By Margo Graf
Over the past few years, Kombucha (kômˈbo͞o CHə) has taken off as the “it” drink. Since its rediscovery, Kombucha swiftly made its way off of store shelves and into the lives of the health-minded. At first it was trendy, but after people accepted the fizzy, vinegary taste it really became popular. Now grocery stores, especially the health food stores, carry multiple brands with flavors ranging from blueberry to lemon cayenne. So, what exactly is Kombucha? First of all, it is alive.
Known as “The Tea of Immortality,” Kombucha was first recorded in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. Simply said, it is fermented tea. It is created by brewing a large batch of tea, adding sugar and a bacteria culture, and waiting several weeks for it to ferment. Over time, the cultures eat the sugar and develop into a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). The scoby resembles a slimy brown mushroom. But do not judge a book by its cover–it is incredibly healthy. Depending on which tea is used, kombucha can taste like sparkling apple cider or a slightly vinegary soda. The Chinese claim to be the first consumers of Kombucha, but as the drink gained popularity, the Japanese succeeded in naming it. Not much later the tea was making its way through Russia and down into Europe. Due to World War II, it virtually disappeared, as did many foods and drinks. It took decades to reappear, but the love of fermented tea was revived and it is thriving once again.
However, one set back to Kombucha is the price tag. Usually around $4, it is not so cheap to drink regularly. The demand continues because the pros highly outweigh the cons. If the Chinese referred to it as “The Tea of Immortality,” you know it is something special. Scientists have been researching Kombucha for many, many years and although studies are still ongoing, the outcomes have all shown strong correlations with incredible results.
The magic behind the drink is in the scoby, which creates probiotic organisms. The scoby also increase the flavor, fermentation, and acidity. The probiotic organisms are powerhouses when it comes to promoting healthy digestion and immune system functions. The exciting news is that the tea is being tested on a plethora of illnesses that have never considered its use before. For example, Chinese researchers are testing its impact as an inhalant. Their studies saw it remove silica from the lungs in their animal models. This could potentially save millions from lung complications due to silica dust–especially those in the mining/construction industry.
Tea, itself, is a great drink to keep the body regulated and healthy, but the following benefits are direct results of the fermentation process. Ongoing studies from 2010 have shown enhanced cognition, weight loss, decreased levels of toxins in liver, decreased stress, and support for liver, kidney, and pancreatic function. It was also shown to increase HDL cholesterol levels and suppress glucose levels which is important for diabetics. It is currently being tested as a solution to stomach ulcers. Research has shown that Kombucha protects the layer of the stomach which decreases the excess acid build-up and acid erosion of the stomach tissue. Meaning it strengthens the stomach lining and helps prevent ulcers from forming.
The news gets better. As mentioned earlier, the price alone can deter people from purchasing Kombucha. For about $13, you can purchase a starter kit and brew it yourself–for once and forever. It is the drink that keeps on giving. Once you start fermenting the scoby, you can save a piece of it and create a whole other batch. Scoby is the key! Brew tea, add sugar (bacteria food), add scoby, wait, drink, become immortal. As simple as that.
As the drink ferments, the sugars get used up, so the drink has almost no sugar left when it is time to pour a glass. The brewing process must be done in a very clean kitchen as mold can form on the scoby. If that happens, throw it all out. There are many resources online that can help a DIY Kombucha beginner. Not only will you reap the benefits of the tea, you will save a great deal of money, and because you made it yourself, you know nothing artificial is added and it has more antioxidants (they degrade over time on the shelf). After brewing, you can bottle the Kombucha for a fizzier taste and add flavors (frozen mango, ginger, lemon, basil). If the taste is too strong, just add sparkling water or juice. The possibilities are endless, the benefits are seemingly endless, and it is a pretty fun brewing experience. Cheers to your health and wellbeing!