It’s fizzy, fermented and tangy—in fact a tad too tangy for some. But for others, it’s got a certain “bite” that’s a mixture of live bacteria and yeast that keeps them coming back for more.
The Kombucha industry is big business, and according to Euromonitor International, a Global Consumer and Industrial Market Research company, Kombucha sales in the US could reach $656.7 million by 2019. The beverage has been around for years, but it has really started to soar in the last three.
It has come to the attention of regulators who object to the alcohol levels in many of the drinks which often exceed the legal limit for nonalcoholic beverages. This has caused some producers to receive permits to sell certain Kombuchas as alcoholic drinks.
Two years ago, Chalkboardmag.com listed the five golden rules of Kombucha:
• Dark bottles are best – Light damages probiotics, so aim for only kombucha packaged in dark bottles.
• Glass creates healthy cultures – When Kombucha is made, it must be fermented in glass, not stainless steel, or plastic. That is because it slowly degrades these materials, causing them to leach into the Kombucha itself. Therefore, it’s important to only buy Kombucha stored in glass.
• Fresh pressed – no artificial ingredients – A shortcut to making Kombucha more cost effective for the manufacturer is to use fruit powders instead of real fruit. Most often these powders have artificial flavors and are void of any nutrition, so stick to the real stuff only: fresh pressed and unpasteurized. If it is local, even better.
• Organic sugar – no GMOs – Sugarcane is now commonly genetically modified. This makes the purchase of organic sugar that much more important when looking for a reputable kombucha brand.
• 21 day fermentation – No cheating! – It takes a full 21 days for Kombucha to become properly probiotically “active” and therefore beneficial to the body. Make sure to only purchase brands that complete the full 21-day fermentation process to ensure you are getting your dose of helpful probiotics.
Matt Murray, a GreenAcres co-owner, and manager of our Bradley Fair store, once confronted a customer carrying out four bottles and thought he’d ask what he liked about the drink.
The man replied, “I don’t know.” Kind of funny, but it shows the customer probably had seen an ad or read something about the product and just thought he’d try it.
It’s been called “mushroom tea” by some, although it contains no mushrooms. It looks like a lava lamp throwback to the 60s—kinda’ sludgy—but it became the rage three years ago, and continues to this day.
The millennials love it. The buying habits of the 20-somethings vary so much from those of our traditional customers, that Dan, our grocery guy, suggested we put the fermented beverages by the front door. That way the youngsters can run in, grab a bottle and checkout immediately.
Said one of our 20-year-old customers, “Kombucha has a list of health benefits a mile long: improves digestion, lowers bad cholesterol, fights cancer—what’s not to love?!”
Some of the drinks that get their start in health food stores are now so mainstream, they are becoming Coca Cola (with a whole lot less market share.)
People are wiser today. They know a lot about health and health food products. They are the grandkids of the Flower Child set and they don’t want to go down that “drugs and tobacco road.” They want to live vibrantly and maintain the energy as long as they can.
They don’t want to get their mojo back—they want to keep it forever! Healthy forty year olds are now really in their late 20s health wise. Who can knock it?! Most of us want to be cycling into our 80s!
Three years ago, when Kombucha really got a foothold, there were Kombucha smoothies, Kombucha “teenies.” Forget the pomegranate and acai berries of yesteryear, bring on the “Gingerade!”
So what is Kombucha exactly? We went surfing the net for this explanation and a little history from About.com:
“Kombucha is generally considered to be a tea that has been mixed with sugar and fermented in a manner akin to the way vinegar is made. On its own, it has a taste that’s similar to apple cider vinegar, so it is sometimes called ‘vinegar tea.’ For wider appeal, it is often blended with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or unfermented tea.
“The exact origins of Kombucha are unknown, but it has been consumed in areas like Siberia, Russia, China and Tibet for thousands of years. Although Kombucha is considered to be fermented tea today in the West, it may have originated with bread as its base.
“After ages of use in the East, Kombucha began to make its way to the U.S. It started with home brewers who were primarily interested in its health benefits.
“In the 1990s, brewers such as GT Dave (of Synergy Millennium) began to offer Kombuchas that were brewed in a more controlled (and, thus, safer and more effective) manner. Since 2000, many more Kombucha companies have opened and Kombucha has shifted from being seen as a ‘hippie drink’ to a fairly mainstream beverage.
“It’s now available in many grocery stores’ health food sections, as well as some restaurants, cafes and convenience stores. Flavors range from those with mass appeal (citrus, mango and the like) to those with more limited appeal (red clover, juniper berry and other health-centric ingredients).”
You can even make your own Kombucha if you’ve got the time and ingredients. Here’s a link to know-how. http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-to-brew-kombucha-double-fermentation-method/
Of course, it’s far easier to let the manufacturers do the experimenting. We’re not touching that “gelatinous, floating pancake known as a SCOBY (for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).” We’re leaving that to the experts.
As luck would have it, GreenAcres Bradley Fair and GreenAcres West are selling huge bottles of Kombucha Gingerade for $5.99 a bottle through March. Check it out, but be sure you’ve got room in your fridge for the giant-sized bottles!