You have probably noticed more kombucha options popping up in grocery and health food stores across the U.S. “Overall, the kombucha category has grown from $1 million in sales in 2014 to $1.8 billion in sales in 2019,” reports Market Watch, “with the total number of brands increasing by about 30% a year annually for the last several years.”
There’s even a growing number of hard kombuchas making their way onto liquor store shelves, too.
But what exactly is kombucha? Here we break down its history, how it’s made and how to brew it at home.
What is Kombucha and How is it Made?
Kombucha is a slightly sweet and acidic, gently fizzy drink that’s made by fermenting black or green tea.
To make it, you’ll need to ferment sweetened black or green tea for at least a week with a SCOBY, or symbiotic consortium of bacteria and yeasts. The SCOBY has a rubbery-like consistency with a vinegar smell. It looks like the top of a mushroom, hence why kombucha is sometimes called mushroom tea. You can either make a SCOBY at home or purchase a starter kit.
Is Kombucha Good for You?
While many fermented foods and drinks like kombucha have probiotic qualities, which can provide antioxidants and decrease inflammation, experts say kombucha isn’t a one-stop shop for gut health. A balanced diet is paramount.
“Consuming a diet rich in fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is the most important factor in order to promote a healthy gut environment for these probiotics to flourish,” Maria Zamarripa, a registered dietician, told Time Magazine.
Where is Kombucha From?
According to the Journal of Food Production, kombucha can be traced to the Tsih Dynasty in 3rd century B.C.E. China. Historians believed the fermented beverage made its way to India and eastern European countries like Russia through the Silk Road trade route. In Russia, it was later used as folk medicine in the 1800s.
During World War I (1914–1918), Russian and German war prisoners spread kombucha throughout Europe. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the carbonated tea became more popular in the U.S.