Kombucha is all the rage these days. Many people swear by its delicious, refreshing taste and potential health benefits. But what is it, and how can you get some into your life? Here's a primer about kombucha -- what it is, where to buy it, and even how to cook with it.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha tea is a popular fermented drink made with green or black tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast historically consumed in China, Russia, and Germany. It is slightly effervescent, and store-bought bottles often come labeled "do not shake before opening." You may hear people refer to a "SCOBY" when discussing kombucha. SCOBY stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." It's the (weird-looking) rubbery disc (or "mother") made up of cultures of bacteria and yeast, used to brew kombucha in a process similar to making vinegar. (In fact, kombucha does have a pleasant, vinegar-like flavor.)
What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?
There is a lot of talk about the benefits of kombucha, from the everyday to the extreme. Some claim it can prevent cancer, improve liver function, and treat diabetes, but there is no scientific evidence as yet that validates these claims. Nutritionally, it is low in calories. One 8-ounce serving has about 30 calories, all coming from carbohydrate. It is often rich in probiotics, the good bacteria for our digestive systems. Some brands, such as GT’s, list the probiotic content in each bottle.
Where to Get Kombucha
Kombucha tea was first commercially bottled in the early 1990s, and has quickly become especially popular in the past decade. You can find it at health food stores in bottles or sometimes on tap, and even at some farmers markets. It's available in unflavored versions, and some with fruit puree or juice added for flavor.
Some people make their own homemade kombucha, which is definitely a money-saver and can be fun. But sanitation and quality of the starter (SCOBY) are very important. Find reputable companies for the supplies and consult with the experts before brewing at home.
Cooking with Kombucha
Kombucha can add a distinctive flavor to recipes. Here are a couple to try:
Find more cooking inspiration and how-to information on Allrecipes Dish.