The Kombucha culture is growing and not in the petri dish kind of way. The fermented tea has been consumed for more than a century (its origins may date back to the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE)) by those who believe in its supposed health benefits. Today, Kombucha has become the healthier option for people who enjoy effervescent beverages, but want to stay away from artificially flavored, sugary drinks.
Kombucha became extremely popular in the early 1990s when it was believed to help boost immunity in people with H.I.V. and AIDS. Concerns over the safety of imbibing the bacteria-laden tea were raised in 1995, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report linking two deaths to the consumption of Kombucha, which immediately caused sales to plummet. It wasn’t until 2004 that the tea became popular again, this time with those on the low-carb Atkins diet. Whole Foods caught on to the growing popularity of the bubbly beverage and began selling bottles of the stuff. Yuppies, bohos and organic-loving Gen Yers began flocking to the natural foods store and bought the tea up in droves. (“Sales of kombucha and other “functional” juices in the United States topped $295 million last year, up 25 percent over a two-year period, according to SPINS Inc., a market researcher” — The New York Times.)
The tea has become such a hit that many people are choosing to home-brew it. In fact, people love it so much they are willing to trade and sell their mothers — the Kombucha mother, or the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, that is — on Craigslist. This tight-knit Kombucha community is not only in business with one another, but they also create YouTube videos on how to home-brew, form chat groups, hold brewing parties and blog up a storm about the benefits of their beloved tea.
It appears that Kombucha is making its way into the hands and stomachs of the masses, but just how long this particular craze will last is difficult to determine. The tea certainly has an acquired taste and even once acquired, can get old really quickly. I tried drinking Kombucha for awhile, but after about a month, was over it. I’m someone who will regularly blend raw kale with POM juice and slup it up, so I’m accustomed to drinking unappealing beverages, but I just couldn’t get used to the vinegary tingle skidding down my throat. Having said that, I must also say that I’ve never tried home-brewing, which is supposed to have a much milder, slightly sweet taste.
There are many places that sell the the home-brew kit and just in case you wanted to join in on the fun, we’ve included a video of how to DIY courtesy of Brooklyn Kombucha. Bottom’s up!
Photo by: brockamer/Flickr