There have been many reported health benefits to drinking kombucha regularly throughout history. It has said to stimulate the immune system, improve digestion and liver function, reduce joint pain, and studies have even linked kombucha bacteria to lower cancer rates. Because it increases the body’s metabolism, kombucha is often touted as a weight loss aid. Some may have adverse reactions to the tea such as upset stomach or an allergic reaction. People with suppressed immune systems are at risk for infection, especially if the kombucha was brewed in unsanitary conditions at home.
The tea is made when a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast) is added to sweetened tea and allowed to ferment for up to a month in a warm, dark place. After the SCOBY’s initial activation it will continue to produce “baby” SCOBYs that can be grown to continue the bacteria culture.
Kombucha tea is a cold beverage made from tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The bacteria and yeast are allowed to ferment and the drink is naturally carbonated and may contain small amounts of alcohol (less than 0.5%). It has been drunk for centuries and remains popular today for its many health benefits.
The first reference to kombucha or “immortality tea” can be found in documents from the Chinese Tsin dynasty, dating back to 200 BCE. However, Emperor Shi Huangti, best known for beginning construction on the Great Wall, is also credited for burning thousands of scrolls and books in a campaign against literacy. Because kombucha is closely linked to black tea, it is possible the origins date back even further (1600-1046 BCE), but the documents to prove it may have been burned by Emperor Shi Huangti.
Since then, kombucha spread westward to Russia where they call it “mushroom tea” and make their version of the beverage from mushrooms on birch trees. At the turn of the century, kombucha appeared in Eastern Europe, where it was easily accepted into a culture with a long history of fermented foods – sauerkraut and kvass. During the Wars, strict rations on tea and sugar meant kombucha was less readily available. Today, kombucha tea is sold in stores in a variety of flavours and to prevent further fermentation it is usually pasteurized to keep the alcohol content low.