We have only just tried Kombucha for the first time recently....we had never even tasted it, as we were turned off by the crazy high prices to buy a bottle at cafe's, and just jumped in to try and make it, as we were attracted by all of the health and environmental benefits.
Best way to describe it is ... fizzy sweet and sour iced tea. You can adjust your brewing to make it sweeter or more tangy based on how long you leave it fermenting, but it is so easy and tastes really amazing! I can't believe it is fizzy even though it is in an open top container!
Before we even get onto all of the associated health benefits of the good bacteria in Kombucha, it just tastes great! The sugar and caffeine is consumed when fermenting it, so it's very low in sugar and has heaps of flavour. Our little 3 year old loves it and calls it fizzy vinegar, but he keeps asking for some vinegar now instead of always wanting cordial. This is before we have even second fermented it with fruit to flavour it in any other way. I don't know where he got vinegar from, but if you leave it too long, it does turn to vinegar, which is another future project...but I would describe it as tang.
Another massive benefit is that it is so cheap to make AND means no more waste in the form of packaging such as single use plastic bottles and cans. So not only is it good for you, it's also great for the environment!
All you need to get going with Kombucha is a decent sized jar, a piece of cloth to cover the top of the jar and a SCOBY.
The SCOBY, which is an acronym, Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, is the biggest hurdle for most. Firstly getting hold of one, and then getting used to the idea of this slimy pancake lurking in the liquid that you drink. It is a mental hurdle, but once you become accustomed to it and realise that it is safe and the drink tastes really good.... it and the baby SCOBY's become like family!
The best option to get your hands on one, is finding someone with a spare one, which is generally anyone that makes Kombucha, and you might be surprised to find that it is a lot more common than you first think. Start asking around and chances are someone you know, might be able to help you get started. Otherwise you can purchase starter kits with instructions and everything you need, including starter liquid, which is just Kombucha, which helps the whole process kick off much better.
If you buy a starter kit, try and get a fresh SCOBY, as opposed to a freeze dried one with a 2 year used by date that some health food shops have! The local ones we have in store at Eco Warehouse in Bunbury have a 2 week best before date, and are changed out every couple of weeks to ensure that they are healthy and fresh. The biggest enemy to your Kombucha and SCOBY is mould...if it goes mouldy, dump the lot and start again. Freshness and hygiene are the biggest factors in preventing mould, but even the pro's still get struck with mould occasionally.
So apart from taste, what are the benefits of drinking Kombucha?
After fermentation, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic). These bacteria are known as "cellulose-producing bacteria,” meaning they produce cellulose, which acts as a shield to cells. It is sometimes called a natural antibiotic and some claim it helps people overcome illness.
The following probiotics make up a typical Kombucha:
- Gluconacetobacter (>85 percent in most samples)
- Acetobacter (<2 percent)
- Lactobacillus (up to 30 percent in some samples)
- Zygosaccharomyces (>95 percent)
Although kombucha does contain bacteria, these are not harmful pathogen bacteria. Instead, they are the beneficial kind (called “apathogens”) that compete with “bad” pathogen bacteria in the gut and digestive tract. They help by restoring balance to the digestive system, with live probiotic cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while crowding out the bad ones such as candida yeast.
A 2012 study published in Biopolymers and Cell examined kombucha as a functional food product for long-term space exploration (yes, you read that right).
Among other various features, kombucha’s ability to regulate the “communication of the gut-brain axis” suggested it would be useful in preventing or minimizing the effects of anxiety and depression, particularly for astronauts and others under extreme work conditions (like miners).
Chinese scientists discovered that inhalation of kombucha could be a way to treat this and other diseases of the lungs caused by inhalation of dangerous material.
Although some doctors warn against kombucha for diabetics, it seems that some research suggests just the opposite. This is assuming, of course, that you are consuming kombucha without a high sugar content.
Particularly due to the functions of antioxidants in kombucha, it seems to help alleviate diabetes symptoms, and more efficiently than the anti-diabetic black tea from which it’s fermented. This appears to be especially true in terms of liver and kidney functions, which are generally poor for those with diabetes.