If you’ve been to Whole Foods in the past three years, you’ve probably walked by a refrigerated beverage case full of alluring glass bottles labeled “kombucha.” I’ve gone through my fair share of health-nut phases, and discovered kombucha quite some time ago in a quest for a healthy, bubbly substitute for soda.
So, what is kombucha? In short, it’s fermented tea. The beverage is made from black or green tea and sweetener and became popular in the US in the 90s. Kombucha is definitely getting a lot of attention at the moment, but it’s actually been around for over 2,000 years—it was regularly consumed in ancient China to ward off cancer and remedy various ailments. And recently, George Dave, the founder of popular brand GT’s Kombucha, a line of organic and raw kombucha, claimed that the drink helped his mother recover from breast cancer.
These are some of the health claims associated with kombucha, but there’s not a whole lot of scientific evidence. Fermented foods in general, like kimchi and kefir, are full of probiotics that can help fight colds, lower cholesterol and help with digestion, but there’s no research directly tied to kombucha. Since it’s a fermented beverage, there’s usually around 0.5 percent alcohol content, but this can increase the longer it ferments.
Though you can buy kombucha at plenty of grocery stores and health food shops, it’s relatively easy to make at home. All you need are tea, sugar, an active starter culture of bacteria and yeast. This culture is combined with black or green tea, and sits for a little over a week. While it’s fermenting, a thin colony of bacteria forms on top, which can be scooped out and used to start your next batch. Bottled kombucha now comes in tons of flavors – ginger, lemon, cucumber and cranberry are just a few varieties.
Kombucha has a vinegary flavor that’s a bit sour but adding fruity flavors definitely helps. Our favorite way to drink it? Mixed into a margarita, of course.