You’ve likely heard the word “kombucha” recently by coming across it at a restaurant or juice shop, seeing it on-tap at Whole Foods, or maybe know a friend who makes their own fancy version at home.  Are you considering jumping on the bandwagon, too?  Let’s dig a little deeper into the roots of this ancient Chinese beverage first.

Been Around Awhile

Kombucha , pronounced kom-BOO-cha, was known for its healing properties when it originated in China around 220 B.C.  It is a fermented drink made from four ingredients: water, tea, sugar, and a culture called SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that looks like a rubbery pancake.  The mixture then ferments to produce enzymes, acids, microflora, B vitamins, and a tiny bit of alcohol.  The fermentation process can sometimes cause a sour flavor as well as some carbonation.  Most of them do not have sugar added after the fermentation process, so are generally low in sugar content.

Health Claims

kombuchaSo are there any health claims to back up this tangy, fizzy drink?  There are actually a lot of claims made about kombucha, however not a lot of research has been done yet to back them up.

Some of the health claims include:

  • improved digestion
  • decreased joint pain
  • detoxification
  • increased energy
  • immune support

There are also some potential side effects which include:

  • upset stomach
  • infections
  • allergic reactions

If making kombucha at home, the risk increases due to potential contamination that can grow harmful bacteria.

Give it a Shot

If you desire to try some kombucha, start with a few ounces first to be sure your stomach can tolerate it.  Be mindful that this is not a calorie-free beverage, but it does contain less calories than soda or sweet tea.

Northlanders can find a sample at Grain to Glass or Colony Espresso and Beer in North Kansas City. If you live around Overland Park, you can check out the farmer’s market there on Wednesdays and Saturdays and shop the local brand Tea-Biotics out of Lenexa.  They offer several flavors, including watermelon, blueberry, and even a mule mixer if you prefer to substitute your mixer for kombucha for a summery mixed cocktail.