What is kombucha?

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a mildly fizzy, fermented drink made from sweetened tea and a specific culture known as a ‘scoby’, short for a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts’. The bacteria and yeasts in the scoby convert the sugar into ethanol and acetic acid. The acetic acid is responsible for kombucha’s distinctive sour taste.

How do you make Kombucha?

Kombucha is usually made using:

Cold filtered water
Black or green tea (bags or loose leaf)
Scoby – purchased online, or from an existing batch of kombucha

To make kombucha, the tea and sugar is steeped in boiled water and left to cool before adding the scoby. This is covered and left to ferment for up to a week. The mixture is then poured into an airtight container with some extra sugar and left for a few more days – the longer it is left, the fizzier it will become. At this point, flavourings such as spices or fruit, can be added.

What are the main health benefits of kombucha?

1. Potential source of probiotics

Fermented foods such as yogurts, contain live micro-organisms. As kombucha is the product of fermentation, a number of probiotic microbes are produced. At specific concentrations, these probiotic bacteria can help to balance levels of bacteria in the gut and improve digestion. However, to date, there have not been enough studies to confirm whether kombucha contains adequate amounts of these beneficial bacteria to be deemed an effective probiotic.

2. May be a source of antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that protect the body from the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are a normal by-product of processes in the body, but the key is to minimise their impact by consuming food and drink rich in antioxidants. Tea, especially green tea, is rich in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. However, there are a number of variables which may influence the antioxidant properties of kombucha, including the tea it was made from and the fermentation time.

3. May contribute vitamins and minerals

Kombucha contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals which are produced when the yeast breaks down the sugars, including vitamin C and the B group of vitamins such as B1, B6 and B12. Levels are likely to vary between products.

4. May be anti-fungal

One of the by-products of fermentation is acetic acid and it is thought this, as well as other compounds found in green and black tea, may suppress the growth of less desirable bacteria and yeast whilst promoting more beneficial strains.

5. May support heart health

Animal studies suggest consuming kombucha may improve cholesterol management and, in conjunction with the protective polyphenols in tea, especially green tea, may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.