Zein Nimri Tells Us What Kombucha Is?
Kombucha is a traditional fermented drink made of tea and sugar or fruits. In other words - it is a drink with added functionality. Being packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes that have many health-promoting properties makes it very attractive for the healthy bunch. It is fermented with a SCOBY (which is an acronym: Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast); the living home for the bacteria and yeast that transform sweet tea into tangy, fizzy Kombucha.
The fermentation process takes up to 14 days depending on temperature and the strength of the SCOBY. The SCOBY consumes o ver 90% of the sugar during fermentation, resulting in a low-sugar finished product. This process is similar to what would happen in sourdough bread or milk/water kefir.
The SCOBY: a Colony of Microbes
SCOBYs are often called “Mushrooms” and are the reason Kombucha is sometimes called “Mushroom Tea.” They look like a rubber pancake. You may also hear a SCOBY called “Big Momma” because it creates subsequent baby bacteria which can then be used to brew other batches. It is technically alive and self-perpetuating; producing little colonies.
Kombucha tea is low in calorie and has only 30 calories per small cup (8-ounce), it also has 7 grams of carbohydrates and about 20% of the daily value of B-Vitamins, without any fat or protein.
The base for kombucha is black tea; which would naturally have some caffeine. Many people have asked me about the caffeine content. To answer this – it varies based on the type of tea used and the fermentation time. It is important to note also that caffeine content decreases during fermentation. However, decaffeinated tea cannot be used for making kombucha as the caffeine is often removed through a chemical process and the residue of thee chemicals may kill the beneficial bacteria.
It tastes like tea; with a twist! This brew has a slightly sweet and tangy taste due to the bacteria and fermentation. If I could choose one word to describe it – Vinegary (not sure if it exists – but hey!). However, the flavor can vary because it can be flavored in secondary fermentation by adding herbs or fruit. So it could taste similar to apple cider with a fruity, floral, spicy or herbaceous smack.
The nutrients this beverage contains are wonderful at supporting the body in many ways. Now let us be clear, it is not a magic potion; one glass will not solve your problems. You need to slowly build the bacteria in your intestines which could take up to a month. Some of its benefits are:
- Liver detoxification
- Improved pancreas function
- Energy boost
- Better digestion and less bloating
- Glowing skin and reduced hair loss
- Reducing Candida (yeast)
- Enhanced nutrients absorption
Sugar is a basic ingredient used in making Kombucha, and I (Especially ME) totally get it. I am the sugar police and I vet anything inside out when it comes to sugar. Fortunately, the majority of the sugar ferments out during the fermentation process. The sugar in kombucha is for the culture to consume, not for you. When done fermenting, there will be about 2-6 grams per glass of Kombucha (no fruit added), as opposed to 24g of sugar in 1 cup of orange juice. Sugar substitutes like stevia and xylitol do not work either. You need real sugar for the bacteria to live and grow.
Kombucha does contain a very small amount of alcohol, which has been a source of some controversy to people. To put this in perspective, you need to drink a six pack of kombucha to approach the alcohol in a single 12oz beer. Some research states that levels of alcohol are between 0.5 and 2% by volume. In fact, a bottle of kombucha would have a comparable alcohol content to an over-ripe banana!! (Sugars in fruits turn into alcohol in certain phases of ripeness – FYI!)
The alcohol-level testing process is difficult somewhat for several reasons. It depends on the production process and fermentation time; fermentation continues as long as the bacteria is alive in the drink. Also, it is important to note that the overgrowth of the bacteria can sicken people, so the alcohol content will not give you a buzz.
Zein Nimri is an AFPA certified sports nutritionist, NESTA kids nutritionist, long distance runner, cyclist and traveller with big dreams. Follow her on Instagram @Zeinutritionist she is currently an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach.