Once found only in health food stores, kombucha is fast becoming a phenomenon, hitting supermarket shelves and restaurant menus around the world. Let’s find out why this fermented tea drink is making such a big splash.
‘The tea of immortality’
The exact origins of kombucha are a mystery. Even the experts aren’t sure whether the drink was created 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago. The most popular theory is that it originated in Northeast China around 200 B.C., where it was known as ‘the Tea of Immortality’. It is believed that the name came from a Korean physician called Kombu, who combined his name with the Korean word for tea (차, or “cha”) when using the drink as a medicine. However, it wasn’t until very recent history—around the early 21st century—that it became a commercial success.
This fermented beverage has gained popularity for two main reasons. The first is that it’s amazing for your health. A great source of probiotics and antioxidants, it kills infectious bacteria and may even reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The second is that it makes a great alternative to beer. It has a fizzy mouthfeel and tart flavour profile just like real beer, but with a far lower alcohol content—around 0.5%.
The science of kombucha
Curious about how this unusual drink is made? You may be surprised to learn that the drink starts off as a typical sweet tea concoction. Then, a scientific process gives it that unique effervescence and taste: fermentation. When a SCOBY (“symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) is added, the sugar in the tea feeds the bacteria and yeast, producing carbon dioxide and alcohol. Just a little sugar remains when the process is complete, balancing out the acidic flavour with some sweetness for the perfect kombucha.
A newbie’s guide
If you’re new to kombucha, start with a small amount—one serving, or even half. Some people are sensitive to fermented foods, so it’s best to work your way up slowly to get the full benefits. If you’re nervous about your first glass, try a flavoured variety like ginger, berry, or exotic fruit. Kombucha is great for any time of day, but many like to drink it with their lunch order as an energy-boosting afternoon pick-me-up.
Where to enjoy this drink
Technically, kombucha can be brewed at home, but getting it right can be tricky. For the best-tasting, healthiest experience, order it from a restaurant or whole foods shop. If you want to enjoy kombucha with a meal, try a bottle from Nature’s Nutrition to wash down your quinoa bowl. If you’d rather stock up to enjoy it whenever you want, you can get a range of flavours delivered from shops like Wholesome Harvest and Swiss Butchery.