Kombucha is one of the hottest health beverage trends today, despite having been around for centuries. Its first recorded use was in China 221BC during the Tsin Dynasty. So what’s the big deal?
Let’s first take a step back and discover what kombucha actually is. Kombucha is a fermented tea which tastes like a fizzy apple cider. The tea is fermented exactly like wine, but with the Kombucha culture, called a “SCOBY,” which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
So why is it the newest health fad today? Well, according to WebMD, there has been much speculation about the numerous health benefits of kombucha including immune support, weight loss, reduced joint pain, cancer prevention, increasing energy, improving liver function, detoxification of the body, and digestion. People today are just now realizing and understanding that the probiotics in this drink can work wonders on their body and how it makes them feel.
Digestion support is one of kombucha’s potential health benefits (Dufresne, 2000). The abundance of probiotics and enzymes are what impart these potential digestive benefits. Kombucha has been speculated in experimental human studies to even be more effective than brand name drugs in treating conditions like heartburn and ulcers. Something that is very interesting is that kombucha can help maintain a healthy balance of candida yeast in the gut by populating it with what many refer to as “good bacteria” (WebMD).
For us college students, the energy that kombucha can give to its consumers might be important, especially for those 8am and afternoon classes! The fermentation of black tea produces iron; the tea also has a small amount of caffeine, and B vitamins, which are known to give energy to one’s body. In terms of cancer prevention, glucaric acid is in the drink, and has been also speculated to reduce incidences of cancer in humans (Dufresne, 2000). However, more scientific studies of this are needed to further prove this speculation.
Kombucha drinks can easily be bought at your local stores but often can run a high price range from around $3-5 per drink. As many of us are poor college students, we can save some money by making our own delicious kombucha at a fraction of the cost and it even makes for a fun and easy science project for you to do at-home. A picture of my very own kombucha brewing can be seen in the picture below.
To make your own kombucha, you will need the following materials:
You need pH strips to test its acidity and a hydrometer to test how much alcohol is in your fermentation. You can easily order these on amazon using the links above. Some other things you will need are a quart-sized glass container as seen to the right, a stirring utensil, a cloth to put over the jar (you don’t want explosions!), and a rubber band.
- Tea Bags (any flavor of your choice!)
- Distilled Vinegar (only for the first batch)
- Fruit for flavoring
The main ingredient that you need is the SCOBY, which can easily be purchased at your local healthy grocery store and even can be bought online here: SCOBY.
I would personally recommend the store Erewhon by the Grove in midtown Los Angeles (7660 Beverly Blvd A, Los Angeles, CA 90036). From research I discovered that this was the cheapest place you can buy a $25 Kombucha Starter-Kit. To make your kombucha, follow these steps:
- Dissolve sugar in hot water in your glass container. The ratios of all the ingredients can be found here depending on how much kombucha you want to make or what size container you have.
- Add the tea bags with flavors of your choosing to the glass
- Let your tea jar cool after for around 10-15 minutes and then remove the tea bags.
- Add a little distilled white vinegar to the jar as a starter. As you make more batches, you won’t need to add vinegar, simply save some kombucha tea from the last batch and pour it into the one you are brewing as a starter. This starter vinegar or tea makes the tea acidic preventing any harmful bacteria from growing in your kombucha.
- This is where you want to take your pH strips and test the pH to make sure the pH is around 4.6. Add some more vinegar or starter tea if it is too high.
- Take a small sample of your kombucha and save it for later for alcoholic testing.
- With clean hands, drop your SCOBY into the jar.
- Cover your jar with the cloth and secure it with a rubber band.
- You can even add some fruit in their to flavor up your Kombucha even more!
- Allow it to sit on your tabletop at room temperature for around a week.
- Following this week, you want to test your pH again. The pH should be within the range from 3.2 to 2.8. If the pH is still too basic (too high), then you want to let it brew for a day or two more.
- You also want to test the alcoholic content of your kombucha at this point as well. Take that small sample of pre-fermented kombucha and some from the finished batch and then use your hydrometer directions to measure both. Don’t want you to get drunk during your day of classes. Don’t worry though, the alcoholic content will usually not reach more than 0.5%.
- Remove the SCOBY culture that is left and save it for your next batch.
- Start filling up some bottles and you’re good to go with a healthy probiotic energy drink for class.
Ultimately, what the SCOBY culture does is that it turns that bowl of sweet tea into a drink full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and organic acids (Kombucha Background). The probiotics in this drink are also, as stated, very healthy for you.
However, I must warn you that kombucha is definitely an acquired taste. It’s vinegary taste may take some time getting used to, but considering all these health benefits, I think the time to get used to is worth it!
Kombucha does seem to have many proven health benefits that will make you feel energized and healthier. Go to your local grocery store and give it try. Who knows you may love it enough to start making your own!
Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.