Many of you may have seen this effervescent tea in your local health food store, but do you know exactly what it is? We too have seen it everywhere and wanted to learn more about this unusual nutrition booster. With the help with one of our interns, Veronica Sommer, we did some research into how it is made and what health benefits it provides.
Although referred to as the kombucha mushroom, it is actually not a mushroom at all, but a culture that ferments tea. This colony of yeast and bacteria is added to black or green tea with some sugar and tastes similar to apple cider and champagne. (It is true that the yeast produces a small amount of alcohol in the tea but it only ends up being less than 1%!)
Kombucha originated in the Far East and has been used as a health beverage for many centuries. It is now regaining popularity and its proponents say they like its invigorating effects and detoxifying properties, which come from the organic acids it contains, as well as its great taste.
They claim this drink is rich in bacterial acids and enzymes which are thought have many health benefits. It’s touted as a “living food” with yeasts, probiotic bacteria, active enzymes, organic acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. This is all encouraging. However, as we all dug up a little more information, we found some unsettling information like this advice from the American Cancer Society which warns of making it at home…
“Since cultures and preparation methods vary, Kombucha tea may contain contaminants such as molds and fungi, some of which can cause illness. After the tea is fermented, it is usually highly acidic and contains alcohol, ethyl acetate, acetic acid and lactate. Deaths have been linked with the tea. Drinking excessive amounts of the tea is not recommended. Several experts warn that since home-brewing facilities vary significantly, the tea could become contaminated with harmful germs, which could be especially dangerous to people with HIV, cancer or other immune problems. Allergic reactions, possibly to molds in the tea, have been reported, as have anthrax of the skin and jaundice.”
So we pretty much lost our appetite for it and called it day…don’t think we’ll be drinking it.
Do you think kombucha is great health promoter or just a plain weird idea for a drink?