Over the past thirty years, kombucha has slowly crept into mainstream awareness in America. I remember visiting my grandparents as a kid and thinking they were so weird because they made tea from a big, white, slimy “mushroom” they kept in a casserole dish in the fridge. Now a few decades have passed and most of the people in my personal echo chamber have at least heard of kombucha, some buy and drink it, and a few even make their own!
What is Kombucha?
If you made your way here from my 1 gallon kombucha recipe, you already know that kombucha is a drink made by combining caffeinated tea, sugar and specific strains of bacteria and yeast… similar to the way wine is made by combining grape juice and yeast, and beer is made by combining barley sludge and yeast. You let the specific bacteria and yeast work on the sugar and caffeine for a few weeks, and – wahlah! – Kombucha!
It tastes… well, it’s hard to describe because there are so many different flavors. Even plain kombucha can taste very different depending on the specific tea and sugar used and the length of brew time. I couldn’t describe what wine or beer tastes like, because a Chardonnay is very different than a Merlot, and an IPA is very different than a Hefeweizen. I guess we can say that kombucha is light, slightly to very sour, and tastes… fermented – similar to beer or wine.
Why Do I Drink Kombucha?
Because… I want to.
Kombucha is delicious. I like the taste of it, it’s fun and easy to make.
Because… it replaces less healthy beverages and food choices in my diet.
It’s a low-calorie beverage. The yeast and bacteria used to make kombucha metabolize most the sugar used in the brewing process. Juice has 7 to 16 times more sugar than kombucha. Soda (coke) has nine times more. Although it isn’t 100% sugar-free, I feel pretty content consuming it.
I tend to drink kombucha in the morning when I’m not really hungry, don’t want coffee, don’t want tea, don’t want water, but am a little thirsty.
I also tend to drink it when I’m sitting around playing games or chatting with a group of friends or family who are all drinking, but I don’t feel like booze. I’m no teetotaler, but I try to drink only when I really feel like drinking. It’s amazing how much I get heckled if I’m sitting around with a glass of water, but pour in a little kombucha and the peer pressure disappears. It also tastes a little alcoholic, so I get the taste of delicious adult beverages without the hangover. (It is a tiny bit alcoholic – more on that here. But you’d have to drink at least 12 glasses to have even a chance of catching the same buzz you’d get from a glass of wine).
When I’m about to boredom-eat (usually opening the fridge or cupboards because my brain is ready for a break from writing articles about free flights or 8 travel tips to save you a fortune, not because I’m actually hungry), I will often reach for the kombucha instead.
It might be healthy.
The jury is definitely out on kombucha. Some claim kombucha is a brilliant cure-all that’s been brewed for hundreds of years across dozens of cultures. Others warn the kombuchaphiles could very well be on the brink of peril. Whatever. I feel like the kombucha wars parallel the coffee debate. Coffee is terrible for you. No wait, coffee is definitely good for you… drink it every day. Wait, more than one cup is bad. No, you should have at least two cups. Blahblahblah.
Dieticians, nutritionists, and food scientists are forever discovering new things that upend our understanding of good and bad in the food world. I like kombucha. The sample-size of people drinking kombucha and being no worse off for it is pretty big. I’m going to drink it whenever I feel like it.
Why do I make my own Kombucha?
Because it’s easy, fun, and store-bought kombucha is freaking expensive!
Buying kombucha is more expensive than buying beer! Maybe this is because it doesn’t enjoy the same economy of scale that other more popular brewed items do? Maybe it’s because kombucha lovers tend to be people who value their health more than their bank balance? Whatever the reason, I’m going to stick to making my own whenever I’m in one place for longer than three weeks (my average brew time).
You want to make it, too? Just follow my 1-Gallon Kombucha Recipe.