Kombucha is the centuries-old beverage made by fermenting sweet (green, black, white, or oolong) tea. The ferment develops a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) pellicle and liquid. As sugar is consumed by the ferment, it forms a lovely balance of acids. Acetic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, butyric acid, and more mingle together to give kombucha it’s refreshing tart taste. Juices and fruits are added after the initial fermentation to impart flavor and feed the yeasts to provide a gentle fizz. The final beverage is packed with vitamins and enzymes believed by many to provide a wide array of health benefits, including supporting gut health.
There is yet to be a large body of controlled research to definitively put a stamp on the benefits attributed to kombucha. The US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health has several studies and published articles of interest including https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290641 . The strongest connection is that probiotics may improve gut health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26960543 addresses the suitability of fermented foods as a source of probiotics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30197628 discusses enhanced shelf-life and nutritional properties of fermented foods. Https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28115036 eve refers to low/no alcohol fermented beverages as a food group. Other fermented foods such as Tempeh, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and pickles would fall into this group of potentially health-boosting, probiotic-rich powerhouses.
The kombucha market was fairly limited in the US when it hit a rather large speedbump in 2010 over a crisis of regulation. Fluctuation in alcohol contents that deviated from the allowed .5% maximum led to halting sales. This opening on the shelves gave smaller brewers the opportunity to enter more markets and expose Americans to more variety in commercially produced kombucha beverages. This shake-up in the commercial market set off a cascade and resurgence of the beverage popularity.
The US market for kombucha is 180 million US dollars, with 95% in organic products. According to www.statista.com the market is poised to top 1 billion by 2023.
“US retail sales surged 37.4% in 2017,” while the rest of the non-alcoholic beverage market grew a skimpy 1.2%, according to www.foodnavigator-usa.com
Huge sales are just a part of the picture. Homebrewing which has been popular since the 70’s has grown at a rapid rate. While some would claim that home-brewed kombucha is dangerous, others brew it by the gallons and claim it has cured everything from the common cold to cancer. There isn’t much evidence of either other, but that hasn’t stopped the growth or the public support of kombucha. Green tea, cane sugar, filtered water, some starter (kombucha from a previous batch), and time. It is inexpensive to make, delicious, and potentially part of a healthy diet.
I am a long-time kombucha brewer and drinker. Each person has to decide what is right for themselves and their family. I love the taste and how it makes me feel. We strive to limit the unknown ingredients in our food and like to control the process. At the same time, we are trying to live a fiscally responsible life and develop skills that have the potential to be lost and share those skills. I will share with you how I make my kombucha and some resources where you can research and find more information on brewing your own, should you decide to pursue fermenting at home. Stay tuned for the next article in the series. I will be sharing step-by-step instructions for making kombucha from a starter or from scratch. Enjoy!
*We are not claiming any health benefits of kombucha. We are just sharing the facts we have found and our own experiences consuming and brewing fermented beverages. You assume all risk should you choose to brew and consume kombucha.