So, you’ve tried kombucha and are amazed as everyone else by its uniqueness, the diversity of flavors, the zing on your tongue. Are you wondering where kombucha came from and how it’s made? We have some good news for you: we have all the answers.
Kombucha may be the latest beverage trend, but it’s actually been around longer than most drinks you enjoy regularly. In fact, kombucha has been documented as early as 221 B.C. in China, Japan and other parts of Europe. It made its way to the U.S. much later, but it’s definitely not a “new” trend.
As old as kombucha is, the science of fermentation goes back 9,000 years to China, mostly to create alcoholic beverages. However, the fermentation of vegetables and fruits became popular soon after as a preservation method.
Kombucha is simply fermented sweet tea. When you look at how kombucha is made, however, you realize it really isn’t that simple. First of all, the quality of the tea will directly influence the quality of the kombucha. That’s an important thing to remember because few kombucha companies put much focus on the tea part, even though it’s the foundation for kombucha.
At Brew Dr. Kombucha, our main focus is the tea. We’ll admit we have a bit of an advantage over other kombucha manufacturers. We were founded by a tea company. Brew Dr. Tea Company (formerly Townshend's Tea Company) is our parent company and they source our tea leaves from some of the best fair-trade tea farms around the world. That means we not only get the most diverse and high-quality tea leaves to use in our kombucha brews, but our leaves are incredibly fresh and flavorful. You won’t find a better tea in any other kombucha on the market.
While we can’t say for certain the exact recipe and process the ancient Chinese used to process their kombucha, we can say the basic science behind it hasn’t changed much. It all starts with tea leaves, water, and sugar (or some type of sweetener since sugar likely wasn’t harvested or accessible until 8000 BC) to make the tea base, then specific bacteria and yeast are added in just the right amounts to begin the fermentation process. The brew is covered and left to sit in warm temperatures to ferment. As the bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar, carbon dioxide is released. That’s where the fizziness of kombucha comes from.
Most of the sugar is consumed by the yeast and bacteria, keeping the sugar content of kombucha relatively low compared to fruit juices and sodas. Alcohol is also produced during the fermentation process. The longer the brew is left in those ideal conditions, the more alcohol is produced.
At Brew Dr., we use a proprietary method the ancient cultures didn’t have to extract excess alcohol from our kombuchas so they only contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol. That way, most anyone can enjoy them without worrying about alcohol content.
We often get asked about caffeine in kombucha. The caffeine concentration goes back to the tea leaves and how much caffeine is in each variety. Most kombucha manufacturers stick with basic black and green teas, both of which contain caffeine. Of course, at Brew Dr., we know people in high places (wink) and get all kinds of black and green teas, oolong, and white teas. They all contain varying levels of natural caffeine, but fermentation reduces that amount considerably so the end result is a lightly-caffeinated beverage.
The people who brewed small batches of homemade kombucha thousands of years ago had no idea their humble, fermented tea would become a billion-dollar industry that’s expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2022. Nielsen says kombucha is now one of the most popular low-alcoholic fermented beverages in the world, with sales growing by nearly 40 percent in the U.S. in 2017.
We have to tip our hats to those ancient cultures and give them their due respect. They relied on their own ingenuity and resources to create a beverage that has stood the test of time. No, kombucha isn’t a fad. It’s proven it’s here to stay. So, next time you reach for a kombucha, give them a toast and say thanks.