Kombucha, the Champagne of Teas

It’s fizzy. It’s fruity. It’s sour. It’s sweet. And it’s a healthy way to beat summer heat. I’m talking about Kombucha, which, like so many thousands-of-years-old foods is this-minute trendy.

Even as soda sales slump, this steeped sip is gaining traction in markets and on menus. Basically, it’s sugary tea (black or green) that has been fermented using a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts), also known as a “mother.” Yeah, that slime on top of cider vinegar at the health food store. Only a different variety of slime. Kombucha comes from the Japanese words kombu (mushroom or fungus) and cha (tea). Some people think it’s made from mushrooms. Nope. SCOBY slime.

Packed with probiotics, this effervescent elixir is prized by fans for its flavor and its health benefits. You can find it bottled in flavors like mango, grape, citrus and raspberry, which generally have juice added to cut some of that tang. I’m partial to the ginger version, since it reminds me of the Jamaican ginger beer I grew up with.

Now as for the health benefits, as with most traditional or indigenous remedies, there’s centuries upon centuries of folk wisdom that says “it’s good for what ails ya,” but there’s not much “science” to prove it’s safe or effective. Drinkers of the tea tonic tout it as helpful for weight loss, detoxing, sleep, memory, menstrual pain and more. Medical experts caution that brewing the beverage at home heightens the risk of contamination. They also caution folks who are pregnant, immune-suppressed, elderly, etc. from experimenting with the elixir, which probably has some toothless centenarian in rural Japan shaking his head and laughing with his pregnant granddaughter. But that’s the establishment for you. You know what the disclaimer says. Check with your doctor. Buying Kombucha bottled also keeps the alcohol content standardized to a minimal amount, and you can find it unpasteurized, meaning you’re probiotically good to go.

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Kombucha is easy to make at home. I just make a trip to Costco which sells it refrigerated in various natural flavors.

 

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Here’s a mature home-brewed Kombucha with the SCOBY or mother.

Photo Credit: Mgarten at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12136740

You can enjoy artisanal cocktails made with “the champagne of teas” at your local hipster watering hole. Vegan restaurants and teahouses will likely have many varieties on the menu. Read more about the art and science of this ancient and thoroughly modern beverage here.