I’ve wanted to try Kombucha for a while now, but I’ve been hesitant. Much has been made of this ancient Chinese beverage, a cult favorite of yogis and health food devotees — but for some reason, the appeal of this bubbly, fermented tea has been lost on me. I was leery about drinking what I deemed mold, but Kombucha Brooklyn founder, Eric “Kombuchman” Childs, helped set the record straight.
Kombucha is made up of brewed tea (black, green or white, or a combo), white sugar and an added SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (like a starter for sourdough bread). The microorganisms in the SCOBY eat the nutrients in the solution which ferments the alcohols produced by the yeasts into acedic acid. While some producers, like Eric, strain the Kombucha cultures (those blobs I thought were mold), it doesn’t mean that they won’t continue to form once they sit in a bottle.
I know, I know, I couldn’t fully wrap my head around it either. Suffice it to say that the fermentation process makes the end product more akin to the yeast in beer or live cultures in yogurt, than say, an aged cheese. I eat yogurt with live cultures and many of my favorite cheeses have actual mold, which I eat without hesitation. And Kombucha is probably better for you than a creamy Roquefort.
Rich in probiotics, enzymes and amino acids, drinking 6-8 ounces daily (to start anyway) can improve immune system function, increase energy and contribute to healthier skin and hair. Should you be interested in trying Kombucha for yourself, here are the findings of my taste tests:
Gateway - GT’s Kombucha – Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha (Gingerade)
When polling friends and coworkers, this brand name cropped up the most. It also looked the most appealing as there were no visible blobs, just cloudy sediment. It tasted more like an unsweetened soda than the slimy sludge I had anticipated, and I swear it soothed my tummy after a weekend of excess. Still unsure? Try the Enlightened Synergy product line, which is 95% raw Kombucha and 5% fruit juice.
Recreational - Ciara’s Great Tasting Kombucha – Komboost Kombucha (Totally Berry)
With visible strands lurking near the bottom, this one looks more like the Kombucha I expected and feared. It’s fizzier (higher levels of acedic acid) and tastes more medicinal, but the berry flavor makes it drinkable – additional flavors include Peach Bellini and Blueberry Pomegranate. As you sip, you can feel extra virtuous knowing that with each bottle or keg (!) of Ciara’s sold, a donation is made to fund liver research. For Ciara’s touching and inspiring story, click here.
Hardcore - KBBK Kombucha Brooklyn
With a corporate keg program, DIY kits, a book due out Fall 2013 and a dedicated Kombucha Bar, these guys are taking it to the next level. The ‘Buch Bar at Dig Inn’s Union Square location has four flavors on tap; at the time of my visit there was Straight Up (for purists), Dark Cherry (slightly sweet), Jasmine Green (a delicate floral tea flavor and my fave) and Kevin Bacon (he’s in everything except Kombucha, until now – and now you’re one degree closer to Kombucha). Alas, there’s no bacon in the Kevin Bacon, though I can’t help thinking that might entice more people to try Kombucha. After the sampling, I had consumed about 8 ounces of Kombucha, and I could actually feel the “Kombucha buzz” (like a natural energy high) – I was finally getting the appeal!
In the way of bottled brews, Blue-Green Envy is their signature craft-brewed version which has a dose of blue-green algae (immune system protection) and cordycep mushrooms (for increased stamina) – just in time for cold and flu season.