Cameron Diaz, Lindsey Lohan and Siddharth Malhotra have one thing in common (apart from being in the limelight)—their love for kombucha. The fermented tea, concocted 2000 years ago by a physician named Kombu, has become the buzzword in the health and wellness space for being a probiotic powerhouse.
Riding high on the probiotic and fermented food wave, kombucha purportedly cures everything from indigestion to cancer! Time to break it down and understand what the hype is about.
Kombucha is a probiotic tea that is mildly fizzy, slightly tangy and a product of a fermentation process. Information overload? Let’s break it down. A typical batch of kombucha is made with three ingredients—a tea base, sweetener and SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). Nitin Gandhi, founder of Mumbai-based kombucha brand Bombucha explains, “SCOBY will develop during the fermentation process and everything rides on how well the culture develops. How probiotic the drink will end up being is at the end of the day dependent upon how thick and healthy your starter culture gets.” SCOBY is what makes kombucha a probiotic miracle drink—it is a living breathing and growing colony of microorganisms, it is a mushroom like layer that forms during the fermentation process on the liquid.
SCOBY uses the sugar content in the tea base to thrive; this fermentation process is what gives the drink its tell-tale tartness and effervescence. Salonii Hamirwasia, owner of Zoh Probiotics and a scientist who has a degree in sports nutrition says that sugar is one of the most important aspect of kombucha. “What most people fail to understand is that higher the fizz, lower the sugar and that means lower the probiotic count. The quantity of sugar you use determines the amount of time the bacteria can thrive and thus make your drink healthy for the gut,” she adds.
The old fashioned way to ferment the liquid is to do it in jars. Smaller batches means greater control leading to a richer depth of flavour and a more reliable carbonation, says Gandhi.
Despite all its presumed health benefits, kombucha has a peculiar taste that takes time to get used to. This is one of the reason why bottled kombucha makers are experimenting with flavours. It can take a while to appreciate the texture and flavours, but once you get used to the tartness, you will sip away happily,” says Gandhi adding that it is one of the reason Bombucha has a range of unusual flavours such as Smoky Oolong, Apple Spice, Chamomile, lavender and beet-pomegranate.
Sweetness of kombucha is another challenge, not just for its taste profile but also in its making. The amount of sugar you use while brewing, the proportions are extremely crucial. A low-sugar kombucha conceptually is incorrect. Hamirwasia explains, “If promise customers a very low sugar count, the drink is essentially moving towards a high yeast content and essentially a dead probiotic product. Something that will end up making Kombucha just another fizzy flavoured drink.” The reason you have kombucha is for the way it affects the gut, sugar is essential, going low on sugar hampers the balance.
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The Health Aspect
The fermented tea has been around for more than 2000 years with claims that it assists in curing a bevy ailments. But does it? Like any other fermented foods, desi and international, Kombucha does have a positive effect on your gut health.
It also has mild risks involved, kombucha is best unpasteurized but this itself can lead to challenges. Lack of a sterile environment when brewing kombucha is can be disastrous as is a flawed process and incorrect proportions. There are chances of contamination and this can lead to liver damage, allergies, nausea, etc., if consumed.