What is Kombucha and why drink it?
By the way, I can't take credit for this divine elixir. Lafew Teahouse and Kombucha Bar Cairns created this and while I've tried to replicate it, I haven't quite succeeded.
Kombucha is an age old homemade probiotic that’s ancestry is owned by many cultures including Russian, Polish and Chinese. Made by using sugar, water and tea together with enough starter culture liquid and a SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast), the liquid ferments for up to 14 days to reach maturation. This is commonly called the first ferment.
The second fermentation stage is when the SCOBY and enough starter liquid are strained and the remaining liquid is usually flavoured with fruit, spices etc. This is then left for another 2 – 6 days and will create carbonation and must be burped regularly. See my blog titled 5 important things you need to know about Caring for Kombucha in the tropics for further information
Now while there has been much conjecture over the last few decades about the health benefits of Kombucha (pronounced kom butcher) this peer reviewed current research by Vīna Ilmāra, Semjonovs Pāvels, Linde Raimonds, and Deniņa Ilze. Journal of Medicinal Food. February 2014, 17(2): 179-188. doi:10.1089/jmf.2013.0031 clearly states:
"Consumption of kombucha fermented tea (KT) has always been associated with different health benefits. Many personal experiences and testimonials of KT drinkers are available throughout the world on the ability of KT to protect against a vast number of metabolic and infectious diseases, but very little scientific evidence is available that validates the beneficial effects of KT. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the recent studies in search of experimental confirmation of the numerous KT health-promoting aspects cited previously. Analysis of the literature data is carried out in correspondence to the recent concepts of health protection's requirements. Attention is given to the active compounds in KT, responsible for the particular effect, and to the mechanisms of their actions. It is shown that KT can efficiently act in health prophylaxis and recovery due to four main properties: detoxification, antioxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity. The recent experimental studies on the consumption of KT suggest that it is suitable for prevention against broad-spectrum metabolic and infective disorders. This makes KT attractive as a fermented functional beverage for health prophylaxis."
Manufactured kombucha is less likely to contain enough nutritional value due to processing requirements to stabilise the end product, however it’s still a great alternative to soft drinks and flavoured sodas. If buying bottled kombucha always look for raw and unpasteurised.
What I enjoy the most about making my own kombucha is having control over what I add to flavour it particularly during the second fermentation process and the ageing process.
I can’t help but be a bit curious around the lack of documented peer reviewed research on this topic and would love to know your thoughts. Anecdotal evidence is prolific and being a fan of folklore remedies and self testing within reason, I’d still love to see more researched evidence to support this field.