Kombucha is a bit of an enigma in the health world. It seems every health-minded group appreciates the benefits of this fermented, effervescent, and probiotic drink – from Vegans to Paleos alike. One unfortunate side effect of being a kombucha drinker is that if enjoyed regularly, you could basically end up completely broke; bottles range from $3 to $5 each at most grocery stores. Luckily, making it at home is fun, economical, and takes only a little foresight.
Kombucha is a fermented black tea drink, originating somewhere in Northern China or Central Asia at least 2,000 years ago. It reached Russia sometime in the 19th century, and quickly gained popularity as a health drink; at one point, most Soviet-era homes were growing their own kombucha culture. It spread to Europe and beyond through Russia. The Russians have several names for the drink, the most popular being чайный гриб (“tea mushroom”) and медуза (“medusa”, their word for jellyfish). The drink is made by fermenting a batch of sweet tea with a culture known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), which eats the caffeine and sugar, leaving you with a sour, slightly vinegary drink that’s not unlike apple cider vinegar.
The drink has some notable links to health, especially in regards to cancer. Author Alexander Soltzhenitsyn claims it cured his stomach cancer while imprisoned in a Soviet gulag. Ronald Reagan purportedly treated his colon cancer by drinking kombucha daily in the 1980s. While proven results have varied, it goes without saying that the fermented, probiotic profile of the drink carries benefits. In this age of antibiotics and antibacterial products, it’s good to see helpful bugs making a bit of a comeback.