Kombucha Explained

Kombucha is sweet and tangy sparkling beverage that is the product of a unique method of fermentation that has recently gained the attention of health-conscious individuals around the world.

The use of this powerful elixir, however, is nothing new, with historical accounts dating the first medicinal usage of the beverage in the Far East to an estimated 2,000 years ago. Today it is still being consumed around the world to detox, increase energy, aid digestion, naturally cleanse, boost immune systems, and—in many cases—simply because it tastes delicious. However, despite the widespread consumption of this beverage, few people fully understand how it is made, and the actual nature of the many benefits that it offers. Despite the seemingly complex nature of this fizzy beverage, it really is quite simple to understand, thanks to modern science.

To put it simply: black tea is brewed, sugar is added, and then a “SCOBY” is added. This symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (or SCOBY), is added into the mixture and left to sit at room temperature for a few weeks. During this time, the bacteria and yeast begin fermenting the beverage. This may sound like space age science, but the concept of fermentation is something that humans have taken advantage of as a means of food preparation and preservation since before recorded history. This natural process of fermentation simply refers to bacteria and yeast consuming the sugar in the liquid and—as a result—producing lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and a hint of alcohol. The formation of lactic acid gives it the sour taste, and the carbon dioxide creates a natural carbonated effect.

However, the real beauty of this fermentation process is that it transforms a simple sugary tea into a uniquely delicious health beverage that has nearly zero sugar, is full of live enzymes, and boasts a wide range of nutritional benefits for consumers. Amongst these benefits is the natural fortification of the beverage with B vitamins and enzymes, but the primary benefit is the creation of pro-biotic lactic acid bacteria. The beverage becomes full of these gut-friendly bacteria—similar to the kind found in yogurt—that aids in healthy digestion and boosts your natural immune system. To better understand this concept, consider the fact that your gut is full of billions of different bacteria. Now ideally, the majority of this bacterium is your ally, helping digest your food and fighting off potentially harmful bacteria. However, overtime—especially with diets full of processed foods—this bacterial colony can weaken. The good news is that by consuming pro-biotic foods, which are full of a similar type of gut-friendly bacteria, we are able to reinforce and strengthen our natural colony.

So grab a bottle of ‘buch today and cheers to your gut health! …or better yet, make a batch of your own, which is deliciously simple and comically cheap.

Kombucha refers to any of a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks that are commonly used as functional beverages for their unsubstantiated health benefits. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY). Actual contributing microbial populations in SCOBY cultures vary, but the yeast component generally includes Saccharomyces and other species, and the bacterial component almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus to oxidize yeast-produced alcohols to acetic and other acids.

Kombucha is reported to have originated around 5,000 years ago in China; based on Qin dynasty records, it was known as “Divine Che” (Divine Tea) and highly valued as an “energizing” and “detoxifying” drink.

Scoby – A symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY is a popular term (rather than scientific) used to refer to mixed cultures of bacteria and yeast present during production of the fermented beverages such as kefir and kombucha. In this regard, the appearance of the term “colony” in the name—which implies individual organisms of the same species living closely together, organisms generally clonal (all descending from a single ancestor) and therefore genetically identical apart from low frequency mutations—is a scientific misnomer, such that the acronym is essentially absent in the biomedical literature, a fact that comes from the difficulties to market any scoby and the close relationship they have with home-food. The species comprising the mixed cultures vary from preparation to preparation, but generally include Acetobacter bacterial species and various Saccharomyces and other yeast types. SCOBY cultures used in beverage productions can produce a structure referred to as a mushroom, and in similar loose uses of terminology, the term SCOBY culture and “mushroom” may be used synonymously.