Kombucha is So Hot Right Now but What is Kombucha?
By: Good Looking Kangaroo (w/ Good Looking Loser)
This article will examine whether you are cool or a loser for drinking Kombucha.
You should take our conclusion VERY seriously.
It might be the difference between you having lifestyle of five star dinners, elite women and bricks of gold and cocaine vs. a lifestyle of frozen pizza, low-class hookers and barely-carbonated 2-day old warm soda that sits by your computer.
Maybe, maybe not.
I first ran into Kombucha tea when I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and lived at BradP's Pickup Mansion. I had 2 roommates that literally lived off the stuff as part of a committed vegan diet. They would stock up about 10-12 4-packs of Kombucha Tea from Whole Foods (probably at some ridiculous price) and literally wouldn't eat solid food (that's not exactly what you are supposed do if you drink this stuff). They didn't seem to have any more energy or immunity to common colds as all of us got sick about 2 times that year.
I dismissed the stuff as hippie-socialist propaganda and continued to drink my Muscle Milk and Poppy Seed Tea.
Back in February of this year I felt a cold [MAYBE] coming on and a "that vegan" girl bought me a bottle of Kombucha. I opened it in the car and it exploded all over both of us.
What the hell?
This stuff is carbonated?
Trying to make sure all the liquid didn't keep spewing from the top and all over the seats, I quickly stuck it in my mouth and tried to swallow a mouthful of it.
Within seconds, I spit it all over the dashboard.
What the hell?
This stuff is the grossest tasting shit I've ever had.
And I've tasted a lot of heinous stuff.
Eventually, over a 40 minute period, I ended up getting the bottle down.
It tasted no better by the end.
Granted I got the 'MULTI-GREEN' drink which is probably way worse than the rest of the "flavors".
Long story short, I felt back to normal in an hour. No runny nose, no scratchy throat.
I didn't feel like I was getting sick anymore.
It was literally the first time that I ACTUALLY STOPPED a incoming cold.
Or at least it seemed that way.
The "mega-dose Vitamin C" thing never worked, Echinacea never did shit and pouring hydrogen peroxide in my ear felt cool but didn't help.
This disgusting, rancid, bitter, liquid-vinegar-diarrhea cocktail known as Kombucha seemed like this did.
No joke. I barely got it down too.
I probably only drank 75% of it- the rest is in the carpet of my car. I swear it knocked out my cold (... or prevented it before it started).
The whole thing got me curious, so I sent Good Looking Kangeroo to figure out what the real deal on Kombucha is.
He, like me, is highly-skeptical of dietary supplements and the claims that hippies make.
By the way- I'm exaggerating how bad it tasted, it doesn't taste good though.
The unexpected carbonation and big gulp was a lousy way to get acquainted to it.
Here is what the Kangaroo found-
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha tea is a fermented health drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. The drink is brewed by adding bacteria and yeast to a sugar◊ and tea liquid base. This mix is then left to ferment into the Kombucha Tea.
The yeast and bacteria colony is often confused for a mushroom, however is technically called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) – see picture. The SCOBY often also called “the mother” is what ferments the liquid tea. The result is a liquid that is naturally high in antioxidants, rich in B group vitamins, active enzymes, amino acids and polyphenols.
Naturally brewed Kombucha tea is quite sour and bitter, mostly likely due to the vinegar content, however there are now commercial Kombucha flavored drinks which are much more palatable. See Kombucha has been around for many years, in fact it was traditionally brewed and consumed in China, Russia and Germany. More recently, it has grown in popularity in the health food scene particularly in developed countries such as the US, UK and Australia.
◊ The majority of commercial ready-to-drink Kombucha drinks don't have much sugar.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES IT DO?
Kombucha tea has been suggested to have a long list of health benefits when consumed regularly.
Such suggested health benefits include-
- Immune boosting properties
- Cancer preventing properties
- Improved digestion
- Improve liver function
- Improved vitality
There are also many testimonials out there from Kombucha tea lovers who have reported improvements in the following illness/conditions.
- Blood cholesterol, especially LDL, the "bad" cholesterol
- Blood pressure
However, as a Good Looking Kangaroo/Scientist I must be honest and point out that there is no scientific evidence to support these health claims.
That’s not to say these claims are hippie lies, it’s just that very little research has actually been done on this drink.
I was able to find some research on the Kombucha tea which does support its use as a strong antioxidant and immune boosting supplement. As previously mentioned, Kombucha tea is naturally rich in antioxidants and a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that Kombucha tea had potent antioxidant and immunopotentiating activities.
Kombucha tea is sort of like a health elixir due to its nutrient make up. It’s the sort of drink, that can be consumed freely throughout the day, knowing that it’s providing your body with a cocktail of great nutrients. Home brewed Kombucha tea is the gold standard, as some commercially brewed Kombucha teas can be high in added sugars or flavorings to mask the tart vinegar taste.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
You can expect a drink that is LOADED with healthful compounds that you probably only get small amounts of from your solid food diet.
No magic. Although it's been far less studied, it's like green tea, a healthful beverage.
Some people claim miracles from green tea but for the majority- it's just a super healthy part of their lifestyle.
Kombucha contains multiple species of both yeast and bacteria. When brewed it naturally produces organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. Kombucha typically contains the following components:
- Probiotics – promote healthy intestinal flora
- Polyphenol’s – antioxidant properties
- Vitamin C – important for tissue health and immune function
- Organic Enzymes – including lactase and invertase which help to breakdown lactose the sugar found in milk and sucrose
- Amino Acids – including leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and valine. All essential amino acids.
- Minerals – including chromium, potassium, sulphur, iron and phosphorous
- Acetic Acid – This is what gives the Kombucha its vinegar taste
- Butyric Acid – This is a short chain fatty acid (a.k.a - healthy fat) often found in butter and milk
- B-Vitamins – Important for energy production
- Ethanol – alcohol, yes Kombucha is alcoholic, however only slightly and not enough to get you a DUI.
- Gluconic Acid – a naturally occurring acid found in fruit that helps to break down sugar
- Lactic Acid – a natural antibacterial
- Malic Acid – This is what gives the Kombucha its tart/citrus taste
ARE THERE CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES?
Given the average cost of a cup of home brewed Kombucha tea is approximately 50 cents, you will most likely struggle to find a comparable alternative probiotic and nutrient dense tea and or a cheaper alternative. You don't even have to homebrew it- there are high-quality, super inexpensive Kombucha/Green Tea available from Yogi Tea that are less than 24 cents a cup.
A combination of a probiotic supplement, a multivitamin and mineral supplement will be less than buying a lot of the bottles of the ready-to-drink Kombucha though.
Although not quite the same thing, Barlean's Chocolate Silk, is the most amazing supplement (and best tasting supplement) ever.
It also contains a fair amount of the compounds (as well as a significant amount of probiotics) that you would get in Kombucha. I will be profiling the supplement in-depth later, but I feel that is the ONLY supplement that EVERYONE NEEDS. You can get 5 servings of better-tasting, higher-quality organic vegetables in 20 seconds than you probably get in 2 or 3 days unless you make the daily effort to prepare organic vegetables at every meal.
When it comes down to it- it was likely the probiotics in a quick digesting liquid formula that may have prevented my cold from starting. I'm sure that the ready-to-drink Kombucha teas are high-quality but if you can get ingredients and compounds in the tea from elsewhere- you'll basically have the same thing.
Next time I do get sick, however, I'm going to slam 4 or 5 of these drinks a day (if I can stomach it).
If it goes away in a 24-36 hour period, then I'll be totally convinced.
We'll see what happens.
I don't see Kombucha tea as a dietary supplement, it's food (well, a beverage) that is no doubt good for you.
The ingredients are good for you, so it's good for you. No magic involved. But no reason to try and exclusively try to live off the stuff.