To put it plainly, kombucha is a carbonated, probiotic tea made from colonized bacteria and yeast. Its m.o. is a slight vinegary taste. this definition might not foster an understanding of what kombucha truly is. It tastes like vinegar? What is a probiotic? How does someone make a tea out of a bacteria and yeast? These are all relevant questions that will be covered in this post.
Probiotics are important to cover first. Probiotics have recently come to be acknowledged in the popular conversation surrounding the topic of gut health. Inverse to antibiotics, which destroy bacteria in the gut and digestive tract, probiotics are believed to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria which can create healthy gut flora.
The digestive tract - consisting of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and colon - is a dark, damp area of soft tissue. This part of the body is an ideal environment for bacterial growth. An overgrowth of “bad” bacteria can cause inflammation and along with it a whole host of health issues. Some suggest that probiotics are lacking in the standard American diet, and raw kombucha is thought to be a reliable sources that the body can recognize and thus absorb.
The probiotics in kombucha are developed during the fermentation process. Fermentation occurs when sugar is introduced to the colony of bacteria and yeast. The fermentation stage is also where the vinegar notes and carbonation occurs, when the sugar is fed to the process culture known as kombucha. The vinegar flavor has often been compared to a slightly turned apple cider, which speaks to the fermented aspect.
Typically, the easiest way to grow kombucha is to start with what’s called a “mother” which can sometimes be extracted from the end of a bottle of ready made kombucha. Vendors specializing in the sale of this starter also exist. The kombucha starter base, or “mother”, is combined with green or black tea and fed sugar (although many are experimenting with other variations of teas). As the culture develops, it grows and can be skimmed from the top to create more kombucha. This explanation describes the most basic process, however, the making of kombucha can be complex. As with beer, another fermented beverage, fruity or flowery elements can be added to compliment the flavor. Other elements such as ginger and lavender are also added to enhance potential health benefits of this unique drink. In addition to probiotics, the beverage also contains enzymes and B vitamins.
The Benefits of Kombucha
While mainstream circles are still discussing and researching the health benefits of probiotics, kombucha has been said by some consumers to improve digestion, boost energy, and even help the immune system - especially when components like ginger are added. Other health benefits espoused by consumers include suppressing allergies, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, regulating metabolism, and easing symptoms of arthritis and diabetes. Again, tests are still being conducted to determine whether claims of health benefits in humans actually holds true.