Pop a tab or twist open a cap of an airtight bottle to hear a light fizz of wonder and deliciousness waiting inside. A soft vinegary aroma also fills the air and sends taste buds tingling. It is this beverage that contains something a bit different than your regular carbonated drink – fermented tea.
The ancient probiotic drink that is commonly produced by fermenting tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria is known as Kombucha (kom-boo-cha). It is said that kombucha has been consumed for thousands of years. Originating from China, true tea, actually coming from the Camellia Sinensis plant, is required for the fermentation process. The other important component is a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, also known by the acronym SCOBY.
Sometimes a SCOBY will be called a mushroom leading to people also referring to kombucha as “mushroom tea” but that is a common misconception. While its appearance may resemble a mushroom, SCOBY is a cellulose fiber mat that serves as a starter culture needed to create the beverage. Aside from kombucha, SCOBY is also used to create ginger beer, sourdough, yogurt culture and more. The SCOBY colonies can actually multiply easily and with proper care they may be reused many times.
Tea in kombucha plays a big role. The tea used may affect the health of the SCOBY as well as the taste of the finished brew. As mentioned previously, it is best to use real tea. If using a tisane (rooibos, yerba mate, herbal), it should be used in combination with a real tea still. Black, oolong, or green tea can be used but without additives. Teas that contain oils and/or added flavouring (ie: earl grey) are typically avoided, as they are not the best choice for activating a SCOBY.
After kombucha has been prepared, it can be brewed from 7 to 30 days. The duration of the fermentation process depends on personal preference. The longer the brew time the less sugar in and a more vinegary flavoured drink in the end. The final product is fizzy with a slightly sweet and tart taste. It also has very little caffeine and sugar as it gets used up during the fermentation process. With this, follows various health claims about this wonderful drink. There are no real studies to prove the claims but, to name a few, kombucha has been said to improve digestion and gut health and boost the immune system.
While there are many health benefits behind it, kombucha is just another way to enjoy tea. It’s refreshing, delicious and a feel good beverage. Naturally carbonated, kombucha may be a healthier alternative to pop/soda as it contains less sugar and chemicals. But like any other product, check the ingredients and search for a brand that produces their kombucha with minimal and organic ingredients so chemical contaminants were avoided.
You can buy bottled kombucha, both pasteurized and unpasteurized, in various flavours everywhere from health food stores to grocery stores. While kombucha traditionally is unflavoured, today there are many brews that have exciting flavours to enjoy from ginger to cherry and more. Check back next week as I will be highlighting a North American kombucha producer and reviewing one of my favourite flavours from them.
We’re going back into the archives to revisit these classic posts by James Norwood Pratt. This post includes two different multi-part sequences: “The Lexicographer” and “Porcelain Ballast”. We have added a link to the end of each one to take you to the next if you would like to read … Continue reading
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