What Is Kombucha
While kombucha may seem like a rather complicated and mystical beverage, it’s actually a pretty simple drink. So what is kombucha. Essentially, kombucha is fermented sweet tea.
Today, most know kombucha for its sweet-and-sour profile, light effervescence, and tangy, somewhat vinegar-like aroma.
While kombucha’s origin isn’t 100% known, the drink has been around for as little as a few hundred years to as many as 2000. It most likely originated in Manchuria, China, but some sources claim Russia or Japan as the source of this delicious beverage.
While we may never know where or when kombucha was started, people have been enjoying it around the world for a long time… and it looks like that trend is here to stay!
Ingredients in Kombucha
Kombucha is comprised of four main ingredients:
tea, sugar, a SCOBY, and water.
They all undergo the process of fermentation together to create a delicious drink rich in probiotics. You may be thinking, what the hell is a SCOBY? Let’s briefly dive into each of the components of kombucha below.
While many people use the word “tea” to refer to several different plants, the true “tea” plant is Camellia Sinensis.
Black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea are all leaves from this plant. The only difference among them is how they are processed and the amount of oxidation that they go through. Herbal teas without Camellia Sinensis aren’t actually teas, but rather tisanes or herbal infusions.
Generally speaking, kombucha works best when brewed with pure tea.
When making kombucha, you add a good amount of sugar into the brewing vessel to help the fermentation process occur. It’s more for the yeasts to consume than for you. The yeasts convert this sugar into various other components, including carbon dioxide, which results in a naturally fizzy beverage.
SCOBY is an acronym that stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.”
This is the gelatinous looking structure that turns a lot of people off from kombucha before trying it. It looks like a white blob, almost alien-like, usually floating at the top of the brewing vessel.
But don’t be scared!
The SCOBYs are home to good and healthy bacteria and yeasts that give kombucha its probiotic nature.
These microorganisms convert the sweet tea into kombucha over a usual period of 2-4 weeks. This is the life force that gets the fermentation going!
The last of the four ingredients… water!
Having the right kind of water is essential to brewing a proper batch of kombucha. When brewing kombucha at home, make sure that your water is filtered well and free of chlorine and other chemicals.
This is when you can add fruits, spices, herbs, and other ingredients to get tasty results. Tangerine-ginger-basil flavored booch? Yes, it’s as good as it sounds. The second fermentation also provides the opportunity to add more fizz, where you can complement your new flavors with pleasant carbonation.
Results and Health Benefits of Kombucha
Throughout the process of fermentation, microorganisms consume and create many substances. Caffeine and sugar levels go down as the bacteria and yeast convert them into healthy acids, a little bit of alcohol, and carbon dioxide.
Kombucha is a probiotic beverage due to this fermentation.
In this regard, it’s not so different than sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and other fermented foods rich in probiotics. All of these have live microorganisms that are beneficial when consumed.
While there aren’t many studies on humans to support claims that kombucha heals certain diseases or cures cancer, there is certainly enough to suggest that it has the following four health benefits: detoxes the body, provides antioxidants, boosts energy, and helps the immune system.
Whether you want to try kombucha for its unique taste or its health benefits, try making some at home!