Kombucha tea has long been a staple in the refrigerated section of grocery stores — and for good reason. This all-natural, slightly fizzy fermented beverage is said to provide all the health benefits of tea, in addition to probiotics for good gut health.
Continue reading to discover how this sweet yet acidic fermented tea is made and how it might support your health.
Tea, Water, Sugar, And SCOBY: What Exactly Is Kombucha?
Originating in Asia, this fermented elixir has been consumed for thousands of years. Making kombucha is simple in terms of ingredients, but properly overseeing the fermentation process requires a bit of know-how.
Making kombucha starts with combining green or black tea with sugar, yeast, and specific strains of bacteria. These ingredients are then left to ferment for 7 to 10 days.1,2
During the fermentation process, the yeast and bacteria form a biofilm on the surface of the tea which has a mushroom-like appearance. This characteristic explains the kombucha misnomer “mushroom tea.”
This biofilm is referred to as the SCOBY — an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” The SCOBY can also be used to ferment new batches of kombucha.
The Fermentation Process Is Where The Magic Happens
As the tea ferments, many of its distinctive properties start to appear, like:
- Organic acids, including acetic acid, which gives kombucha its unique tangy taste
- Good bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria, which functions as a probiotic
- Trace amounts of alcohol and gases, which give kombucha its mild carbonation3
What Is The Alcohol Content In A Bottle Of Kombucha?
How much alcohol is in a bottle of kombucha really depends on a number of factors. As part of the natural fermentation process, the sugar is broken down into alcohol and carbon dioxide — which means the final product will have alcohol in it.
However, most commercially produced kombucha is sold as a “non-alcoholic” beverage, since it contains less than 0.05% alcohol by volume, according to U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau requirements.4
Alternatively, kombucha prepared at home tends to have a higher alcohol content, at 3% or even higher.5
What Are The Health Benefits Of Drinking Kombucha?
While kombucha may be an acquired taste, its potential health benefits are pretty impressive. Consider these three diverse benefits of this sweet-yet-sour fermented tea:
One of the most talked-about properties of kombucha is the same that is promoted for many other fermented foods — its living bacteria. Kombucha contains multiple species of lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These living bacteria may have a probiotic function, which is important for digestion and overall gut health.6
The powerful properties in kombucha have also been studied for their ability to support healthy levels of yeasts and bacteria in the body.7
Kombucha is an excellent source of glucuronic acid, which may help bind toxins and allow the liver and kidneys to push the toxins out of the body faster.8,9
Drinking Kombucha May Give You The Benefits Of Green Tea
Kombucha is primarily made up of tea. Choosing a bottle of kombucha made with green tea, instead of the more common black tea, may give you a whole additional level of health benefits. Consider this:
Green tea contains a lot of polyphenols, or polyphenolic antioxidants, which may help support optimal circulation and heart health.10 What’s better? Multiple studies have shown the fermentation process may increase the number of polyphenols in the final product.11
Green tea supports healthy blood sugar levels, according to a review study covering 17 randomized trials.12
How Much Kombucha To Drink For Optimal Results
Like many other probiotic foods and beverages, there is no one resource yet that can tell you how much kombucha to drink to receive all the health benefits. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does have a recommendation on how much to not exceed. But first, it’s important to note, you should always consult your doctor before changing your diet — that includes adding probiotic foods, supplements or beverages.
The CDC recommends drinking no more than four ounces of kombucha at a time, one to three times a day. This means it’s recommended to not have more than 12 ounces on any given day.13 Ask your doctor how much kombucha is right for you.
For those drinking commercially produced kombucha, check the quantity of your bottle, since some of the products you will find on the shelf are 16 ounces. Also, make sure to look for the lowest sugar kombucha you can find whenever possible — some have a lot of added sugar, which isn’t great for your gut… or the rest of you.
Drinking Kombucha Tea For The First Time
If you haven’t yet given kombucha a try, it may be a worthy addition to a healthy lifestyle. And for those who love the benefits of tea but are a bit bored of its mild flavor, kombucha might be just what you’re looking for with its acidic kick and touch of sweetness.
Two things to note for first-time kombucha drinkers: One, don’t shake the bottle. Think of kombucha as any other carbonated beverage — you know what happens when you shake it up and twist off the lid. All you have to do to prepare to drink it is slowly tip the bottle upside down once (lid on, of course), and you’re good to go.
And two, don’t fear the bits floating at the bottom of your store-bought bottle of kombucha. They are just naturally occurring bacteria and are completely safe to drink.
Now all that’s left to do is enjoy a cold, refreshing bottle of ‘booch.