Looking to get in on this health craze?
Kombucha is popping up everywhere, and many brewers claim that drinking it is good for your gut and your general well being. If you want to get in on this trend, here’s what you need to know.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is made from fermented, sweetened black or green tea. It’s fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast — or SCOBY — and should contain probiotic cultures. While the color and taste vary, kombucha is typically a cloudy yellow shade and has a sharp sherbet-like taste with a slight fizz. It’s also got a small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process, but not enough to have any noticeable effect.
What in the world is a SCOBY?
Kombucha is made with the aid of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), which “eats” the tea and sugar and produces all the live cultures in the final drink.
You might have seen kombucha in the fermentation process, SCOBY and all, on food-focused Instagrams. It looks like an odd, rubbery mushroom that sits on top of the liquid.
If you’d like to make your own kombucha, you can can buy a SCOBY from health food stores, or make your own from scratch using sugary tea “activated” by live cultures. You can either buy a prepared culture mix or initiate the fermentation process by adding some store-bought kombucha to your tea and waiting for it to ferment and the SCOBY to grow.
Of course, if you’d like all the benefits of kombucha without the hassle, you can buy bottled kombucha, which is becoming increasingly available in shops, supermarkets and service stations. There are no standard requirements for what makes kombucha, so the ingredients — and benefits — of storebought kombucha can vary.
As a general rule, you can expect to find these ingredients in your kombucha:
This is the biggest draw, as each cup of kombucha can have billions of good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, Acetobacter and S. Boulardii.
Most kombucha has a small amount of caffeine, thanks to the tea.
Kombucha will also have some sugar content, although actual amounts vary from brand to brand.
Most kombucha is also rich in B-complex vitamins.
What are the benefits of drinking kombucha?
While kombucha isn’t likely to be an immortal health elixir or the fountain of youth, there are some genuine benefits to drinking the stuff.
One of the main selling points of kombucha is that it’s rich in probiotics, which can help to balance your gut flora and encourage digestion. Unbalanced gut flora can contribute to a range of ailments, including IBS and low energy.
The high concentration of B vitamins found in kombucha may also be helpful for vegans and vegetarians, who might not be able to get enough B vitamins from their regular diet.
What is the best kombucha flavor?
These days, storebought kombucha comes in a range of flavors. For a healthier option, we suggest buying kombucha flavored with fruits or herbs after the fermentation process. There is also a wide selection of infused kombucha flavors.
If you have more of a sweet tooth or if you aren’t a huge fan of kombucha’s distinctive flavor, there are plenty of products enhanced with sweeteners — just keep an eye on the sugar content.
Our favorites are:
How to choose the best kombucha
There are no hard and fast rules on what makes a kombucha, so not all kombucha is created equal. The trick is to read the labels carefully when buying it, and to look out for these key things when choosing your “booch.”
1. Look at the packaging
- Darker is better. Light damages probiotics, so the best and most active kombucha will come in dark-colored bottles.
- Go for glass. Glass is by far the best choice for kombucha packaging. Other materials like plastic and aluminum will degrade slowly over time, especially in contact with alcohol, even in small amounts. Glass is far sturdier and will better preserve the kombucha’s potency without interfering with the natural fermentation process.
2. Read the ingredients list
- Natural flavors. It’s relatively easy to use real fruit and herbs to infuse kombucha with creative flavors, but it can be faster and more cost-effective to use powdered fruit flavoring or even artificial sweeteners to get a palatable taste. This really defeats the purpose of drinking a probiotic and will mess with the balance of good bacteria. Stick to natural infusions to get the best flavor.
- Sugar content. While the natural fermentation process will “eat up” sugars, make sure your kombucha doesn’t have a heap of added sugar to make it taste sweeter. There should be no more than 2.5 grams of sugar per 100ml.
3. Focus on the fermentation process
- According to kombucha experts, it takes 21 days for the fermentation process to take place and for the drink to become active and healthy to drink. Take a look at the label. Higher-quality kombucha brands will list their process and tell their customers how long the contents have been fermented.
Kombucha can be a delicious, healthy drink to add to your normal routine. Keep these tips in mind when choosing the perfect one to ensure you’re not offsetting any of its potential health benefits.