The name alone packs a punch. It makes me think of a party drink or some childhood game that has kids singing something along the lines of “Kombucha ah, ah, Kombucha aah” as they dance or pass an item between them. It is not a name that once you hear, you are likely to forget. Having made its way into our local markets, what is Kombucha? Why is it good for you?
Kombucha is a sweet, fizzy fermented beverage made from tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast, and a bunch of other optional ingredients depending on your flavouring tastes. It is made when a bacteria-yeast combo, also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is mixed with sweetened tea and then left to ferment for about 7-10 days. Yes, it is a little bit alcoholic, with an alcohol content of about 0.5%.
While studies are still being done to conclusively prove kombucha’s efficacy in contributing to our overall wellbeing, here is what we know. Based on the ingredients used and the process of making it (natural fermentation), well-made Kombucha is good for you for the following reasons.
1. Rich in probiotics
Probiotics are good bacteria. The kind that your body really needs. Probiotics are found in food products that have been naturally fermented. A favourite Probiotics-rich product is yoghurt. We can now add Kombucha to that list. Probiotics help fight off bad bacteria that cause illnesses. They have been linked to improved immunity, and gut health as well as aiding digestion.
Antioxidants are substances that help protect your body against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable and highly reactive molecules formed during normal cell metabolism. If left unchecked, they lead to oxidative stress. If not dealt with, oxidative stress is very harmful to your body, amongst other things, increasing your risk of cancer. But normally, if kept in check, free radicals are useful to your body. For instance, they are used by immune cells to fight off infections. For the latter scenario to keep occurring, you need antioxidants.
Antioxidants are what keeps the free radicals actively working for your body and not against it. Your body produces its own antioxidants. But that is not enough. Plant and animal-based foods are additional sources of the antioxidants that your body needs. According to a study done, kombucha has strong antioxidant properties, especially if red or green tea is used to make it.
Kombucha has been proven to contain minerals and vitamins. They are produced when the yeast breaks down the sugars during the kombucha-making process. The vitamins contained include Vitamins C, B, B1, B6, and B12. These vitamins are necessary for the body for amongst other reasons, proper nerve function, proper immune system, better eyesight, maintaining the body’s energy supply, repairing body tissues and absorption of iron in the body.
One of the minerals that we can get from Kombucha is iron. So with regards to iron, the benefits of kombucha are two-fold, providing iron and also helping in its absorption. For those of us who have at one point or another struggled with iron deficiency, you can see how beneficial kombucha can be.
4. Same benefits as the tea used
Proving that kombucha is the gift that keeps on giving, it brings with it the benefits of the type of tea used. Green tea, for instance, has been linked to better brain function, helping with weight loss, improved skin appearance, better heart health and lowering cholesterol. It is also rich in antioxidants. Red tea, if used has similar benefits as green tea, with the added benefit of being caffeine-free.
Kombucha is an immune booster. This is because like it has been mentioned above, it contains minerals and vitamins which improve immune function. The probiotics and antioxidants have also been proven to aid immunity, as does tea. In addition, the fermentation process itself helps add to kombucha’s immune-boosting properties.
For one to fully enjoy its lauded health benefits, kombucha should be made under sterile conditions and one should be careful while making it lest it over-ferments (7-10 days is the recommended fermentation period). Overfermentation increases the acidic levels of the beverage and might lead to health problems, the very opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Also, according to a study done, overfermentation was found to decrease the ability to deactivate free radicals. So to enjoy its much-touted benefits, when making kombucha, timing is key, as is hygiene.
If you are looking to make kombucha at home, you can start with the video above or this recipe from BBC goodfood.
1.Tea – black is best as it has nutrients that scoby likes. But you can mix it up (do half and half) with other types of tea. This should be either tea bags or loose tea.
Green tea is the most commonly used after black. Other types that can be used include rooibos, chamomile, hibiscus, raspberry, Darjeeling, and oolong. But please avoid tea that has added oils such as Earl Grey.
2. Sugar (regular sugar, not artificial or sugar substitutes)
3. Scoby – this should be bought from a trusted source and should not be refrigerated. You can also make scoby at home.
4. Starter Liquid – This is usually taken from the top of the previous brew. For first-time brewers, they will have to buy it. It makes up to 10% of the quantity of the new batch. It makes the tea more acidic and protects against harmful microorganisms during the fermentation period.
1. Boil a quarter of the total water in a saucepan, turn off the heat and add the teabags and the sugar, give it a quick stir to dissolve the sugar and leave for 6-10 minutes to brew.
2. Remove the teabags from the solution but don’t squeeze them as it can cause the brew to be bitter.
Add the remaining quantity of cold de-chlorinated water. This will make sure that the solution is not hot, as anything above 35°C will harm the scoby.
3. You need to use glass jars for Kombuca with metal lids or grass lids. Do not use plastic jars or covers. Add the scoby and the starter liquid that the scoby has been sitting in. There should be a minimum of 5 cm left at the top to allow for fermentation activity and scoby grow
4. Cover the jar with a cloth or a paper towel and an elastic band to prevent dust and fruit flies from getting in. The jar should not be closed as the scoby needs to breathe. Label the jar with the date and contents such as the mix of tea used. Masking tape is good for this as it comes away easily.
5. Leave to ferment for 7-10 days at room temperature away from radiators, the oven or direct sunlight – a kitchen work surface usually works well. It does not require complete darkness, a little light is fine as long as it isn’t direct sunlight. Do not put it into a cupboard as air circulation is important.
After this, the tea should be immediately bottled in a glass bottle. Never use metal or plastic. Then you can refrigerate it.
If you want to add flavouring, once in the bottle, add your chosen flavourings, leave it for a day at room temperature and then transfer to the fridge. Flavourings that work well with kombucha include berries, citrus fruits, exotic fruits, herbs, vegetables and spices.
Recipe 2 which I feel is easier is.
3l+ Glass Jar
2-3tsp Loose Tea Leaves (6 tea bags)
1 Cup Sugar
1. Boil the water then switch off heat.
2. Add tea leaves/tea bags let them steep for 30mins.
3. Add the sugar.
4. Let it completely cool (overnight is better).
5. Pour sieved tea into the glass jar.
6. Add Scoby + Starter.
7. Cover with cloth and tie with rubberband.
8. Store in a cool dark place for 7days (don’t disturb).
9. Harvest the Kombucha after 7 days.
10. Remove scoby, keep it in a hotel (small glass container or jar) with some kombucha to preserve it.
Tip: On day 6, create the next batch of tea so that you can always have kombucha brewing.
1. Pour the kombucha in glass bottles (with seals and caps)
2. Flavour with cut/blended fruits (raw or dry), herbs, etc
3. Seal and return to warm dark place for 1-2 days (keep opening to release gas)
4. Once ready store in the fridge drink at pleasure.