What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented soft drink produced by a tea fungus. It essentially consists of tea, sugar and microorganisms, more precisely bacterial and yeast cultures. They produce vitamins and organic acids from the sugar, which have a positive effect on health. The finely sparkling refreshing drink is characterised by its slightly sour and finely moussing taste.

 

Where does Kombucha come from?

The knowledge about the magical tea mushroom is already over 2200 years old. Kombucha is thought to have originated in East Asia, Japan or China. According to tradition, the emperors and rulers of ancient dynasties were looking for a good recipe for a healthy life. They experimented a lot with the production of fermented foods and recipes from ancient knowledge.

The result was kombucha over 2000 years ago. An old story tells of a doctor called Kombu. He prepared a tea for the emperor that freed him from all his health ailments. This is how Kombu-Cha, the tea of Kombu, came into being. According to other traditions, the name comes from a mistake. In Asia, for example, a tea made from algae is known, but it has nothing to do with kombucha. Gradually, the tea fungus spread further west via Russia.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Kombucha also became known and popular in Western Europe for its taste, effect and long shelf life. The first research began and the drink gradually became better known. Later, kombucha was even available in most well-stocked pharmacies.

Unfortunately, this traditional remedy quickly fell into oblivion again. On the one hand, human trust at that time was placed in the rapidly developing orthodox medicine. On the other hand, the raw materials needed, such as tea and sugar, were scarce during the Second World War.

So it became increasingly quiet around the magic mushroom. In the meantime, it is gradually returning to people's consciousness.

Fortunately, we are currently returning more and more to natural medicine and trusting it again. The new awareness of the harmfulness of today's sugary soft drinks is also leading us to look for alternatives. Kombucha, for example, has recaptured our attention in recent years. 

What are the ingredients in Kombucha?

In order to understand what makes kombucha special and healthy, you should take a look at how it is made.

Originally, kombucha is "only" sweetened tea. The various ingredients only develop during the production process, the so-called fermentation.

Fermentation is the transformation of substances by microorganisms into other ingredients.

The bacteria and yeasts contained in Kombucha metabolise the original ingredients of the tea and the sugar into a variety of organic acids and vitamins.

Cultures detected in Kombucha include, for example:

  • Acetobacter xylinum
  • Acetobacter xylinoides
  • Gluconoacetobacter
  • Gluconobacter oxydans
  • Saccharomyces ludwigii
  • Saccharomyces apiculatus
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast) 

The composition and occurrence differs from culture to culture, making each kombucha unique.

What happens during fermentation?

Fermentation takes place in many individual steps that occur simultaneously. First, the added sugar (sucrose) is broken down by enzymes into glucose and fructose. These simple sugars are easier for the microorganisms to metabolise. The yeasts begin to break down the sugar molecules into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and water later produce carbonic acid, which we know as the natural tingle of kombucha.

The bacteria cultures use the alcohol and, with the addition of oxygen, convert it into a wide variety of organic acids, which make up the must-like taste of the drink.

At the same time, a layer of cellulose develops on the surface, which initially covers the entire surface and later becomes thicker. This is the so-called tea fungus or SCOBY.

SCOBY is an abbreviation for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.

In the botanical sense, it is not a fungus. Rather, the SCOBY is a cellulose layer that the bacterial cultures form in the kombucha to create a better climate for fermentation. In other words, they build a comfortable home for themselves that protects them from contamination and fluctuating temperatures. In addition, oxygen exchange takes place via the tea fungus.

It is interesting to note that a new tea fungus is created with each new batch. Depending on whether the tea fungus sinks to the bottom or remains on top, a new tea fungus forms on the surface or on the underside of the old SCOBY, the mother.

We have these processes to thank for the healthy refreshing drink. As time goes on, the kombucha gradually becomes more sour and less sweet until it finally turns into vinegar. 

Kombucha contains:

Healthy vitamins

  • Vitamin B1 - regulates our fat and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Vitamin B2 - regulates respiratory metabolism
  • Vitamin B3, B6 - important for protein metabolism
  • Vitamin B12 - promotes blood formation, cell division and the health of the nervous system
  • Vitamin D and K, folic acid - healthy development of bones, teeth and skin

Minerals

  • Iron - needed for blood formation
  • Magnesium - supports the nervous system and muscles

Organic acids

  • Glucuronic acid - binds metabolic toxins, improves connective tissue, strengthens bones and joints, heals the stomach lining, helpful in the fight against cancer
  • Gluconic acid - supports the effect of antioxidants such as vitamin C, OPC, vitamin E, Q10
  • dextrorotatory lactic acid - strong antibiotic effect, ensures healthy intestinal flora

Living microorganisms

  • probiotic lactic acid bacteria - support and build up the intestinal flora
  • various enzymes - strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, heal wounds, have antiviral and antibacterial effects
  • yeasts - strengthen the immune system and improve hair and skin condition

But beware: the ingredients vary from kombucha to kombucha, as the composition of the cultures and the fermentation conditions during production differ.

Of course, the beverage industry sensed the kombucha business early on. Thus, some sell supposed kombucha lemonades and teas, which, however, differ fundamentally in one important point:

They are pasteurised.

This means that the product is heated to a high temperature after fermentation to make it last longer. What sounds good at first, however, quickly turns out to be a hoax. Because under the influence of heat, the living cultures in the kombucha also die and the drink loses much of its magic.

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