11 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Kombucha Tea

Kombucha, often referred to as the elixir of life, is a mildly fermented beverage that has been around for centuries. Renowned for its almost miraculous cure-all properties, kombucha is definitely an acquired taste. Here are 11 interesting facts about this mysterious and medicinal tea.

What’s in kombucha?

Don’t be fooled by the name “mushroom tea,” as no mushrooms are involved in the creation of kombucha. The brew consists of tea (black, green, white, or herbal), sugar, and water, along with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts or SCOBY, which resembles a mushroom cap. Kombucha also contains B vitamins, antioxidants, various acids (acetic, gluconic, and lactic), and some alcohol, resulting from the fermentation process.

How much alcohol is in kombucha?

The alcohol content in kombucha typically hovers around 0.5%, the Food and Drug Administration’s limit that separates alcoholic from non-alcoholic beverages. Commercial kombucha with an alcohol content higher than 0.5% must be sold as an alcoholic beverage, which also incurs alcohol tax. Unpasteurized kombucha can continue to ferment if it contains live yeast, even while sitting on the store shelves, potentially increasing the alcohol content. Home brewers also can end up with higher alcohol levels in their kombucha than found in commercial brands.

Is kombucha safe for recovering alcoholics?

Unfortunately, some kombucha makers “don’t know or don’t want to know” how much alcohol is in their products, as stated in a May 2015 [Food Navigator] (https://www.foodnavigator.com/) article by KeVita CEO Bill Moses. This is concerning news for those who need or want to avoid alcohol. Efforts are being made to independently test products off the shelves and give those that pass a “Verified Non-Alcoholic” logo. For now, anyone wanting to avoid any alcohol consumption should skip the kombucha.

How is kombucha made?

The chosen tea is steeped in purified water and sugar (both organic tea and sugar are recommended). Then, a culture of bacteria and fungus (SCOBY) is added, letting the mixture ferment for around two weeks. A shorter fermentation time results in a sweeter tea.

Is it easy to make your own kombucha?

Yes, but you must follow the instructions carefully. It’s essential to use organic tea and sugar, a clean SCOBY from a reliable source, and/or kombucha starter from a previous, clean batch, or store-bought raw kombucha. The fermentation jar should be made of unleaded glass, and none of the utensils used should be metal. Although kombucha is relatively acidic, it is still possible for mold to grow on your batch. If your SCOBY or the brew shows any signs of black, green, or blue mold, discard it and start over again, sterilizing the jar and utensils.

What does kombucha taste like?

Kombucha’s taste has been described as sweetly acidic, tart, earthy, edgy, and vinegary. Some have said it’s like soda gone bad, but to help dispel the negatives, kombucha can be made with or you can add a small amount of your favorite fruit juice, honey, or agave syrup. Commercial brands are available in various flavors.

Is kombucha a good source of probiotics?

Probiotics, widely associated with boosting the immune system and relieving symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, gastritis, anxiety, diabetes, and ulcers, are one major reason why people turn to kombucha. Pasteurization can kill the beneficial bacteria, so to enjoy the probiotic benefits of kombucha, the product should not be pasteurized.

Which is better, pasteurized or unpasteurized kombucha?

Both versions are available commercially, and home-brewed batches are typically consumed raw or unpasteurized. The issue with pasteurized kombucha is that the probiotic benefit is eliminated. However, pasteurization ensures that the product is not contaminated with mold and potential pathogens. Unpasteurized kombucha may pose a health threat to anyone who has a compromised immune system. Home-brewed kombucha typically is not pasteurized. Contaminants such as heavy metals can be a risk if ceramic or metal are used during the brewing process, or if mold develops during fermentation. However, if sanitary and safety guidelines are followed, unpasteurized kombucha can be an excellent source of probiotics and antioxidants.

Can kombucha help the liver?

Until now, research on kombucha’s effect on liver function has been animal studies only. A new (April 2015) [report] (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275066763) noted that kombucha tea given to rats with induced hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) resulted in “attractive curative effects,” especially regarding liver and kidney functions. A [2014 study] (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.6280) in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture identified a microorganism in kombucha tea that contributes to protecting the liver. A [previous animal study] (https://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOPDTJ/TOPDTJ-5-1.pdf) also found that kombucha reduced levels of toxins associated with liver damage.

Does kombucha have a role in heart health?

Studies have been limited to animal models. A [July 2015 report] (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08982104.2015.1023267) shared the effects of kombucha versus normal black tea on blood glucose, total protein, lipid profile, heart weight, and cardiac markers in rats with induced myocardial damage. Kombucha was associated with a significant decline in cholesterol, triglycerides, bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL), heart weight, and blood glucose levels, and an increase in good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL). Consequently, the rats who received kombucha tea showed a greater preventive effect against heart attack when compared with the black tea.

Can kombucha help diabetics?

A few animal study results have suggested kombucha tea could benefit individuals with diabetes. One [study] (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-014-1667-3) compared the impact of kombucha tea and unfermented black tea on oxidative stress in diabetic rats. Oxidative stress is associated with diabetic complications. Investigators found that kombucha tea showed “significant antidiabetic potential” and had a positive effect on the pancreas when compared with regular black tea. They concluded that the better results seen with kombucha “might be due to the formation of some antioxidant molecules during the fermentation period.”

With its possible health benefits, especially as a probiotic source, kombucha tea may be a healthful addition to your lifestyle. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might even try brewing your own!