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What Is Kombucha & What Are Its Health Benefits?

By Edited Oct 14, 2015 1 8

Kombucha is a raw, fermented tea drink that contains sugar, bacteria, and yeast. It is sometimes reffered to as “mushroom” or “mother.” 

Although the exact origins of kombucha aren’t totally clear, some believe that it came from the ancient Chinese, dating back to about 2000 years ago. There is evidence that Geghis Khan and his men drank this bubbly drink for vitality. It eventually traveled to Russia, where there are records documenting the culturing of tea. Kombucha did not reach Americans until the 1970s, when people began to become more health conscious and also took up the hobby of home brewing. 

GT's Kombucha

Health Benefits of Kombucha

Many people opt to drink kombucha for more reasons than just pure enjoyment. Because the fermentation results in a combination of amino acids, B vitamins, and various chemical compounds, there are associated health benefits of drinking kombucha:

  1. Stimulating the immune system
  2. Cancer prevention
  3. Improved digestion and gut health
  4. Improved liver function
  5. Alleviating arthritis
  6. Detoxification
  7. Joint care

Because kombucha is naturally carbonated, it contains bubbles similar to soda or champagne. This consistency gives a nice effervescent taste to the tea. Although kombucha is sweet, it does have a bite (which is slightly bitter) due to the acids (acetic, lactic, and malic, among others) in the mixture. 

Bottles of Kombucha

Legal Issues

While kombucha generally has an alcohol content of under 0.5%, regulators and retailers began expressing concern in 2010 that the tea may need regulation. This was due to some bottles containing more than 0.5%, the legal limit for a beverage to be considered alcoholic.

While purchasing pasteurized kombucha at the store isn’t regulated, it’s the raw kombucha (which contains the minute amount of alcohol) that now has restrictions. Large market share holder GT even redid one of their formulas so that they could keep it on the shelves. Many retailers keep their raw inventory in the alcohol section of the store, and some even require a 21+ ID to buy it. Having an open bottle of raw kombucha while driving can even get you an open container ticket by law enforcement.

 

Kombucha

Home Brewing

Brewing kombucha at home has grown in popularity. This is typically done by placing a culture in a sweetened black, green, or white tea. The sugar is necessary for fermentation. Herbal teas are not recommended for making kombucha, as it can negatively affect the culture.

Great care must be taken when kombucha is home-brewed. If contamination occurs, the consumption of that batch can result in illness. As a safety measure, the container of kombucha is often covered with a close-weaved cloth to prevent contamination. The goal is to allow gas from the kombucha to “breathe,” while keeping out any mold, dust, or bacteria. Temperature, taste, size of vessel, and desired acids are all factors in how long the kombucha should ferment. 

The source of kombucha should always be considered before drinking it. Because the tea is sometimes brewed in unsertile homes, contamination can occur. If lead pots are used to brew the mixture, lead poisoning is a concern as well. 

Home Brewed Kombucha
Kombucha Home Brew Kit - 1 Gallon
Amazon Price: $49.99 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 14, 2015)
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Comments

Jun 10, 2013 9:24am
Zachjazz
Thanks for the excellent article on kombucha. My ex wife used to drink it a lot, but after smelling it I was always a bit afraid to drink any. About a year ago I drank my first bottle of it, and really enjoyed it. The slightly alcoholic and fermented flavor is quite interesting, and this drink is no doubt healthy. I think I will get some at the co-op this morning. Thanks for the inspiration!
Jun 10, 2013 3:37pm
lek3
Glad you enjoyed the article. The first time I smelled kombucha, it made me very hesitant to try it as well- but now I'm hooked!
Jul 13, 2013 5:43am
Arlina
Great info! We had water kefir grains and the kids loved it. I never tried kombucha tea but you convinced me
Jul 15, 2013 10:40am
lek3
Thank you! Definitely give it a try.
Jul 13, 2013 1:47pm
curiosity44
Thank you for writing this terrific article, lek3. I had never heard of Kombucha. I was fascinated to read that it contains yeast and never knew that tea drinks had this ingredient. Considering that it goes back 2,000 years, I am amazed that more people do not know about Kombucha and its many benefits. Great job!
Jul 15, 2013 10:43am
lek3
Thanks, glad you enjoyed! I think as time goes on, Kombucha is just going to keep gaining popularity. It already seems as though more and more places are carrying it, even regular grocery stores.
Jul 15, 2013 3:17am
chbamey
Fascinating - I'd heard of kombucha but never yet tried it. I'm curious to know more about the health benefits. Thanks for piquing my interest!
Jul 15, 2013 10:43am
lek3
Glad I could help! Give it a try if you're feeling up to it :)
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