It was sometime in 2010 when kombucha really made a name for itself. Actually, it was Lindsay Lohan who really made a name for kombucha: by blaming the drink’s alcohol content for setting off her alcohol-monitoring bracelet, she escaped a charge for violating her probation. Now if only kombucha contained trace amounts of cocaine, she would have been able to dodge some major legal issues!
Kidding aside: what exactly is kombucha and why is everyone drinking it? (Literally everyone—even Starbucks, which recently debuted its own line of kombucha in six delish flavours.)
Kombucha, sometimes referred to as mushroom tea, is a fermented, effervescent black or green tea that contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes, acids and probiotics. It takes on a variety of flavours when combined with juices and other liquids.
A key component of kombucha is something called the SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” In other words, the SCOBY is a living colony of bacteria. It has a rubbery, skin–like consistency that’s usually flesh–coloured, with brown yeast strands that hang from it (would now be a good time to mention that the SCOBY is edible? Didn’t think so). The SCOBY is also referred to as the “Mother” if it was the parent culture used to create the kombucha tea. During the fermentation process, the mother SCOBY often creates a baby culture on top of itself that is used in subsequent tea batches.
So, what does this SCOBY-Dooby do?
The SCOBY plays a key part in the fermentation process, as it forms an airtight seal around the liquid, allowing the fermentation to take place. During this process, the SCOBY eats the added sugar (usually over 90% of it) and by-products are produced, which forms the nutrient–rich slurry for which kombucha is so well known. Fermentation also creates the fizz that makes this tea unique. The tea ferments for one to three weeks, during which time healthy bacteria and enzymes are formed and acetic, gluconic and lactic acids are produced, giving kombucha its distinct taste and health properties.
And what can kombucha do for you?
Keep in mind this is all relatively anecdotal––kombucha is a drink and should be consumed as such. Don’t start treating it as medicine and taking it instead of antibiotics. That will get you nowhere, except maybe the hospital (that said, if the doctor is cute…).
So, we know that kombucha is rich in nutrients, and contains healthy bacteria, enzymes, antioxidants, acids and more. We also know that these nutrients boast their own health benefits. By the law of deduction, then, kombucha should offer these health benefits, too. Here are a few of them:
Disease prevention: Kombucha’s many powerful antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent illness by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.
A healthy gut: Not only does kombucha contain probiotics (healthy bacteria), important for digestion and gut health, it also contains the antioxidants mentioned above, which reduce gut inflammation and the risk of gut–related disease.
A stronger immune system and increased energy: It only makes sense that as gut inflammation decreases, our immune system strengthens, and we feel more energetic. Our immune system is closely tied to the health of our gut and our body’s state of inflammation and stress.
Liver detox: Kombucha’s helpful enzymes and acids, especially gluconic acid, protect the liver from tissue-damaging toxins.
On a final note, if you haven’t tried kombucha, I highly recommend you do. It has a very unique taste. You may notice floating strings in the drink that look like backwash but those are just bacteria strands and completely normal. And don’t trust Lindsay Lohan: there is alcohol content in kombucha but it’s minimal––most commercially produced brands contain less than one percent and usually closer to half that.
Thirsty for more? Check out our official kombucha taste test.