Opinion: Is It Halal to Drink Kombucha?


Tea has been known for a long time in China as a medicinal and herbal concoction for various diseases. Over time, tea began to be used as a drink by brewing it and combining it with other ingredients such as herbs or fruits. The habit of drinking tea spread and until now has become a trend.

Kombucha is an alternative that is considered healthy. What is kombucha? Can Muslims consume it?

According to the UNDIP Giziklopedia, kombucha originated from East Asia and began to spread to Germany via Russia around the turn of the 20th century. This drink is in great demand among many groups because it is considered to have many health benefits.

Kombucha is one of the fermented beverage products made between symbiotic bacteria and fungi with functional properties. Typically, fermentation is carried out with a tea and sugar solution by a kombucha culture starter called Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). SCOBY itself is formed from a symbiosis of acetic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and osmophilic yeast, which are incorporated into the cellulose tissue.

Making kombucha is relatively simple because it requires minimal equipment and materials that are easy to reach. This tea can be made by infusing Camellia sinensis leaves (black, green, or oolong) and adding granulated sugar. Then at room temperature, a layer of cellulose or SCOBY is inoculated. SCOBY’s acetic acid bacteria and yeast ferment and characterize the beverage. Several studies have reported that previously fermented tea can be a starter to start the subsequent fermentation process.

Unlike other teas, kombucha has a distinctive taste and aroma, a sour, sweet, and lightly carbonated blend, much like apple cider. This tea contains various minerals, vitamins and organic acids—Kombucha culture symbiosis using Acetobacter xylinum and several types of yeasts such as SaccharomycesBrettanomyces and Zygosaccharomyces.

Kombucha has a higher nutritional value than regular tea. The activity of microorganisms during the fermentation process produces various compounds that are beneficial to health, including organic acids (glucuronic acid, acetic acid, etc.), essential amino acids, folic acid, enzymes, antibiotics, and phenolic compounds (the higher the phenolic compounds produced, the higher the antioxidant activity). Also, kombucha contains more organic vitamins and amino acids than regular tea.

From the various ingredients it has, the benefits are undoubtedly great for the health of the body. Some of them are antibacterial, antidiabetic, antioxidant, and probiotic functions to make the intestine healthier and help bowel movements more smoothly, improve intestinal microflora, can lower blood pressure, increase body resistance, lower cholesterol, prevent cardiovascular disease, stimulate the body’s immune system, and reduce inflammation. Kombucha can also improve digestion, treat anal swelling, prevent cancer, and treat constipation and headaches.  

What is the Islamic ruling of kombucha?

Kombucha is made from vegetables as the primary raw material, included in the non-critical (positive) list. Even so, there is still a critical point for the halalness of kombucha. What are those?

Previously, it has been thoroughly discussed that kombucha is a fermented drink, so in the process, it will produce a by-product in the form of alcohol at a certain level. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae assists in the results of this fermentationDuring the fermentation process, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae produces alcohol anaerobically, which means that the sugar in the medium used by Saccharomyces cerevisiae will then be converted into alcohol.

Many people consider the fermentation process to be one of the critical points for the halal product because it is supposed to produce a by-product in the form of alcohol. Not all fermentation can produce results in the form of alcohol. The average alcohol content made by kombucha is less than 0.5%.

In the Fatwa of the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) No. 10 of 2018 concerning Food and Beverage Products Containing Alcohol/Ethanol, it states that fermented beverage products containing less than 0.5% alcohol/ethanol are legally halal as long as the process does not use haram ingredients and if medically harmless.

Even so, kombucha has a critical halal point that needs attention. Heryani, S.Si., M.TPn, Laboratory Manager as well as auditor of the Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics Indonesian Council of Ulama (LPPOM MUI), explained that media for growing bacteria and yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae in the fermentation process is one of them.

“It could be made using microbiological media. The critical point of microbiological media lies in the nitrogen source for the nutrients for bacterial growth, which may come from meat extract, peptone hydrolyzed meat and other ingredients. This meat that needs to be traced comes from halal animals slaughtered according to Islamic law or from forbidden animals,” said Heryani.

Another critical ingredient lies in sugar, which can use activated charcoal from animal bones in manufacturing. In manufacturing, sugar sometimes uses ion exchange resin auxiliary materials. So it must be ensured that the resin does not use gelatin from unclean animals. Another thing that is also critical is the use of flavourswhich contain ingredients derived from animal and vegetable fats.