What is kombucha?

What is kombucha?

You may have that one healthy friend who drinks it in gallons, or maybe this is just your first time hearing about it altogether.

Either way, here’s everything you need to know about kombucha, and why you might want to consider trying it in the future.

Pronounced kômˈbo͞oCHə, the fermented tea has been around for more than 2,000 years. It’s made from bacteria and yeast mixed with black tea and sugar.

(Yes, live bacteria!)

The bacteria makes the drink bubbly and gives it the slight scent of vinegar. Because of the fermentation process, which produces a mass that looks similar to a mushroom cap, kombucha is often referred to as “mushroom tea.”

Sometimes small bacteria can still be found floating around in the drink. This is not unlike wine sediment and isn’t something that should overly concern you.

But what’s it taste like?

Based on the somewhat off-putting description, you might assume kombucha doesn’t taste very good. However, the taste is frequently noted as being sweet and tart. Having sold more than $500 million worth at Whole Foods, it’s safe to say that many people like the drink.

If you’re still not convinced, Dr. Jacqueline Ivey-Brown, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., says kombucha has many healthy ingredients and benefits. Every serving of the drink contains probiotics, B vitamins, enzymes and organic acids. These ingredients are known to improve your digestive system, reduce bloating and even strengthen your immune system.

Unlike other sugary drinks, kombucha only has roughly 30 calories for every eight ounces.

Yet, despite the many benefits of kombucha, Dr. Ivey-Brown says there are a few things you should know before drinking it.

  • Don’t consume it in gallons like your health-driven friend mentioned earlier. Too much kombucha can cause heartburn.
  • Stay away from home-brewed Kombucha. Commercially produced versions are fine, but like anything containing bacteria, there’s always a chance for contamination.
  • Kombucha contains alcohol. While most drinks only carry a minimal amount of alcohol as a result of the fermentation process, this information is especially important for women who are pregnant. Some kombucha brews are also purposely fermented for lengthy periods to give it more alcohol – sometimes as much as beer! So always check the label before drinking it.

Have you tried kombucha? Would you? Let us know what you think.

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  1. Kimberly Shaffer August 28, 2017 at 12:12 pm · Reply

    I enjoy Kombucha but have wondered what is the minimal amount that can be consumed to enjoy the health benefits. As it is a little bit expensive.

  2. I disagree with the comment to stay away from home brewed kombucha. I have been home brewing for over 4 years and I have never had any issues or problems with contamination. As long as you are brewing in a clean environment, covering the vessel with a clean cloth and not using metal utensils, there is no contamination.

  3. Alcohol? Can’t be much but, to be honest, I did stop drinking it because it made my head feel funny. Now I see why it did that to me – I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.

  4. My mom made and drank this for years.
    she was as healthy as a horse until she passed. I drank it for a while with no ill effects. Just thought you’d like to know, in Japan, kombucha is a powdered tea made out of kombu kelp. Kombu= name of the kelp, cha= tea.

  5. I bought some from Costco because they were sampling it and it tasted good. So I bought it more for the taste than the health benefits. Nice and it tart

  6. I’ve been drinking commercial kombucha for several months & just started making the jun version with green tea & honey recently. I feel it’s a healthier variety with a milder taste & less alcohol content due to shorter fermentation time & very inexpensive. I drink it for the health benefits.

  7. I disagree about drinking home brew. I make 3 gallons at a time. I also have a juicer that I juice pineapples, ginger, lemons, green apples, mandarins for my flavors. My friends love it. It’s also a lot cheaper to brew your own. At an average of $3.50 a bottle it’s worth it if you drink a lot. I saved all my bottles. Bottles are costly. Thus the high price of the stuff. Save the bottles and sterilze them before bottling.

  8. Love the GT’s brand – some have other additives – so read label

  9. Kombucha is an amazing health drink, but I also disagree about the homebrew kombucha. My boyfriend introduced it to me about 5 years ago. Someone introduced it to him back in the eighties or nineties and he loved it. We started brewing and it has been amazing! My neighbors love it and prefers the homebrews. We also buy the store brand in between my brewing. I routinely drink kombucha every and it gives me the energy I need to get me through the day. It’s also a plus during my workouts.

About the Author

Jamie Bonnema
Jamie Bonnema

Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.