In the culinary world things are constantly changing. Innovation, technology and creative minds are perpetually creating and re-creating food products to satisfy our evolving taste buds. But sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. Such is the case with the rise in popularity of fermented foods.
Fermenting, thought to be one of man’s earliest technologies, dates back to 7000 BC. Some of the many commonly consumed fermented foods in the US include wine, beer, sauerkraut, sourdough bread and yogurt. Increasing access to an emerging world market is giving us an opportunity to expand our pallets to include foods from other cultures. One such food is the fermented beverage kombucha.
Kombucha is fermented sweet tea and has been around since nearly 200 BC. It is commonly described as refreshing, sparkling, slightly sweet and acidic. Kombucha has a reputation for being a health food with prophylactic and therapeutic benefits toward a wide variety of ailments. The health effects of kombucha have been the subject of scientific studies since 1852 and results have shown the potential for positive health benefits. These results combined with the thousands of people who have reported that kombucha has benefited their health make a compelling case for the healthiness of consuming this fermented beverage. However, more research is needed to make a definitive conclusion.
Kombucha can be prepared in a home kitchen but requires that the preparer follow impeccable food safety practices. For suggestions go to Colorado State University Extension’s publication, Understanding and making kombucha at: http://farmtotable.colostate.edu/prepare-ferment/kombucha.php#.WV_MeijfOUmare
In short, the process for making kombucha consists of preparing sweet tea, adding a commercial grade symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), fermenting the tea for 7-10 days (or until the pH is reduced from approximately 5.0 to 2.5), removing the culture mass and refrigerating. During the fermentation process the sugar in the tea is converted to alcohol and then the alcohol is converted to acetic acid. Alternately, a wide variety of kombucha flavors and combinations can be purchased in grocery stores and in some restaurants.
So, if you are an adventurous eater and like trying new things kombucha should be next on your list.
- Nummer, B. A. Kombucha Brewing Under the Food and Drug Administration Model, Food Code: Risk Analysis and Processing Guidance. Retail-Foodservice Food Safety Consortium. Volume 76. Number 4.
- Dufresne, C., Famworth, E. Tea, Kombucha, and Health: A Review. Food Research International. Vol. 33, Issue 6. July 2000. pp. 409-421