Kombucha seems to have skyrocketed into fame these past few years. I first heard about it from Laiken Richelle on Instagram at the beginning of last year (a little late, I know).
Despite my knowledge (or lack, thereof), kombucha has in fact been around for centuries. It’s an age-old fermented tea that many cultures around the world have used as a source of probiotic bacteria.
To the left we have kombucha made with black tea, and to the right we have green tea kombucha!
Kombucha makes a wonderful alternative to sugar-filled drinks like soda. It’s naturally carbonated, so when you drink it, it has a nice fizz to it. This is because the fermentation process naturally produces carbonation and bubbles. Soft drinks, however, are artificially carbonated through a process that forces carbonation into the beverage.
What is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha is naturally fermented drink made from black or green tea and sugar. It contains a mix of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and has long since been used by many cultures for its health-enhancing properties.
So, what ferments the kombucha tea? A SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is used to ferment the tea into kombucha. The fermentation process takes around 7-12 days, depending on the temperature (warmer weather will speed up the fermentation process, cooler weather will slow it down) and strength of the SCOBY. Now, if you’re concerned about the level of sugar found in this drink, you can rest easy knowing that the SCOBY consumes over 90% of the sugar during fermentation. The result; a low-sugar beverage once finished. This process is similar to what would happen in milk/coconut kefir or sourdough bread.
Let’s Talk About the SCOBY…
This Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (a.k.a the SCOBY), is a colony of microbes that are responsible for turning the sweetened tea into a probiotic-rich beverage. The SCOBY is essentially a living culture of beneficial organisms that transform the sugar into healthful acids and probiotics.
Fun fact: Kombucha is sometimes called “Mushroom tea” because the SCOBY looks so much like a mushroom! Another name for the SCOBY is “The Mother” (similar to the term used for the fermenting bacteria in apple cider vinegar), as it’s the parent culture that creates the probiotic tea. During the brewing process, the SCOBY will often create a “baby,” or secondary culture, on top of itself, which can then be used to brew other batches!
The SCOBY forms into a rubbery disc that sits on top of the brewing tea, covering the surface and essentially sealing it off from the outside air. This allows fermentation to happen in an anaerobic (air-free) environment.
If looked after properly, a SCOBY can last for many years, in fact, a family member of mine has been making homemade kombucha for over 13 years and has generations-old strains of SCOBYs that have created many babies over the years.
Nutritional Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha contains no fat or protein, but does contain an array of beneficial bacteria an nutrients such as:
- S. Boulardii: 1 billion organisms
- Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086: 1 billion organisms
- Glucuronic Acid 10mg
- EGCG 100mg
- Acetic Acid 30 mg
- L(+) Lactic Acid 25mg
(All readings above for 8 oz of Kombucha).
This tangy beverage also contains fewer calories than other carbonated drinks, such as sodas (containing approx. 30 calories per cup).
What’s it Taste Like?
When fermented, this beverage has a slightly sweet and slightly tangy (almost vinegary) flavour. The flavour varies widely depending on the brand you buy or how long you let it ferment for when brewing it at home.
Kombucha Health Benefits
Keep in mind: While there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from enthusiastic kombucha supporters, there aren’t many studies done on kombucha and the benefits given by this probiotic drink.
So to be clear, it isn’t some “magic pill,” but it may help the body by supporting:
The liver plays one if the biggest roles in detoxification in the body. Glucaric acid, which can be found in kombucha, is beneficial aiding its detoxification.
D-saccharic acid-1,4-lactone (or DSL for short) is a compound found in kombucha that contains wonderful antioxidant properties. This compound has been recognised specifically for its help with detoxification at a cellular level.
According to the Harvard Medical School;
A healthy gut will have 100 trillion+ microbes from 500 different identified species.
Having an overly sanitary environment in the body brings with it its own dangers. Society today, especially now with COVID-19, overuse strong sterilising products like antibacterial soaps and hand washes, while medical professionals over-prescribe antibiotics, which are all impacting and changing the structure of the gut.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, and drinks like kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir contain billions of beneficial bacteria, acids and enzymes that help keep the microflora in the gut in balance.
5. Joint Health
Glucosamines are a compound found naturally in kombucha, and are often recommended for improving joint health, as well as relieving joint pain. Glucosamines naturally increase hyaluronic acid in the body as well as assist in protecting and lubricating the joints. Hyaluronic acid can prevent arthritic pain, protect the cartilage, tissues, and muscles, and reduce inflammation.
Note: There are no confirmed studies or research on the health benefits and safety of kombucha. However, many anecdotal accounts of its benefits have been shared and this probiotic drink has been enjoyed by thousands. Kombucha should simply be looked at as a delicious refreshing drink containing healthy probiotics. That’s it.
Possible Risks of Drinking Kombucha
I absolutely love this fermented tea and drink it quite often, but there are some cautions I want to bring to your attention:
- Pregnant and nursing mums and anyone who has a medical condition should consult with their doctor first before consuming it. It does contain sugar and caffeine, which aren’t advised during pregnancy.
- Bloating may occur after drinking it. This can be partially due to the presence of probiotics and changes in gut bacteria. Anyone who has a digestive condition should check with their doctor first before drinking it.
- If the kombucha has been made incorrectly, harmful bacteria may be present in the drink which could be dangerous for your body. This is rare but tends to occur more often with homemade kombucha brews. If you choose to make your own kombucha, be very careful and ensure your environment is kept clean, and that you’ve brewed the drink correctly (see below for signs to look out for).
- Do NOT prepare kombucha in a ceramic bowl, container or vessel of any kind, as this can be dangerous due to the brew being quite acidic, meaning it can leach any lead from the container into the finished beverage.
- As kombucha is quite high in natural acids (though it still contains less than soft drinks), these acidic compounds may wear away at the enamel on teeth overtime. Ways to prevent this include drinking it all in one sitting, not sipping on it over the course of the day, and swishing clean water around your mouth (don’t brush) right after you’ve finished drinking it.
Caffeine & Alcohol Content
Kombucha does indeed contain a very small amount of alcohol, with store-bought levels estimated around 0.5%-1.0% alcohol. When you put this into perspective, a bottle of kombucha would have a similar content to that of an over-ripe banana (though who was even aware bananas contained traces of alcohol?!).
Another common concern raised about kombucha is its caffeine content. As kombucha is made using green or black tea as the base, it does contain some caffeine, the amount varying based on the type of tea used and how long it was left to steep. As a general consensus, kombucha is considered to have less caffeine compared to that of coffee or soft drinks. The caffeine content also tends to decrease during fermentation, so the longer you leave it to ferment, the less caffeine (and sugar) it’ll have.
Note: It is not advised to use decaffeinated tea when making your kombucha, as 1) the residue may kill the SCOBY, and 2) majority of the caffeine is generally removed through a chemical process, anyway.
How to Make Your Very Own Kombucha
The process of making kombucha is relatively simple. However, the first time I attempted to make kombucha, I was using a family member’s SCOBY which she kindly gave to me to start off my first batch of kombucha. BUT… I had to travel with it a few hours in the car and I don’t think it liked that very much. So when it came time to make my kombucha, after letting my brew ferment for a week, I started to see mould growing on top of my SCOBY. If this happens to you, and you discover furry or fuzzy mould on top of your SCOBY, DO NOT USE IT. This SCOBY will have contaminated the brew. You will need to discard the batch (including the SCOBY), sterilise the container thoroughly, and begin again (I know, this is devastating, but trust me if you keep persisting you’ll get the hang if it!).
The second batch I made (using a new SCOBY I purchased from my local health food shop) worked absolutely brilliantly! I now have a constant flow of SCOBYs I use to make multiple stockpiles of kombucha.
How to Make Kombucha at Home
Kombucha makes a wonderful health tonic that can assist with improving digestion. Here is my easy recipe for making kombucha at home:
- 1 gallon size glass jar (ensure it’s been properly cleaned and sterilised first)
- 4 cups of filtered water, boiled (ratio: 1/4 cup of organic sugar to approx. every 2-3 cups of tea)
- A SCOBY (which you can find at your local health food store) and 1 cup of liquid from a previous batch of kombucha
- 4 organic tea bags (green or black tea. I use 1 tea bag for every cup of boiling water)
- Coffee filter, cheesecloth or thin cloth and a rubber band
- Sterilise all your equipment (if you haven’t done already) and wash your hands thoroughly.
- Pour 4 cups of boiling water into a large glass bowl and add 4 tea bags using green or black tea, or a mixture of black tea with green/white tea or herbal teas.
- Add a little bit more than 1/4 cup of organic sugar. I use organic brown sugar. Honey is not recommended and sugar substitutes do not work.
- Let the tea steep and the sugar dissolve, then wait for the water to completely cool before placing it in the large glass jar. If using loose leaf tea, strain out the leaves before putting the tea into the glass jar with the SCOBY and starter tea.
- Add a SCOBY (ensuring the water is cold. Do NOT add the SCOBY if the water is still warm, as it will kill the colony of beneficial bacteria) and 1 cup of the starter tea (which is the tea the SCOBY was sitting it, as this tea has already been fermented).
- If the SCOBY is not the same size as the container, don’t worry. It will grow to fit the size of the container as it ferments.
- Cover the glass the with a cheesecloth or piece of organic cloth and a rubber band.
- Leave it to sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, where it will not be disturbed. Let it ferment for 7-12 days. After 7 days, pour a little of your kombucha into a glass to taste it to see if it’s ready to stop fermenting. You’ll know if it’s ready as it will taste fizzy and slightly sour, sort of cidery. It will ferment faster in Summer and slower in Winter.
- Now, by this time you will most likely have two SCOBYs in the tea, one as “The Mother” and the other as “The Baby.” Remove both of the SCOBYs and 1-2 cups of finished kombucha to start a new batch and repeat steps 1-9. (Leave enough kombucha in another glass jar for the SCOBYs to sit in until ready to use again). Store out of direct sunlight.
Where to Find a SCOBY:
Find a local friend who already brews kombucha and ask them if you can have one of their extra SCOBY’s. Or, as an alternative you can purchase one from your local health food store.
Where to Get Kombucha (If You Don’t Want to Make It)
If you’re not keen on fermenting your own batch of kombucha, below are some great pre-made alternatives.
Kombucha has increased in popularity in Australia in recent years and is now available in a range stores! There are plenty of really good brands to choose from, just look for an organic selection without large amounts of sugar or added ingredients. I also opt for brands who package their kombucha in glass bottles rather than plastic ones as it’s more eco-friendly and won’t leach plastic chemicals into the drink. Some good pre-made brands include:
While kombucha is absolutely delicious, it’s also a good idea to branch out and try some other healthy probiotic-rich foods and beverages such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, water kefir, milk kefir, beet kvass, homemade natural ginger ale, yoghurt (I love coconut yoghurt), miso soup, tempeh, pickles, kimchi, etc.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction to it.
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Have you had kombucha before? Have you made your own at home? What was your experience? Share with us below in the comments!
Lots of love,
Wells, Katie. (October 26, 2018). Benefits of Kombucha Tea & How to Make it At Home. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/23994/kombucha-benefits/
Does Kombucha Help Your Joints?. OSA – Ortho Spine America. Retrieved from https://osamds.com/kombucha-help-joints/
Hallett, Tom. (August 14, 2018). This is how much alcohol is in alcohol-free beer. Steady Drinker. Retrieved from https://steadydrinker.com/articles/this-is-how-much-alcohol-is-in-alcohol-free-beer/