If you have paid any attention to “health food” in the in the past 8-10 years, then you have likely heard of Kombucha. It has received a lot of publicity over time from proponents and detractors alike. The general gist seems to be similar to other healthy products that have had their time in the sun. Fans swear by the benefits and become vocal advocates and the scientific community gives it a big meh. Mostly meaning it might help, shouldn’t hurt, but no one has really bothered to study it. Seems that the only risks really come from people who make it themselves in an unsafe fashion so it becomes contaminated . There is also some minor risk that the alchohol content might creep up too high in some batches, turning this technically non-alcoholic drink into something that could cause a bit of a buzz. There is apparently a pretty big culture based upon trading and sharing different “mothers” which is the term used to describe the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) which is required to make Kombucha.
Not a very attractive item but anything that is used as a culture rarely is. Kombucha, like cheese making or sausage is something that many people would rather leave as a mystery. With that being said it’s time for me to dive in and taste this fermented tea concoction. I purchased the most popular commercial brand and went for the original flavor so I could try to get the real experience, without seeking out a backyard brand.
The floating bits of culture in the bottle were a bit off putting but the label indicated that it was normal and expected so I was willing to put my initial bias aside. The label also told me not to shake the bottle, sadly I read that a bit too late so I had to delay my test for a few minutes while I let the fizz settle down. I found the ingredients listing kind of curious the only ingredient listed was Kombucha. I would have liked to see something like what kind of tea was used and what kind of sugar was used to feed the mother for fermentation. As a point of comparison I checked the label on a bottle of sauerkraut to see what ingredients were listed on another fermented product. The ingredients were sauerkraut and water so apparently once you create a fermented product it becomes an ingredient.
In order to be sold off the shelf as a non-alcoholic beverage it needs to be below 0.5% alcohol so I was not expecting a good Kombucha buzz early in the morning. Though the mild alcohol content does lend some credence to it’s reputation as a great hangover remedy. Hair of the dog and some vitamins is a good fit. Now that my fizz has died down it was time to taste. I cracked the seal and opened the bottle, I was greeted with a scent that was very close to apple cider vinegar. Slightly sweet but clearly acidic, not unpleasant but nothing I see Yankee Candle adding as a scent any time soon. The smell was not overpowering as I went to take a drink, a bit of a twinge in my nose from the acid but nothing so sharp that I wanted to stop.
The flavor had a mild sweetness, which was in sharp contrast to the very acidic finish. The little bit of effervescence was a great touch and really enhanced the flavor. I could immediately see why Kombucha was viewed as replacement for soda in the low carb world. It has a lot of the same satisfying fizz that you get from soda without all the sugar. I was less than thrilled when I felt the bits of the culture on my tongue but another quick sip took care of it. Even with that odd floating debris, overall I really enjoyed it. I’m curious enough to try some other flavors and styles. I may even seek out a local Kombucha brewing group to see if I can score with someones mother and make a baby of my own.
I can’t speak at all to the health benefits of the product but I really enjoyed the flavor and depending on how it makes me feel I can see this becoming something I might buy on occasion for a twist. Kombucha is a “Try It” if you are curious at all.