Let’s Talk Kombucha

Kombucha, you probably know someone who swears by it. You hear good things about it, but aren’t sure what to believe. Is it a fad health drink or a helpful addition? Let’s find out.

I remember first trying kombucha. I thought to myself, “Okay, I think this is good.” Weeks later I decided, “Ooh, this is seriously delicious.” Then all of a sudden it was like *angel chorus*, “Where is can I get an IV of this stuff?”. Ok, I may be exaggerating, just a tad, but it is quite delightful.

WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?

Simply put, kombucha (kom-bo͞o-CHa) is fermented tea. It contains bacterial strains and yeast that promote healthy gut flora.

Bacteria…yum, yum, right? Don’t gag in disgust just yet.

Are the bacteria and yeast alive? YES. Are they something your body needs? YOU’D BETTER BELIEVE IT! Drinking this fizzy fermented tea is very much like eating yogurt or a taking probiotic supplement; they all contain similar organisms and benefits.

Is kombucha the ultimate, end-all source of probiotics? Nope. It doesn’t have super powers. No one food does. It’s important to consume a variety of fermented things because they all have distinct, useful types of bacteria in them.

 

WHAT DOES KOMBUCHA TASTE LIKE?

It’s fizzy with a slight vinegar-y taste. The best thing I can (loosely) compare it to is hard cider. In case you were wondering, kombucha does contain some alcohol in trace amounts, about 0.5% when kept and stored correctly.

There are endless sweetened and flavored commercial kombuchas , but most have the same basic fizzy-vinegar trait. If you are brewing at home, the room temperature, light, and fermenting time all play a role in defining the exact taste. A shorter fermenting time will yield a sweeter, more mild beverage, and a longer one will create a stronger, more vinegar-y drink.

WHERE DOES KOMBUCHA COME FROM?

Today’s Dietitian outlines kombucha’s history for us. It likely got its name from the 3rd century Korean physician who brought it to Japan, although there is record of it being brewed around Asia some 600 years earlier. Over the next few hundred years, kombucha made its way around Asia, Europe, and  to the Americas much later. More recently, kombucha was and has been popular during the pre-World War II era, the 1990’s, and today.

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DRINKING KOMBUCHA?

Those tend to be debated. People cling to the lack of legitimate research that supports many of kombucha’s benefits. On the flip side, many people report better digestion, less constipation, stronger immunity, more efficient metabolic functions, supports organ health etc… while consuming kombucha.

So, the jury is still out on this one. It is ultimately up to you to decide. If you like it, want to drink it, and find it beneficial to you.

ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO KOMBUCHA?

Again, this depends on who you talk to. The live cultures can cause issues for people with immune deficiencies and your stomach may regret being given an entire gallon. If you are brewing at home, you do have to know what mold looks like on your SCOBY. My what? Don’t worry. We will get to that in the next section.

As long as you drink it in reasonable amounts and look out for any possible negative side effects, kombucha is not thought to be harmful.

YOU CAN MAKE IT AT HOME, RIGHT?

Why yes you can! This is where that SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, comes in. This growth sits on the top of your tea, lives off of the sugar, and produces the frenzy of bacteria, fizz, and vinegar that we call kombucha.

Let’s be real, it is not a pretty sight. It looks like a floating mass of soggy pancakes all layered on top of each other— just the new piece of décor you were looking for! The good news is that it brews best when undisturbed and stored in a dark place. So, back of the pantry…yeah, I think so, too.

You need four things to brew kombucha: tea (usually black, but I’ve seen recipes using green, white, and oolong), sugar, water, and a SCOBY. Once its finished, you can drink it plain or flavor with fruit juice or spices. There are plenty of great recipes out there.

The process is pretty simple.

  1. Heat your water to a boil (we do gallon batches). Turn off the burner once boiling.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until completely dissolved and add the tea bags. 
  3. Let cool COMPLETELY! This is a very important step. If the tea mixture is too hot, you’ll burn or kill the SCOBY and you won’t be enjoying any kombucha.
  4. Add the cooled tea mixture to a large glass container and place the SCOBY on top of it You can have someone you know split their SCOBY in half and use it or make you own–consult a reputable internet source for instructions.
  5. Cool in a dark place and let sit for about 7 days.

THOUGHTS?

Kombucha can be part of a healthy diet. If you are buying it, buy it from a trusted brand. If you are brewing it at home, do your research and brew it safely. If you like it and see benefits when drinking it, then do it. I wouldn’t go crazy and drink gallons a day, but a glass here and there is perfectly fine. Don’t forget about yogurt and other fermented foods—they want to help your digestive system, too!

DISCLOSURE: Please note these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing what I have learned.

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060415p20.shtml

Water Infusions

Water infusions are a great way to stay hydrated with a little flavor. They can be made from any imaginable fruit, vegetable, or herb in any combination. These are a few of the parings I enjoy.

 

Frozen Berry Infused Water

Yield: 16 fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of frozen berries (or other frozen fruit mixture)
  • 2 cups cold water

Directions:

  • Put both ingredients into a water bottle or glass jar that will hold a minimum of 24 ounces.
  • Seal the container and place in a refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
  • Consume within 2-3 days.

 

Raspberry Lemon Infused Water

Yeild: 16 fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2-3 slices of fresh lemon (can slice and freeze the remaining lemon to use in later water infusions)
  • 2 cups of cold water

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a water bottle or glass jar that will hold a minimum of 24 ounces.
  • Seal the container and place in a refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
  • Consume within 2-3 days.

 

Strawberry, Basil & Cucumber Infused Water

Yield: 16 fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • Up to a 1/3 cup of fresh and sliced or frozen strawberries
  • 2 or 3 slices of cucumber
  • 2 or 3 rinsed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups of cold water

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a water bottle or glass jar that will hold a minimum of 24 ounces.
  • Seal the container and place in a refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
  • Consume within 2-3 days.

 

Orange, Lime & Mint Infused Water

Yeild: 16 fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • 6 mint leaves
  • ½ of an orange, sliced (rind does not have to be removed)
  • 2-3 lime slices (can slice and freeze the remaining lime to use in later water infusions)

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a water bottle or glass jar that will hold a minimum of 24 ounces.
  • Seal the container and place in a refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.
  • Consume within 2-3 days.

 

 

Spicy Chai Tea Lattes (in the slow cooker)

IMG_9738

Serves about 8

4 hours 10 minutes

I really enjoy chai tea for its spice and peppery notes. I have never been able to replicate a commercial chai tea latte without adding excessive sugar until now. This recipe is great. It requires minimal attention, a few stirrings, and a slow cooker. A one cup serving is about 119 calories- much less than a chai tea latte from any coffeehouse.

Before serving, I was able to use a hand held milk frother to achieve a creamier texture.

This recipe certainly makes a lot. I poured my extras into mason jars and kept them in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

 

Ingredients:

½ gallon of milk

3 TB white sugar

¼ tsp. cinnamon

12 Chai Tea Bags (I used the Twinnings brand. I will forever be charmed by its peppery flavor)

 

Directions:
  1. Add the milk, sugar, and cinnamon in the slow cooker.
  2. Turn slow cooker on and set on high.
  3. Mix the ingredients and allow to heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the slow cooker down to low and add 12 tea bags. (I was able to tape the strings to the sides of my slow cooker to keep the tea bags from falling in).
  5. Steep on low for 4 hours and stir occasionally.