That strange and stringy layer of floating sediment – it’s the first thing one notices when you hand them a bottle of Kombucha. “Do you drink that…stuff?” they ask. “Oh, that,” I’ll reply, taking a giant swig from the bottle. “That’s just a fermented colony of yeast and bacteria.” Prodding people is always good fun.
But joking aside, that fermented yeast and bacteria culture is the essence of Kombucha, the trendy tonic being championed by the health elite and brandished by celebrities from Madonna to Lindsay Lohan (who actually blamed the brew for tainting her alcohol test… but we won’t go there).
Without getting too scientific, the culture is naturally fermented for several days, producing a pancake-looking colony (a SCOBY), surrounded by a fizzy, vinegar-like tonic – the part you drink. If that sounds as appealing as eating molded bread, keep in mind that it’s really not so different from the magic that happens in your average bowl of yogurt. (Yes, it’s safe to eat yogurt).
So what’s the deal with willingly ingesting bacteria? Good bacteria, called probiotics, can actually have numerous health benefits. Kombucha packs a serious amount of probiotics, as well as bacterial acids and enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins. In fact, the bubbly brew has been praised for its health properties for thousands of years.
Known as the ‘Tea of Immortality’ and the ‘Champagne of Life’, Kombucha dates back to Manchuria and the Tsin Dynasty in 220 B.C, and is even said to have been the power drink of the Japanese Samurai in battle. The take-home: Don’t judge a brew by its colour.
As for the laundry list of palliative properties? It depends who you ask (aka nothing yet certified by the FDA). But a quick search on Google will tell you that this effervescent elixir will cure you of anything from constipation to cancer. As Kombucha becomes more mainstream, the literature is mounting, with a slew of satisfied sippers claiming to experience enhanced immune system function, improved digestion, boosted energy, hair growth, teeth health, weight loss, and everything else under the tart and tangy rainbow.
There is a (temporary) downside: Even if you manage to get over the funky-looking fermentation, Kombucha is an acquired taste. Something between champagne, iced tea, and vinegar. Not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak. But once you’ve mastered the mold, it’s all bubbly from there. Kombucha is an attractive alternative to soft drinks and similarly sugary sports drinks and store-bought iced tea. With a profusion of fresh flavours (special mention to Rise Kombucha Mint Chlorophyll), a bank of health benefits, and an effervescent twist, Kombucha is definitely worth the taste-bud training.
Here’s where to get Kombucha in your city: