What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is generally considered to be a tea that has been mixed with sugar and fermented in a manner akin to the way vinegar is made. On its own, it has a taste that's similar to apple cider vinegar, so it is sometimes called "vinegar tea." For wider appeal, it is often blended with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or unfermented tea.
The exact origins of kombucha are unknown, but it has been consumed in areas like Siberia, Russia, China and Tibet for thousands of years. Although kombucha is considered to be fermented tea today in the West, it may have originated with bread as its base.
After ages of use in the East, kombucha began to make its way to the U.S. It started with home brewers who were primarily interested in its health benefits. In the 1990s, brewers such as GT Dave (of Synergy Millennium) began to offer kombuchas that were brewed in a more controlled (and, thus, safer and more effective) manner. Since 2000, many more kombucha companies have opened and kombucha has shifted from being seen as a "hippie drink" to a fairly mainstream beverage. It's now available in many grocery stores' health food sections, as well as some restaurants, cafes and convenience stores. Flavors range from those with mass appeal (citrus, mango and the like) to those with more limited appeal (red clover, juniper berry and other health-centric ingredients).
Kombucha & Health
There are all kinds of health claims about kombucha. It's heralded as everything from a cure for hangovers to a cure for cancer. While these claims are largely unresearched (and somewhat questionable), there are some claims that pop up more often than others. These include:
- Liver stimulation/detoxification
- Blood purification
- Digestive stimulation/benefits
- Weight management
- Euphoria, or other mental and emotional benefits
How is Kombucha Made?
Kombucha starts with tea (usually black or green, but possibly other tea types or even tisanes) that has been mixed with sugar. It is exposed to something called a "zoogleal mat," which is a symbiotic colony of bacteria ("beneficial bacteria") and yeast, or a SCOBY. The zoogleal mat looks like a mushroom, so kombucha is sometimes called "mushroom tea."
After fermentation, kombucha contains a number of probiotic nutrients. It is typically effervescent. It has a low alcohol content.
Some home brewers and many kombucha companies blend kombucha with various flavors, which are usually infusions of tea, herbs and/or fruit, but sometimes also fruit juices and other ingredients. A few kombucha companies (such as Kombucha Wonder Drink) also pasteurize their kombucha to stop fermentation, reduce the alcohol level and (ideally) eliminate the chance of any harmful bacteria occurring in their brews.
Once again, if you plan to brew your own kombucha, be sure to sanitize your brewing equipment and be careful not to contaminate your brew.
Although flavors were very limited just ten years ago, there are now kombucha flavors to suit a range of palates. Check out this growing list of kombucha reviews to find the one that suits you best:
- Carpe Diem Classic Kombucha* is the ultimate intoductory kombucha.
- Carpe Diem Cranberry Kombucha* combines the tart flavors of cranberry and kombucha for into one refreshing beverage.
- Carpe Diem Quince Kombucha* has a surprisingly complex and engaging flavor and aroma that will appeal to many foodies.
- GT's Organic Raw Botanic No. 3 Kombucha has a milder, more floral flavor than other kombuchas. It contains "botanic" (herbal/fruit) ingredients of lavender and elderberry.
- GT's Organic Raw Botanic No. 9 Kombucha has a more intense kombucha flavor that's best for seasoned kombucha drinkers.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Asian Pear & Ginger* is Wonder Drink's most popular flavor. It has a mass appeal that soda drinkers will likely enjoy.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Cherry Cassis* is a newer flavor that will probably surpass Asian Pear & Ginger in popularity. It has a "wonderfully" rich, deep berry flavor.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Essence of Mango* tastes a bit like a summer fruit salad with lots of lemon.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Green Tea & Lemon* is a cheaper, canned version of their bottled Essence of Lemon flavor. As the name suggests, it tastes like sweetened green tea with lots of lemon.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Traditional* keeps it simple. It's a sweet blend of oolong tea, kombucha and cane sugar.
- Kombucha Wonder Drink Juniper Berry, Spearmint & Lemon Myrtle* has an herbaceous flavor with less mass appeal than their other flavors.
- Synergy Organic Raw Gingerberry Kombucha has a bold, tart kombucha flavor that's great for serious kombucha drinkers, but not ideal for, say, soda drinkers.
- Synergy Organic Raw Superfruits Kombucha combines the trends of superberries and kombucha two food trends into one moderately drinkable beverage.