“Don’t forget to pack the kombucha!”
I just returned from the most beautiful road trip back home to Seattle and packed in my handy ice bag was a bottle of Ginger Fire kombucha from House Kombucha – a local friend and favorite from Oakland.
Inspired by my oldest sister Alexis, I thought I’d do a special post to answer the questions “what is kombucha?” and “is it really good for you?” Every trip back home, I bring healthy goodies and/or drag my oldest sister along to PCC, the local health food store, to stock up for my week’s visit AND share fun food finds with her. A few years ago I handed her a bottle of kombucha and she’s been addicted ever since.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is an “ancient fermented tea beverage” that has a natural effervescence (like bubbly carbonation) that is full of probiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins and so much more.
(NOTE: To help you understand some of these terms, check out a quick vocab list at the end of this post.)
It has roots in China, specifically the Qin Dynasty in 220 BCE with proven records of it travelling to Russia – eventually thriving to the health-conscious hippy communities of the 1970’s.
What are the ingredients and how is it made?
The ingredients are simple. It’s tea + water + sugar + SCOBY (a fermenting culture that is made from previous batches that stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
5 simple steps to making this magical drink:
- Steep tea in boiling water with sugar, then cool.
- Sterilize a container.
- Add a SCOBY (looks and feels like a slimy, mucous disc) or a fresh, bottle of kombucha with live cultures.
- Cover and let sit for 7-30 days.
What are the nutritional benefits?
Kombucha is known for being a great source of probiotics (healthy bacteria) for the intestines, with loads of vitamins, and detoxification properties to cleanse the body and support a healthy immune system.
What does it taste like?
Some say that you must acquire the taste because it is sour and vinegar-like, however I loved it from the beginning. It’s tart, refreshing, with fuzzy bubbles that tingle in your stomach – definitely a great alternative to soda if you crave that sensation.
Sugar? Wait…I thought I’m supposed to be avoiding that.
Yes, the formula for making kombucha requires sugar, but the sugar is needed to feed the SCOBY (bacteria) to help with the fermentation process. House Kombucha describes it best by saying kombucha “is fed, not sweetened” with sugar. After a significant amount of fermentation time, there are trace amounts of sugar left.
Does it have alcohol or caffeine?
The longer it ferments, the higher the alcohol percentage, however all store brands are regulated to be under the alcohol limit. If you are brewing it yourself, just be cautious that you don’t have accurate measurements of its alcohol content. For me personally, I tend to get a slight relaxing buzz when I drink certain brands of kombucha. As for caffeine, the fermentation process also “alters the caffeine molecules” so it is not as potent as freshly brewed black tea.
Any favorite brands?
I personally love House Kombucha the best. I met Rana, the founder, a few years back in her early startup phase, watched her business grow, struggle, and thrive, and have stayed connected with her as she’s gotten married, had a beautiful child, and partnered with amazing food distributors like Greenhearts Family Farm CSA and Goodeggs. I love them because:
- They use less sugar than any other kombucha brand.
- They use california beet sugar, which is quickly metabolized.
- No juices or extracts are added after the fermentation process.
- It’s family run.
- It’s local…and I believe in supporting small businesses.
Where can I buy kombucha?
Nowadays you can find kombucha at many grocery stores and corner stores. You will most definitely find bottles at Whole Foods and your local health food store. In some areas, you may even find it at a mainstream market like Safeway. (TIP: When shopping for kombucha, read the ingredient label and stay away from high sugar flavors.)
Helpful vocab terms
FERMENTATION scientifically means “the anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.” To make it simple, the tea sits on the counter, grows healthy bacteria by feeding off of sugar, and develops a sour, bubbly taste.
EFFERVESCENCE means to emit small bubbles of gas. To make it simple, the fermentation process creates gas that feels similar to carbonated soday.
PROBIOTICS are live and “good for you” bacteria that help create a healthy balance of organisms in your intestines
ANTIOXIDANTS an organic substance that helps to counteract with damaging effects and free radicals
Bonus! If you love kombucha, check back this summer, we’ll make it together. Oh and if you would like to cool off on a warm summer day, try making this healthy, refreshing dessert in under 3 minutes - Cool Kombucha Float.