Have you been scoffing at all fermented stuff? Stop. It’s time to be seen with kombucha in your hand, as the brew evolves from virtuous health fad, to fiesty summer cooler
Consider your drink game up-to-date if you have had kombucha and want it as your go-to summer drink this year. Those who have not tried it yet, even out of curiosity, better step up their beverage game.
Home brewers of kombucha like to call it their lockdown drink experiment, driven by an urge to try and brew something new and safe for all. Soon enough, its popularity blossomed and kombucha made its way into branded bottles in cafes and store shelves in many cities.
Home brewed brands like Kombucha of the Earth, Ombucha, Hydra Kombucha, Booch Please, CommBucha Happy Booch, Bhu Kombucha The Kombucha Co. etc are finding an increasing number of takers who want to experiment with newer drinks with or without health benefits.
Rohan Srivatsa who launched Ombucha in Hyderabad following his lockdown trials, feels the drink is closely associated with veganism because of the ingredients used.
He says, “Every ingredient used is natural and plant-based, so it is assumed to be vegan. As a kombucha brewer, I would call it a safe drink for everyone. I got hooked on to it in Goa and back in Hyderabad, I couldn’t find a good kombucha. So, I started brewing it on my own. I started small and when I was confident of the flavours, I began sharing it with friends.”
Dhanesh Sharma of Hyderabad-based Terrasen café explains that kombucha is an ancient Central Asian drink. “It started getting associated with vegan food because vegans, in their need to explore healthier alternatives, started exploring a food option that was less heard of,” he adds.
In layman terms, kombucha is a fermented tea that is best enjoyed cold, and may or may not be flavoured. It is often made from green or black tea. Kombucha brewer Renuka Vijay Kumar says, “It is largely classified as a functional beverage, which means it is a non-alcoholic drink that contains vitamins, amino acids or other nutrients associated with health benefits.”
Talking about the merits claimed by kombucha brewers, Delhi-based nutritionist Lovneet Batra says “Anything to do with gut health is gaining popularity these days. Kombucha being fermented tea, gets its probiotic goodness.” The author of 50Desisuperdrinks, Lovneet adds, “The addition of herbs and the use of green tea makes it an anti-oxidant.”
how Indians love to ferment
- Gundruk, fermented radish shoots
- Shikanji made with winter black and red carrots and beets
- Fermented bamboo shoot
- Fermented cane shoot
- Tungrumbai made by the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya
- Apong, fermented rice beer
The process of preparing kombucha can vary. As a thumb rule, it involves a double fermentation process wherein a SCOBY (a disc-shaped symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is placed in a sweetened tea mixture and left to ferment at room temperature for one to three weeks. Then, it is bottled and made to sit, to encourage carbonation. “After that, the bottled kombucha is placed in a cooler environment to slow down the carbonation and fermentation processes,” adds Rohan
Additionally, the anti-microbial properties of this process make its production sanitary, and safe for home-brewing.
According to health journals like Science Direct, kombucha originated in Northeast China (historically referred to as Manchuria) around 220 BC and was prized for its healing properties.
A question of roots
Some journals say its name is reportedly derived from Dr Kombu, a Korean physician who brought the fermented tea to Japan as a curative for Emperor Inkyo.
Hydra Kombucha brewer Rahul S, based in Hyderabad, says he tasted his first kombucha in Gokarna while on holiday and soon began brewing it from his place in Manipal.
Rahul says, “I was a student at Manipal and wanted to drink kombucha once I was back from my holiday. When I couldn’t find any, I decided to brew my own kombucha . I studied all about the brewing process on the Internet. After two or three trial batches, I had my drinks. When I first made kombucha three years ago, it took me six or seven months to make small batches and cater to smaller groups who appreciate the drink.”
Rahul suggests fruity tropical flavours as the best ones to begin with. Rohan adds that a number of the followers of his brand are people who look for anything fizzy, non-alcoholic and “not sweet. Those who want to avoid sugary fizzy drinks, happily pick up a kombucha”.
But let us not be fooled: kombucha has sugar and Lovneet suggests that to avoid excess intake of sugar we must pay attention to the label.
“A 250 ml bottle shouldn’t contain more than 10 grams of sugar,” she advises.