You’ve probably seen it in trendy cafes and heard it being praised by health experts, but what is this mysterious drink and why do we need it in our lives?
According to Emmet Condon -- director and chief brewmaster at Remedy Kombucha -- kombucha (often referred to as “booch”) is a live cultured, naturally sparkling drink made through a fermentation process involving tea, wild bacteria and yeasts, and raw sugar.
It’s not a new drink, by any means, with people making and drinking kombucha for thousands of years throughout Europe and Asia.
“Our culture has been around in Australia for 40 years -- originally it came over from Germany with some travellers,” Condon told The Huffington Post Australia. “The thing about live culture is that it is self-perpetuating, it keeps replicating itself.”
Through its fermentation, kombucha contains healthy living bacteria proponents say is great for our guts.
“The whole point of kombucha is that it’s alive,” Condon said. “It is great to maintain gut health, which has a big impact on overall health and wellbeing.”
Accredited practising dietician Caroline Trickey agrees.
“Kombucha has healthy cultures in it and they are very similar to the healthy bacteria we have in our gut -- we term them probiotics,” Trickey told HuffPost Australia.
“Healthy gut bacteria has so many different processes in our bodies: they helps us digest food, help us produce vitamins and help us absorb minerals, like calcium,” Trickey said. “They can have an effect on our metabolism, mood, energy levels, rate of ageing and brain function."
"They have an incredible effect on our overall health.”
Kombucha is just one of many foods that are rich in probiotics.
“Kimchi, sauerkraut and yoghurt also fit into this category, depending on how they are produced,” Trickey said. “Some of these products don’t have many probiotics in it, so you need to make sure it says it contains live cultures.”
“We don’t want to overstate anything about kombucha, but we know how good it is to consume fermented foods,” Condon said.
The part of the kombucha that really packs a punch bacteria-wise is the Scoby. Yes, we know, what on earth is a Scoby, right?
“Scoby is a more technical term for the ‘mother’, a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast,” Condon said.
It might not sound (or look) appealing, but consuming this live probiotic community found in kombucha is a great way to ensure we have good gut health.
“We need these healthy bacteria if we want to thrive. If you want your best health outcome, you really need good, healthy bacteria in our guts,” Trickey said.
If you’re not yet convinced, you’ll be pleased to know that kombucha comes in a variety of natural flavours -- Remedy's flavours include apple, ginger and hibiscus.
Better yet, if you're keen to get your science on, you can grow your own Scoby and brew kombucha at home.
“It’s as simple as making a sweet tea (using raw sugar) and adding a bottle of our Original kombucha and that's effectively adding the culture,” Condon said. “That will grow a mother -- it might take two or three goes to build up the strands, and it will pick up localised bits and pieces to strengthen itself.”
You can also buy kombucha kits and Scoby online -- or simply ask around.
“I like the idea of finding a friend who is growing a Scoby which they can then share,” Condon said.
- 2 small bottles of Original Remedy Kombucha
- 1 wide mouth glass bowl
- piece of muslin cloth (enough to cover the bowl)
- 1 large elastic band
Pour two Original Remedy bottles into the bowl. Cover bowl with muslin and secure with an elastic band. Leave on the kitchen bench for one week.
“By now your mother should look like a nice healthy rubbery pancake,” Condon said.
Get ready for part three by having the following:
- 175g raw organic sugar
- 35g organic tea (black or a combo of green/black)
- 4 litre jar
- muslin cloth
- elastic band
- filtered water
- 35g organic tea (black or a combination of green and black)
- 175g organic raw sugar
- 4 litre jar
- 1/2 cup kombucha feeder (this is the liquid leftover from growing your mother, or some Original Remedy Kombucha)
- muslin cloth
- elastic band
- Bring 12 cups of filtered water to the boil. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Remove from heat and add the tea. Brew for 5-6 minutes.
- Let it cool to room temperature -- if you add the mother when the tea is still hot it will kill the good bacteria and yeast.
- Strain tea. Pour your tea brew into a four litre jar, stir in feeder and carefully add the mother. Cover with muslin and elastic. Leave it to brew in a cool, shaded place for eight days.
"After six days it's time to taste your kombucha to determine if it’s almost ready,” Condon said. “It will be rather sour and perhaps slightly fizzy, but still have a slight tea taste. Leave to brew and come back in another two days.”
“Your kombucha should now be ready! Your mother will have grown a second pancake along the top of the jar,” Condon said.
“Gently remove the mother (and its baby which will probably be attached), pour the remaining liquid into glass bottles and pop it in your fridge to enjoy.
“Make sure you keep half a cup of your kombucha and the mother (and it’s baby) to start a new brew.”
“To flavour your kombucha, add any fruit or spices (after you have removed the mother), secure tightly with a lid and leave it on the bench to ferment for a few more days,” Condon said.
“This second fermentation will also produce more bubbles. We recommend adding ginger, peaches or a cinnamon spice mix.
"Don’t leave the kombucha out for more than a few days as the build up of carbonation may cause the bottle to pop.”