Why, indeed. It seems like the kombucha train has been pulling into the station for some time now; the health nuts have been chattering about this latest must-have beverage for many-a-summer. But now, it's also the not-so-health-conscious eaters that have hopped aboard, and dedicated this latest fad as not a seasonal fling at all, but a drink proven to be sticking around and consumed by the population internationally.
I had my first sip of the fermented, sweetened tea a few summers back when my family started making homemade versions of it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for brewing your own potions from a specific bacteria culture you ordered off Amazon - but the pre-made cans do the trick as well and considerably better (sorry, dad!). Every coffee shop, bar, and local haunt near you likely now has a fridge stocked with at least a couple kombucha options. My parents' latest concoction is too strong, even for me, so I'm sticking with the bar's choice and the few brands that are now available in grocery stores. But before I get into flavor combinations and possibilities, let's get a quick recap on why the obsession has spread.
Image: BBC Good Food
Awhile back, we wrote an article on gut bacteria - and the findings on how your stomach legitimately controls your brain gave me nightmares and sent me running to buy probiotics. In all honesty, I hit a quarter-life crisis hard and am just now starting to pay more attention to my physical health.
Cut to kombucha. That summer I first tried it, I hadn't realized it was good for you (most carbonated teas usually aren't at the top of the health list). Kombucha, as mentioned, is a fermented tea, which means it offers similar health benefits as foods like yogurt and kimchi - which we often eat to add good bacteria back into our stomachs. If your digestion is off, it could be that you need to restore your gut flora - and a drink may be a more attractive choice than a big bowl of sauerkraut (although that's also choice depending on what you pair it with).
Originating in Northeast China (historically Manchuria) around 220 B.C., this smart little drink has been consumed for such health benefits (and as a cold drink on warm evenings, I assume) for hundreds of years. So there are a lot of reasons why this versatile pour is now a competitive foe to the hipster IPA market. Frankly, it has gone beyond the niche backpacker, health-champions among us, and nestled itself nicely into many cafe fridges and (my guess) soon to be every grocery store shelf on the continent.
Image: Costcoeast. Pictured: Cove Kombucha
For me, it's the draw of drinking something non-boring that is at the same time good for me - which is not an easy combination to source. Kombucha is also said to help with your skin, immunity, and serotonin levels, which is great, but for me it comes down to taste. I can knock back a ginger shot because I know it will help my health - but I'm not likely to pick up that routine every morning. It's much easier when there's a strawberry limeade flavor option that still contributes to my physical well-being. Plus, in my ultimate pursuit to become a respectable mixologist (I have awhile to go yet, admittedly), this drink opens the door to some incredible patio cocktails - stay tuned for our recipe list coming in June.
So with the knowledge that fads come and go, there are the few that stand the test of time. In my humble opinion, it's the creations that offer multiple angles of benefits: from health, to taste, to versatility of medium (like a nice summer mixed drink), and kombucha isn't going anywhere.
Disclaimer: Valeria and Gary Lipovetsky are investors in Cove Kombucha