Kombucha 101

Kombucha is an ancient Chinese fermented tea that has been consumed for centuries. It is largely classified as a functional beverage, meaning it has several health benefits, such as amino acids, helpful probiotics, etc. Based on scientific evidence, Kombucha produces antioxidants, kills harmful bacteria, and fights certain diseases. Although the bubbly beverage has had a history abundant in misunderstood media perception and medical studies, a developing number of consumers are taking note of its supposed health benefits.

The life of Kombucha typically begins with sweetened tea. Although the process varies from hereon, it often involves a double fermentation process in which a SCOBY- a symbiotic culture of bacteria or yeast- is produced. It’s created when bacteria, yeast, and sugar are added to black or green tea, then fermented for a week or longer. While this is happening, the bacteria and yeast produce a thick, mushroom-like layer on the surface of the liquid, which is why Kombucha is dubbed “mushroom tea.” The fermentation also generates acidic compounds, trace alcohol, and carbon dioxide levels. The beverage is then bottled to encourage carbonation. In this way, Kombucha takes on a fizzy texture similar to that of soda. From there, the Kombucha is refrigerated and sold to customers.

Kombucha originated around 220 BC in Northeast China, where it was treasured for its healing properties. Eventually, the drink found its way to Europe through trade. It first gained popularity in domestic markets during the 1990s. GT Dave, the creator of GT Kombucha, is accredited by many to have kickstarted the kombucha industry. Throughout the 2000s, the fermented drink continued to gain popularity. Not so long after, the kombucha industry faced an avalanche of media outbreaks concerning its alcohol percentage when a mislabeling scandal occurred. Despite the misunderstandings surrounding Kombucha, the industry proceeds to develop. 

As mentioned earlier, the greatest reason Kombucha is so popular is its supposed health benefits. However, these perks- such as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties- have been exaggerated by social media. According to scientific studies, acetic acid (vinegar)  is one of the main elements formed during kombucha fermentation. This substance may also kill potentially harmful microorganisms. Most importantly, Kombucha may reduce inflammation. The reason for this is that the teas used to make Kombucha are known to contain polyphenols, antioxidants that may lessen bodily inflammation. While most surveys suggest this information is true, only a handful of human studies have been conducted, so the specifics of how or why this remains unclear.

Despite internet scandals and misunderstandings, Kombucha continues to grow and is most known to contain several health benefits.