Kombucha: An Ancient Beverage for Modern Times
"Right now what really gets the most attention in the beverage industry
is the energy drinks," laments G.T. Dave, founder of a beverage
company. "They're loaded with stimulants, which can give you heart
palpitations and jitters, and they affect your sleep patterns."
In this fast-paced world, we all crave a little pick-me-up. But perhaps
an ancient beverage could offer a healthy alternative to our modern
Dave makes kombucha: a fermented ancient Chinese drink with a history of thousands of years.
"I like to think of my product as the anti-energy drink," explains
Dave. "That's not to say that it doesn't give you energy-it certainly
does-but it's a good, clean form of non-stimulant energy that puts you
back in touch with your body."
Many health enthusiasts have long championed fermented foods like
sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha because of their enzyme-rich
profile. Sadly, traditional fermentation has fallen out of favor with
modern production, and overall health has been the worse for it.
It might be hard to imagine that such a healthful beverage could
generate from what looks like a shiny pancake, but the kombucha
culture, often referred to as a mushroom, is actually a symbiotic
colony of beneficial yeast and bacteria. The resulting tea is made by
combining this culture with a mixture of tea (black, green, or oolong)
and sugar, and fermenting these ingredients for a week or two.
A healthy beverage made with sugar? While the sweet stuff is required
to make the ferment, very little remains in the finished drink. During
the brewing cycle, the culture consumes your ingredients, leaving
behind life-giving nutrients, including a full range of B-vitamins,
enzymes, probiotics, and special acids found to quickly move toxins out
of the body.
"According to traditional Chinese medicine, kombucha tea was referred
to as the Tea of Immortality and the elixir of life," writes Ed Kasper,
a California licensed acupuncturist, medicinal herbalist, and a master
kombucha brewer. Kasper has been selling the beverage, as well as
kombucha cultures and brewing kits, online since 1997. "I started
giving it to my patients and clients and found that it addressed some
of their health concerns."
"It helps control my hunger at night," says Jennifer Zielinski, a
mother of three from Chicago, who has been making kombucha for the past
year and a half. "If I drink a big glass of kombucha in the evening, it
keeps me from raiding the fridge."
People report many different health benefits from drinking kombucha,
including better digestion, clearer skin, and reduction in joint and
G.T. Dave' s mom's regular kombucha consumption maybe even helped with
her cancer. After she started doing better "she started to research
kombucha to find out what made it so healthy," explains Dave. "She came
across several articles and reports that talked about kombucha and its
positive impact on suppressing cancer and any other kind of metabolic
"It's not a miracle; it's just not understood," says Ed Kasper, a
California licensed acupuncturist, medicinal herbalist, and a master
kombucha brewer, who stated that, like much of traditional Chinese
medicine, kombucha simply works to bring the body back into balance.
While Dave and Kasper both offer ready-made kombucha for purchase, with a little effort it can also be made at home.
"It's fun, easy, and cheap. You could make it from white sugar and
Lipton tea for 50 cents a gallon," says Kasper appealing to the
thrifty, yet who, like Dave, brews his own kombucha with the finest
ingredients. "You can make it so that it tastes good to you, not like
medicine. You can make a [beverage] that is really pleasant to drink,
and it's healthy for you."
Several factors (including time, temperature, and choice of
ingredients) can affect the flavor of the batch, so the taste of
kombucha can vary quite widelyâ€”from sparkling apple cider to
effervescent vinegar. Manipulating these variables can yield a brew
closer to your liking, but some people are still wary of trying it.
"My husband would like to drink it, but he can't get over the
mushroom," says Zielinski, who mentions that her kombucha brews on a
shelf in their basement.
"If people have to make it on their own it can be too much of a science
project," says Dave who salutes those who do make it themselves but
aims to offer a quality product to those who can't. A tactic Dave uses
in converting consumers to the joys of kombucha is a taste of the
familiar. "I noticed that if I just added a hint of fruit juice, it
would give it a different color and a hint of a flavor that [consumers]
were already familiar with, so they would be more inclined to embrace
it," he explains. Zielinski, who bought some of the beverage and makes
her own brew, employs this juice addition to make kombucha more
palatable to her kids and friends. "You only need a teaspoon," she says.
Literature and testimonials on the benefits of kombucha are extensive,
but Dave admits that nothing can replace experience. "When even the
most skeptical people drink that first bottle, they can feel it," he