombucha jelly ($15), which Tan was inspired to create after customers asked for a kid-friendly version of kombucha that children would enjoy. The jelly is made to order, flavoured with fresh fruits and chia seeds, and sweetened with organic cane sugar. Currently, Yocha's production kitchen doubles up as a physical store for customers to pick-up their orders. An appointment has to be made in advance before dropping by. 

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Miss Kefir
  • Health and beauty
  • Nutrition
  • Bedok

Unlike many of the commercial, imported products you find in supermarkets, Miss Kefir uses live kefir grains and brews its products in small batches, carefully controlling the temperature of the brew during the fermentation process. Their best-selling flavours include the plain milk kefir ($5.50) and Acai berry milk kefir ($6.50). While milk kefir can be enjoyed on its own, it is often used as a milk substitute for those who are lactose-intolerant and tastes just as delicious added to cereal or granola.

For those who are completely allergic to dairy or dislike the tart, slightly sour taste of fermented milk, Miss Kefir also has several blends of water kefir ($4) that are lightly flavoured with fruits. At their store in Telok Kurau, they offer freshly-made kefir parfaits, kefir smoothies, and a kefir soft serve cone sweetened with cane sugar - a healthy, guilt-free dessert which quickly proves to be addictive. While Miss Kefir's speciality is, as its name suggests, kefir, they also brew their own kombucha, with each bottle retailing for $8.

Teapulse
  • Restaurants
  • Raffles Place

Teapulse holds the honour of being the only tea bar in Singapore that offers kombucha and fermented drinks. Customers can pick their tea base from three options: pure tea ($3.20), kombucha, or fermented lemonade ($4.80 each), before customizing the flavour, sugar level and toppings ($0.80 each) – much like at your regular bubble tea joints. 

The tea bar's wide range of tea flavours includes interesting choices like french rose and hibiscus hawthorn. You could end up ordering a French rose kombucha with white pearls, or a hibiscus hawthorn fermented lemonade with aloe vera - the possibilities are numerous. Notable milk-based drinks are the purple potato smoothie ($5.80) and genmaicha latte ($4.20), with options between fresh, skim ($0.50) and oat milk ($0.80).  Some drinks are available warm, all the better to soothe your gut.     

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Craft & Culture
  • Health and beauty
  • Nutrition
  • Hougang

Founded in 2015, Craft & Culture has become well-known for its balanced range of kombucha and kefir.  While they have a roster of regular flavours including a delightful sounding rose bandung whole milk kefir ($6.50), seasonal and limited edition flavours often crop up, the most recent being a strawberry lemonade kombucha ($6.50) and a mint chocolate whole milk kefir ($7).

Experimentation with new flavours can take up to two months, and regular customers are often roped in for taste tests before the formal launch. Craft & Culture has also ventured into skin care, with the creation of a kombucha skin balm ($18.90), made with black tea, calendula extract and an essential oil blend. Every skin balm is handmade and free from all the icky chemical products that are present in so many commercial brands. 

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