So you finally tried kombucha, the exotic drink your friends keep telling you about. At first you weren’t sure – it has mushrooms in it or something, right? – but after a few sips you realize you love it! Now it’s become irresistible. The gentle sour and touch of sweetness. The slight fizz. The health benefits. There are health benefits, right? Good for your gut, someone was telling you. And on top of that, it’s supposed to be easy to make at home. What’s not to love about this delicious beverage? There’s a lot of misinformation, and a lot of “experts” out there, so let’s get the facts straight and take your knowledge of this wonderful elixir to the next level.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS STUFF?
Kombucha. Booch. The Champagne of Life. Fungus Tea. Manchurian Elixir. The Devil’s Funky Juice. These are all names for kombucha. Except for that last one, which I just made up. And what, exactly, is this delicious beverage, teeming with living microbes? The simplest description of kombucha is that it is a fermented tea. It can be made from basically any tea, but generally a large batch (we prefer sencha) is brewed as the base. A SCOBY–the acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast–is added, along with sugar. The SCOBY is known colloquially as a mother, and incorrectly, as a mushroom. It is not, in fact, a mushroom. The yeasty parts of the culture are in the fungi family, but calling kombucha a ‘fungus tea’ is no more correct than calling beer a ‘fermented barley mushroom water’.
The SCOBY is the most important part of the brewing process, and maintaining a healthy one is integral to producing quality kombucha. It works best and is at it’s most healthy when the bacteria and yeast work harmoniously together. Sugar is needed for the yeast to feast on, creating ethanol and CO2 in the process. The bacteria eat up tannins in the tea, as well as excess ethanol. In this way, the yeast and bacteria work together to ferment the tea into a raw and living beverage: kombucha. (If you're looking for a beautiful, healthy SCOBY to make your own kombucha, we've got them for sale at GYST!)
THE STORY OF BOOCH
Kombucha has been around for awhile. While it’s exact origins aren’t known, it appeared in Northeast China around 200 BC, before being brought to Japan by a Dr. Kombu (Kombu → kombucha!!) around 400 AD. From there, it hopscotched across Russia, Germany, and Switzerland before becoming more well known in the U.S. in the early 90’s. Back then it wasn’t commercially available, so you’d need to find someone with a SCOBY in order to make it yourself. At that time It was as much a movement as a beverage, ingredients and instructions passed back and forth between hippies, yogis, counter-culturalists, and health nuts.
In 1995 a guy named GT Dave started making kombucha in his parents kitchen in LA. People loved it, and he began bottling and selling it in specialty stores, eventually getting his kombucha onto the shelves of Whole Foods. We all have this guy, GT Dave (Yes, I agree that it’s strange for someone to have an abbreviation for a first name and a first name as a last name), to thank for kombucha’s national presence. Kombucha’s pop relevance has been on the rise since then, and it has exploded in recent years, turning a once little known drink into a 500 million dollar a year industry.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
There’s much to be said about the health benefits of fermented foods and drinks, but it wasn’t until recently that doctors and scientists began to realize the importance of microbes and bacteria that inhabit our guts. There’s a whole microscopic ecosystem down there, and fermented foods directly aid its vitality by introducing and promoting good bacteria and yeast. Kombucha’s most commonly reported health benefits include detoxification, aiding digestion, and increased energy. We recommend checking out ‘Kombucha Mama’ Hannah Krum’s book, The Big Book of Kombucha. Krum reports the studied health benefits of kombucha including the addition of bioavailable vitamins B6 and B12, which are known to stabilize mood and fight depression, as well as vitamin C. Adding specialty herbs and plants to kombucha can add even more of a health boost. Ginger, turmeric, and cranberries all have healing properties, from boosting the immune system to preventing UTI’s. They also have the added benefit of making your kombucha super tasty!
Our Kombucha is different, and that’s good. As with every aspect of GYST, we are passionate about using quality ingredients produced by good people. We like to know exactly what we're drinking, so we make our kombucha as transparent as possible–using only water, sugar, our SCOBY, and local herbs, berries, and fruits. While many kombucha producers, both locally and nationally, like to combine exotic fruit juice concentrates into extravagant combinations, we’re all about keeping things simple, balanced, and local. You won’t find passion fruit or coconut in any of our kombuchas; instead you’ll taste raspberry, dill, stinging nettle, or ginger – likely harvested within a few hours of Minneapolis.
We are currently working in close partnership with Lily Springs Farm, a 100-acre woman-led farm in Western Wisconsin utilizing restorative, climate-resilient agricultural practices. We support their commitment to regenerative farming and growing nutrient-dense perennials such as black currants, elderberry, and aronia. At our Fermentation Bar in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis, we use their crops to make kombucha that is truly restorative in every sense – from farm, to flavor, to that happy feeling after the first sip. And that's why GYST continues to be called the best kombucha in Minnesota.