Sometimes it takes time before a food truly gains support in our collective consciousness. In the case of kombucha - a sweetened fermented tea - it’s taken more than 5000 years for western society to embrace the potential of this slightly fizzy, enticing, probiotic delight.
Like a good sourdough, the base of kombucha is all about the culture. Known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), this base is added to black or green tea, which can also be flavoured with fruit juice or other flavourings. As with any fermentation, sugar is a necessary addition although the end result has far fewer calories and residual sweetness than commercial soft drinks or fruit juices.
A staple in many Chinese homes for centuries, where it was known as “the divine tea”, kombucha’s appeal spread to Korea, Japan, Russia and Europe. It enjoyed a short moment in the sun as a health food fad in the 1950s and 60s before its promise sat, quietly fermenting, until the late 1990s when it was again rediscovered and its popularity began to rise in the western world.
Like yoghurt and other probiotics, kombucha can contain enough healthy bacteria to positively affect your health and your gut. However, pasteurisation does impact on the quantities of these healthful aspects and commercial kombucha is often pasteurised to follow food-safety standards.
One way to get the best of both worlds - probiotics and deliciousness - is to brew your own kombucha at home. As always food safety is a major consideration when it comes to home fermentation so it’s best to follow these key tips: