Kombucha — Is it a tea? A digestive aid? An alcohol? Technically, it’s all three.
There may be some confusion over how exactly kombucha should be classified, but there is no doubt that what was once a niche beverage has now officially entered the mainstream. As consumers continue reaching for drinks that are as functional as they are flavorful, kombucha has quickly risen to popularity. Dozens of brands have popped up on the shelf and many consumers have even taken to brewing it up themselves at home. But where and how did the concept for kombucha evolve? And what makes this super beverage so unique?
Even though kombucha has only recently entered the spotlight, this fermented tea beverage has a history that goes back much further — 220 B.C. to be precise. According to Forbes, the drink first emerged in Northeastern China where it quickly became a household staple due to its reputable health benefits. Japanese consumers added kelp to create “kocha kinoko” or kelp tea.
As the recipe made its way throughout Asia, kombucha was eventually brought to Europe as a result of conflicts and trade expansions in the early 20th century. During this time, the drink became especially popular in Russia (“kambucha”), Germany (“kombuchaschwamm”), and other areas of Eastern Europe (“kvass”). In the face of shortages of sugar and tea, kombucha fell out of favor during World War II before returning to popularity in the 1960s thanks to a Swiss study of its health benefits.
Today, kombucha is known by a variety of names and can be found all over the world in countries like Nepal, Siberia, Tibet, and India. In the US, kombucha is a fermented and sweetened drink often made with black or green tea. It is largely categorized as a functional beverage due to its health properties, but also contains trace amounts of alcohol from the fermentation process.
How It’s Made
Like tea or beer, the process of making kombucha is also referred to as “brewing.” It requires very few ingredients, though it does take a decent amount of time.
If you’re planning to brew your own kombucha at home, you shouldn’t have any trouble gathering up the water, sugar, and tea needed to make the base; however, the real star is going to be your scoby.
Scoby is short for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, though it is also often referred to as the mother. This living organism is responsible for breaking down the sugars in the tea mixture and converting them into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and acids.
Other byproducts include a variety of nutrients — and flavor! The result is a tangy-sweet and bubbly tea with a slight vinegar-like bite on the finish. Taste is also impacted by the type of tea and scoby used, length of the fermentation process, and the addition of other flavoring agents, like fruits, juices, or herbs.
Brew Your Own!
Luckily, homebrewing is pretty safe and sanitary, so as long as you have the right ingredients and tools, you can essentially whip up your own kombucha from your kitchen. The process can vary, but generally it involves a double fermentation. Here’s what that might look like (but if you need some more detailed instructions or would like to learn to make your own scoby, visit this link):
First, scoby is added to a sweetened tea mixture where it is left to ferment at room temperature for 4 to 30 days (or until you’ve reached your desired level of acidity). Please note that the longer it sits, the more sour it will become. For a sweeter drink, aim for a shorter fermentation.
After this period, you can bottle the mixture with whatever flavorings you’d like to add and let it sit for an additional period until it has reached your desired level of carbonation. Be sure to store the bottled kombucha in a refrigerated environment to slow down the carbonation and fermentation processes.
That’s it! If you aren’t cultivating your own scoby, then the process is pretty simple, though it still takes more time than buying it at the store.
Perks of Drinking Kombucha
There’s a reason why kombucha got its nickname in Ancient Eastern cultures as “the tea of immortality.”
Besides great taste, people drink kombucha for its health properties. This drink is most well-known for the living probiotics it contains which aid with digestion, though the added nutrients gained from the tea itself should not be discounted.
Some of kombucha’s health benefits include providing increased immune support, improved vitality, reduced risk of heart disease, and helpful probiotics and antioxidants. So whether you’re a fan of grocery-store convenience or want to try your hand at brewing up your own, be sure to give kombucha a try. Your body will thank you!
Think you have an idea for the next great-tasting kombucha? Flavorman can help you make it a reality! Get started by filling out this form or giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.