What Is Kombucha?

Anecdotal info on kombucha, what it is, benefits and links for further reading.


4/19/20213 min read

I was raised a juice-drinker. Apple juice, orange, grape, cranberry. I loved it all. It seemed like no day, or breakfast could be complete without a little four-ounce glass of juice.

But there's some issues with the sweet drink that claimed to have so many vitamins and health benefits- the sugar content. Drink enough juice, and it's like drinking candy for breakfast. So what do you do when you want something cold, flavorful and refreshing to go with your morning coffee? Now, no breakfast can be complete without Kombucha.

Some year's ago I discovered it while doing a tasting at a new local distillery. It was in a multipurpose building that also housed a company that made Kombucha, so I tried that too! And fell in love with the flavors. Since then, I've tried many types and drink a little bit every morning. In today's post, I'm not writing based on expertise and long spans of time of lengthy research, but as someone anxious to share a new find and what I've read so far about it.

So basically what Kombucha is, is a brewed and fermented tea. If you know anything about how fermented beverages work (even wine, beer, etc.) something with sugar must be added for the yeast to do its thing. So automatically, it sounds like sweetened tea. Not quite.

The beverage is tea with added yeast and either a sugar or fruit agent, along with one other ingredient: the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a culture of bacteria and yeast that forms when the Kombucha is brewing. It forms a mushroom-shaped slab that is removed and often used to make the next batch of Kombucha. The finished product is delicately fizzy, fruity and has a flavorful complexity that is refreshing and enjoyable. Think healthy, almost non-alcoholic mimosa.

Then there's the neat part you can't see. The end product is unpasteurized, which means that there's all sort of probiotic bacteria built into its chemistry that hasn't been killed off in the pasteurization process, kind of like a yogurt or kefir that boasts probiotic advantages. It also features helpful acids, enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients that the tea and fruit would have contributed.

Some of the health benefits that have been attributed to regular consumption of Kombucha include:

-Improved digestion and regularity due to the probiotics

-Detoxification of the body because of addition of enzymes and antioxidants

-Antioxidants also reduce the amount of free radicals, which also increase immune function, and have been said to slow aging

-Increased energy because of the combination of (a little) caffeine and B-vitamins and iron

-Joint care and relief from the higher levels of glucosamine present. Many who suffer from joint pain are encouraged to take glucosamine as a supplement, but it occurs naturally in Kombucha.

-Weight loss due to the presence of acetic acids and polyphenols. Apple cider vinegar has the same weight loss properties.

-Other possible health benefits include cancer prevention, diabetic aid, due to the low glycemic index, improving the symptoms of depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia, and general immune health

But what about all of the added sugar? Most of it should have been eaten by the yeast and gone by the time we drink it. Fruit Kombucha should have under five grams of sugar at the time of consumption, which then means that the calorie content is very low.

And if it's fermented, isn't it alcoholic? Yes and no. The alcohol level is kept at .5%, so that it doesn't have to be legally distributed as an alcoholic beverage.

A few things to note is that Kombucha is not for everyone and if you have certain health issues, it's best to read about it more and consult a doctor before making this part of your health routine. Also, it's recommended to not drink any more than four ounces a day. Overdoing Kombucha seems like it would be too much of a good thing. Also, there are methods to making Kombucha at home, but it seems like any contamination can cause adverse effects. Lastly, the claimed health benefits are claims and many do not have scientific basis yet. Kombucha has only been common to Western culture for a few decades, so not much research has been completed. Though it's been around for two thousand years, originating in China, and has been called the “Immortal Health Elixir”, keep the lack of scientific study in the back of your mind.

However, I'll be drinking it for the taste and because it's a great nutritional alternative to so many other sweet drinks. That's good enough for me, and anything else can just be a bonus for now.

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