by Coach Aaron Hyatt
Chances are, if you have wandered through the drink section of any grocery store in the past couple years, you have seen kombucha. The astronomical popularity explosion of this fermented health-drink is only rivaled by avocado toast, Birkenstock sandals, and the color millennial pink. However, although kombucha is arguably the “hottest trend in the beverage isle,” it is still a mystery to many consumers what this probiotic tea drink is really all about. What is kombucha? How is it made? And is it actually healthy?
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from bacteria and yeast mixed with sugar and black or green tea. Fruit juice and other flavorings are often added to create a variety of flavors. Kombucha is typically sweet, tart and potentially a bit vinegary depending on the duration of the fermentation process. The effervescent consistency of kombucha is the result of the live and active yeast. In addition, it is not uncommon for there to be small pieces of the bacteria mixture to found floating on top – which sounds about as unappealing as it gets. However, these bacteria bits are simply the result of the fermentation process, no different than sediment found in wine.
How is Kombucha Made?
Kombucha is made by introducing a S.C.O.B.Y. into brewed black or green tea, and sugar. S.C.O.B.Y stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. Once introduced, the S.C.O.B.Y. and sugary tea mixture are left to ferment for a duration spanning from 1-week to an entire month. The length of fermentation yields a fizzy beverage that can range anywhere from sweet to vinegary in taste. The shorter the mixture is left to ferment, the sweeter it will be because the S.C.O.B.Y. will have less time to consume the sugar. If the mixture is left to ferment for a longer period of time, the kombucha will have both a higher alcohol content and a more vinegary taste. After the initial fermentation process, fruit juices, herbs and spices are often added for a second fermentation, resulting in the variety of flavors we see as consumers today.
Is Kombucha Actually “Good” for You?
The most accurate, yet least pleasing answer to this question is: maybe, and in moderation. In ancient China, kombucha was regularly consumed to remedy inflammatory ailments such as arthritis and thought to ward off cancer. Many modern kombucha consumers swear by the beverage as an at-home remedy for a variety of bodily issues spanning from headaches to constipation and acne. In addition, consuming foods and drinks that are rich in probiotics aka “good bacteria,” can help fight colds, lower cholesterol and promote a healthy gut. Unfortunately, at this point, there isn’t any hard science tested on humans to back these long-term claims in regards to kombucha. Does this mean these claims are totally false? No. Does this mean you should stop drinking kombucha? No. But if you are guzzling Kombucha for its “acclaimed health benefits,” you may want to evaluate your motives. Recognize that you are drinking kombucha because it is refreshing, and you like it – not because it is a magic elixir.