Have you tried kombucha yet? This fizzy fermented drink is popping up all over the place, and for good reason. Kombucha is packed with probiotics so it’s great for your gut… and with all the fun flavors available, it’s delicious too! Still need some convincing before you add fermented tea to your shopping list? Read on for kombucha health benefits, an easy kombucha recipe, and ideas on how to flavor it and what to do with it!
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What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that’s been consumed in Chinese culture for centuries. It’s made from tea, sugar, and a “SCOBY,” which stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Essentially, the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY ferment the sugar in the tea, making the beverage slightly bubbly and giving it a funky, almost vinegary taste and scent. Most of the time, fruit or other flavorings are added to give the kombucha more flavor. The end product is a drink that’s full of healthy bacteria, bubbly, and flavorful but not super sweet.
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Kombucha Health Benefits
The fermentation process makes kombucha jam-packed with healthy bacteria, which are great for gut health. While there’s not a ton of research out there outlining the direct health benefits of drinking kombucha, the few animal studies testing the health benefits of kombucha are promising. We also know that kombucha is chock full of probiotics (“good” bacteria), and we know that consuming probiotics is good news for immune health, digestive health, yeast infections, and more.
You might be thinking “Hang on, kombucha is made with sugar? But I’ve been trying to avoid sugary beverages!” Well, yes, kombucha is made with sugar. But this is one case where the ingredients list doesn’t tell the full story. Even though sugar is listed on the ingredients label, most of the sugar is “eaten” by bacteria. The SCOBY uses sugar as fuel in the fermentation process, allowing it to reproduce and create more healthy bacteria, leaving the final product with plenty of probiotics and little sugar. After that, many companies will add a little fruit juice to flavor the kombucha, but some will add straight-up sugar or flavored sugar syrups to sweeten and flavor it.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”gIKTb” via=”yes” ]Yes, kombucha has sugar in it – but here’s why I still call it a healthy drink! https://ctt.ec/gIKTb+ @80twentyrule[/ctt]
To avoid a bottle that’s more sweetener than it is kombucha, make sure you’re grabbing one with fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving. That’s a reasonable amount of sugar to include a tiny bit leftover from fermenting and some fruit added for flavoring – any more and you’ve just got sugar water with a few probiotics thrown in.
Easy Kombucha Recipe
Kombucha is pretty widely available in grocery stores now, but it’s also a ton of fun to make on your own! All you need is tea, sugar, and a SCOBY. Don’t worry, getting your hands on a hunk of bacteria isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. Since the SCOBY reproduces and gets bigger with each batch of bacteria, any friends who make kombucha can tear off a slab of it and gift it to you to make your own. And if no one you know has SCOBY to spare, you can easily order one online. It comes neatly packaged with some starter kombucha, so you can just drop it into your mix and get going! Get the full recipe here.
image: iStock photos
Ideas for Using and Flavoring Kombucha
My favorite way to consume kombucha? Just on its own as a thirst-quenching drink!
I recommend kombucha to my clients who have trouble giving up soda all the time. It’s got the bubbly fizz that many people crave from soda, and it has more flavor and a touch more sweetness than sparkling water, so it’s a great stand-in for soda that’s still satisfying.
Other than just sipping it straight, kombucha is great in smoothies, cocktails, and just about anywhere you’d normally use apple cider vinegar, including salad dressing! Just substitute kombucha for some or all of the vinegar in your favorite vinaigrette dressing, and you’ve got a fun probiotic-filled version!
As for flavoring your homemade kombucha, the possibilities are endless. When you add flavoring before letting it sit for the second quick fermentation process, here are a few ideas of what to throw in!
- 100% fruit juice (I especially love tart cherry, grapefruit, and blackberry juices) – add about ¼ cup fruit juice per quart of kombucha.
- Fruit puree – just puree and fruit or combination of fruits you’d like, and add about ¼ cup per quart of kombucha. You might want to strain out any pulp at the end before you drink it!
- Chopped fresh or frozen fruit – Use any fresh fruit that’s in season, or thawed frozen fruit for year-round flavor. Add about ¼ cup per quart of kombucha – this method usually results in a stronger fruit flavor than puree or juice. Just strain out fruit pieces before you drink it!
- Fresh ginger – add either chopped or grated ginger to the kombucha with or without fruit flavorings (one of my favorite combinations is diced plums and ginger!). Add about 1 tablespoon per quart of kombucha and strain before drinking.
- Fresh herbs – just like ginger, fresh herbs can complement fruit flavors or stand alone. I love mint with grapefruit juice, basil with fresh or juiced blackberries, and rosemary or thyme with chopped apricots or plums.
Have you tried kombucha or made your own? What are your favorite flavor combinations?