What is Kombucha?

What is kombucha? You may have heard the name kombucha. Perhaps you have even seen it in the health food store but you’re not quite sure as to what it is. Read on to discover the answer to this question and many others including:

What is Kombucha?

  • Is kombucha good for my health?

  • Can I drink my kombucha hot?

  • How much kombucha should I drink per day?

  • Can I make my own kombucha?

Firstly let’s answer the first and most common question "what is kombucha?"

Kombucha is a probiotic beverage, which is made by fermenting black tea and sugar with special probiotic cultures, known as kombucha or "mother" cultures. Some people refer to the resulting beverage as a tea, whilst others call it a tonic or elixir. Kombucha is often referred to as "kombucha mushroom tea" or simply "mushroom tea". However, it does not contain mushrooms but rather probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts. Thus kombucha is also a probiotic food.

Kombucha has been a popular beverage since ancient times. It origins however are somewhat blurred. Some food historians believe this beverage originated in China around two thousand years ago, whilst others consider its roots to be Russian. Its use spread and the drink remains popular even today in Japan, Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe. The fact that the drink is consumed over such a wide geographical area has resulted in the tea being being known by many different names including kvass, Teepilz, Wunderpilz, Manchurian tea, tea fungus and fungus japonicius.

What Does Kombucha Taste Like?

In terms of taste, some say kombucha is reminiscent of a slightly sweetened vinegar, whilst others note that it simply tastes "sour". It also has a fizz to it like a carbonated drink. For most, it’s not an immediate love affair with kombucha but rather a case of acquiring the taste over time.

Can I Drink My Kombucha Hot?

Heating kombucha will destroy the probiotic organisms contained in the beverage. Kombucha is best consumed at room temperature or chilled.

How Much Kombucha Should I Drink?

There is no recommended daily intake for kombucha. As with all food and drink, balance is the key. Since the beverage contains live probiotic organisms however it’s best to slowly introduce kombucha to your system. Start with around 120 mls per day (approximately 4 fluid ounces) and gradually build up your intake over several weeks.

Is Kombucha Good for My Health?

Kombucha has gained a reputation as a digestive and liver tonic. Many scientific studies support this reputation, concluding that kombucha is indeed useful for protecting and improving liver and digestive function.

Some studies have also noted the antibacterial properties of kombucha against a number of pathogenic microorganisms including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella typhimurium, Helicobacter pylori1. However, it is worth noting that these studies have been conducted on animals or in the laboratory (in vitro) and NOT on humans.

In contrast, other studies document concerns regarding the potential safety kombucha.. Thus in scientific terms therefore, the jury is still out on kombucha. Anecdotally, however, many people claim to have experienced health benefits from drinking this drink. The choice is yours!

Can I Make My Own Kombucha?

You can of course make your own kombucha tea by blending black tea with sugar, water and of course the kombucha culture or kombucha "mother". It’s relatively easy. The most challenging part of the process is ensuring that you have a good quality starter culture for your tea. See our dedicated page on making kombucha for more information. Additionally the books Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katx and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon also each contain a recipe for kombucha.

Can I Buy Ready-Made Kombucha?

You can also buy ready-made bottled kombucha tea, which is increasingly available in health food stores across the United States. Those, which are unpasteurized will contain live probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeasts.

Commercial kombucha tea is often flavored with fruit such as strawberry, passion fruit, mango or guava. One of the most available brands in the USA is GT’s Kombucha, producers of Raw Organic Kombucha as well as Synergy Organic and Raw Kombucha.

References

1.Sreeramulu G et al; Kombucha Fermentation and its Antimicrobial Activity,J Agric Food Chem. ; June 2000; 48(6):2589-94.

2.Ernst E.; Kombucha: a Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence., Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. April 2003;10(2):85-7.

3.SungHee Kole A et al; A Case of Kombucha Tea Toxicity; J Intensive Care Med.May –June 2009; 24(3):205-7.


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