Kombucha, a tea that is fermented with yeast and good bacteria, has gone mainstream. It’s been around for a long time, though, and was first used by the Chinese around the year 221 B.C., then made its way to Russia in the 1800s—sometimes also called kvass.
Now it’s practically everywhere and growing in popularity. In fact, more than $34.8 million of kombucha-based drinks were sold between April 2006 and April 2007, which is up from $15.2 million in sales the year prior, according to data from SPINS, a national natural foods information publication.
But what is kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea, usually made from either black or green tea, that contains a host of good bacteria and yeast species. It gets its name from the Korean physician Kombu who was summoned to help the Japanese Emperor Inkyo around the year 414 A.D.
Depending on the brand and how it’s made, kombucha is usually packed with gut-friendly probiotics and enzymes as well as B vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols. For some people, the fact that kombucha is an organic, raw food is an added bonus.
One expert on kombucha indicates that kombucha also contains glucuronic acid. Glucuronic acid, by the way, is what the liver makes to detoxify the body.† In fact, the glucuronic acid the liver makes serves to bind up environmental and metabolic bodily toxins and rush them to the excretory system, where the body rids itself of them.†
The friendly bacteria found in kombucha generally belong to the genus Acetobacter, known for its ability to oxidize sugars or alcohols, metabolizing acetic acid as a bi-product.† Used widely in the production of vinegars, wines, and spirits, these bacteria have been sought after and ingested by humans for hundreds of years.
The yeasts found in kombucha can include several different forms, including but not limited to: Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii. Many of these are used regularly in either the brewing of beer or the fermentation of wine.
Kombucha has a refreshing taste that resembles tangy, fermented cider. Each batch of kombucha can vary in taste, however, depending on the recipe, how long it brews, and how long it ferments. Kombucha typically contains less than one percent alcohol and, although it is usually made with sugar, it contains only about 3 grams of simple sugars (monosaccharides) per 100 grams of kombucha.
Overall, kombucha is a refreshing and healthy drink that is making its way more and more onto many folks’ “favorite beverage” list.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.