a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria.
With a reputation rivaling that of the Holy Grail, kombucha is a health beverage worth taking notice of. Though kombucha is said to have existed for centuries, this tangy little drink has gained a major surge in popularity over the last few years. Complete with a host of health benefits and a range of flavors to accommodate even the most discerning tastebuds, kombucha has earned a place among some of the most valuable fermented foods and drinks available to mankind.
What Is Kombucha?
In short, kombucha is a fermented tea beverage comprised of a very simple, but effective combination of ingredients:
- Tea (either of one variety or a blend of several varieties)
- A SCOBY
Either purchased at a retailer (Bottles can range from $3-5 each) or brewed right in your own home, kombucha is a curiously tasty example of what can happen when sweet meets tangy. Chock full of many health promoting bacteria and yeast, kombucha is carbonated–a direct result of its sugar being transformed into carbon dioxide by yeast during the fermentation process.
Fermentation makes kombucha’s overall taste and texture very reminiscent of a sparkling alcoholic beverage. Like many other fermented food stuffs, kombucha’s brewing process produces alcohol. However, the actual amount of alcohol present in the final product is negligible in terms of being “alcoholic”, which lands safely lands it in the category of “soft drinks”.
Kombucha can be flavored via fresh fruits, dried fruits, syrups, herbs and spices. The assortment of available flavors makes kombucha an excellent drink of choice either by itself or paired with your favorite meals and snacks.
What Is A SCOBY?
The SCOBY is the key component of kombucha that allows fermentation to take place. SCOBY is an acronym meaning “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.
Like the name suggests, the culture itself is comprised of various strains of yeast and bacteria interspersed through a network of cellulose fibers. The SCOBY provides a “home” of sorts, housing and feeding the bacteria and yeast as the tea mixture ferments. It is there in the SCOBY that the bacteria and yeast interact to create the magic that is kombucha. While the physical appearance of a SCOBY is far from appealing and is nearly as nightmarish looking as a specimen from an alien movie (a quick Google search will prove my point), this squishy blob plays an important role in both the development and preservation of any kombucha brew. In addition to protecting kombucha from evaporation during the brewing process, the SCOBY helps to seal off the tea from invasion by any outside bacteria and/or yeast that could taint the batch. A SCOBY “mother” is also responsible for producing a “baby” culture after each successful brew, which allows brewers to start a new batch with it. Though individual SCOBYs may be reused several times to craft new batches, the strength and purity of subsequent batches may deplete over time. This being said, the reproductive nature of SCOBYs ensures a brewer consistently has access to an effective culture.
Why Drink Kombucha?
If you only drank kombucha for the unique flavor of it, that would be reason enough. However, kombucha is a truly delicious and healthy alternative to drink choices such as soda and juice, which often contain chemicals, empty calories and excessive amounts of sugar. In contrast, kombucha can offer robust flavor and carbonation for an average of 40-60 calories per serving. A typical brew is fat-free and an excellent source of important micronutrients such as riboflavin (Vitamin B2), biotin (Vitamin H), thiamin (Vitamin B1), folic acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin C and Vitamin B12.
The health benefits observed in the consumption of kombucha have been recognized by many cultures around the world, earning it names such as “elixir of long life” and “magic potion”. While Kombucha has not been found to actually be a cure for particular diseases and ailments, research has demonstrated that the human body achieves a degree of balance that encourages and supports the alleviation of various health problems.
Furthermore, the restoration of good gut bacteria can kick off a domino effect that can encourage a drinker to make better dietary choices, which then has a further positive impact on their health. For example, someone who experiences frequent cravings for chocolate or coffee may lose said cravings after consuming kombucha on a regular basis. Without regular consumption of these products it could be possible for the individual to enjoy secondary benefits such as weight loss.
As though kombucha’s health benefits aren’t impressive enough, it is ideal for nearly any type of diet you may follow. Vegans, raw foodists, vegetarians and junk food connoisseurs alike can all partake in the benefits of kombucha.
Thirsty yet? Perhaps you’ve never had kombucha before and are wondering what is a good brand out there for beginners. Or maybe this isn’t your first rodeo, but you’re searching for your next favorite flavor. Whichever the case, you can see how my very first rendezvous with kombucha went when I taste tested Humm Coconut Lime Kombucha. And if you happen to know of any great brands and flavors you’d like me to taste test next, leave your suggestions below! -XO