Tea Time: The Wonderfully Weird Story of Kombucha

Get ready to taste bacteria-filled perfection.
January 13, 2020
6 mins read

Tea. You drink it. You love it. You’ve enjoyed green tea, black tea and maybe even sweet tea. You drink your tea iced or perhaps you enjoy it hot, but have you ever heard of kombucha?

Now, you might already be a massive fan of kombucha, but if you’re not, you might not know the origins of this drink, what its ingredients are or even the health benefits of consuming it, because this one-of-a-kind beverage is as unique as it is old.

The Origins of Kombucha

Personally, I’m a full-on kombucha supporter, and not only do I think that everyone should try it, but they should also learn the history of the drink and how it’s made.

It’s difficult to date when kombucha was created or locate its origins on a map. Although fermented tea likely stemmed from Manchuria, others claim that the drink originated from Russia — although most signs point back to China.

Legend has it that it was created during the Qin Dynasty around 200 BCE. The legend also states that the person who should be credited for creating this odd refreshment is Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.

How Kombucha Is Made

Kombucha is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill concoction. Its unique taste transforms it into an angelic drink unlike any other this side of heaven. And while kombucha is most definitely a tea, it’s also fizzy, while not sharing a lot in common with other carbonated beverages.

The secret to kombucha is science. No matter what kind of kombucha you are consuming, all of them start out from tea leaves, sugar and water, but after the brewing process is complete, the science part takes over.

It’s All About the SCOBY

SCOBY? What the heck is SCOBY? No, SCOBY is not an all-caps, misspelled version of Scooby-Doo’s first name, but rather the special ingredient that converts typical tea into kombucha.

In fact, the word SCOBY actually stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” Yes, your kombucha is alive, because there are living bacteria in the drink.

Before you condemn me for promoting witchcraft, let me explain. Kombucha bacteria will not make you sick. They’re entirely harmless and are credited as the special ingredient to the tasty drink. The SCOBY consumes all of the sugar and caffeine that is in the tea and forms colonies of beneficial bacteria, so even though kombucha is composed of disparate elements, there’s hardly any sugar and caffeine in the finished drink.

Furthermore, as the drink ferments, the SCOBY releases carbon dioxide as a result of its sugar consumption, resulting in kombucha’s fizziness. This fermentation process continues for a set timeframe, which ranges from seven to 30 days.

Normally, this process is conducted in a temperature-controlled environment. Due to fermentation, alcohol is created. In order for kombucha to be commercially sold, it must have an alcohol content of 0.5 or lower, which is hardly anything. As such, the tea can be purchased by anyone of any age and is surprisingly located in the produce section of certain supermarkets.

In the majority of kombuchas, the SCOBY can be seen resting at the bottom of the drink. This grayish, blob-like matter sometimes scares people and prevents them from trying it. But, don’t worry. I’ve found certain brands of kombucha without an excess of SCOBY for all you bacteria-phobes out there.

Nevertheless, if SCOBY scares you, you can always filter the liquid before you drink it. However, doing so will remove some of the potential health benefits that go along with consuming this delicious nectar of the gods.

The Health Benefits of Kombucha

Not only is kombucha alive and super delicious, but it also might host health benefits as well. A primary positive derived from drinking kombucha is that the drink supplies the body with probiotics that provide your body — mainly your stomach — with healthy bacteria; this can aid with digestion, inflammation and weight loss.

Since the foundation of kombucha is assembled with a shared set of ingredients, the drink also has health benefits associated with drinking green teas, such as gaining essential antioxidants that improve cholesterol levels and control blood sugar.

Moreover, drinking kombucha can also help kill harmful bacteria in your body, reduce the risk of heart disease, assist with managing type 2 diabetes and protect the body from multiple forms of cancer. Granted, all of this, of course, depends on if the tea is made correctly.

All in all, if you’ve never heard of kombucha or been too scared to touch the stuff because of all this SCOBY talk, give the drink a try. After I bought one out of curiosity, I completely fell in love. Do your body and your taste buds a favor and grab a bottle of kombucha.

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