As kombucha tea has been the subject of a lot of hype and marketing lately, I figured it makes sense to release an article discussing its use and history.
Introduction to Kombucha Tea
Kombucha is a fermented and effervescent tea-based beverage that has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years.
It’s worth mentioning that traditional kombucha was much more simple in composition than modern iterations, using relatively basic ingredients such as tea, sugar, and yeast, however nowadays, it’s relatively common to find kombucha made with a wide variety of additional ingredients such as exotic fruit or medicinal herbs.
The end result is a uniquely fizzy drink with a flavor profile consisting of fruity, herbal, acidic, and tangy notes. Some people describe it as slightly sour, tart, or even reminiscent of vinegar.
This ancient health tonic has become quite popular despite being relatively new to the North American market. The North American kombucha market is growing year-to-year, with some market projections estimating that total sales may increase to $2 billion by the year 2026.
Although kombucha is often heralded for its purported health benefits, it’s important to mention that more research is needed in order to prove any of it. If you choose to drink kombucha, you should drink it because you enjoy the beverage and not because of any marketing claims.
The Origin of Kombucha Tea
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of kombucha tea, we know that it was most likely invented in China, as there are records that mention kombucha dating back to the Qin Dynasty. Academics believe it was likely invented within the Bohai Sea district in China, but there isn’t enough evidence to say for certain.
The most famous legend involving kombucha tea refers to kombucha as “The Tea of Immortality” and tells the story of emperor Qin Shi Huang and his search for everlasting life. According to the legend, emperor Qin Shi Huang had his own alchemist who brewed kombucha for him.
This iconic beverage was also sold along the ancient Silk Road, a network of trade routes connecting China and surrounding regions to the Middle East and Europe. The Silk Road opened in 130 B.C. during the Han Dynasty and remained a prominent trade route until 1453 AD. Kombucha is known to have been exported to Russia in the early 20th century. From there, it was later exported to Europe.
It wasn’t until the 21st century that kombucha gained popularity in North America. It can now be found in just about every supermarket and health food store across the United States of America. Many people credit GT’s Living Foods with popularizing the beverage in North America, and the brand was later sold to the Coca-Cola Company.
How Kombucha is Made
The process of making kombucha isn’t quite as complicated as it looks or sounds. Small batches can be made with just a few simple ingredients and minimal equipment, although large-scale production can be much more difficult, resulting in high markups at the store. Many amateurs, hobbyists, and enthusiasts brew their own kombucha, as did people in ancient times, even before they fully understood the process.
Brewing kombucha generally involves a double-fermentation process in which a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) is added to sweetened tea and then left to ferment for several weeks. After the fermentation process is complete, kombucha is typically bottled to develop carbonation. It is then placed in a refrigerated environment in order to slow down the carbonation and fermentation processes.