Kombucha is a fermented tea made out of bacteria and yeast and a trendy alternative to soda and other carbonated drinks for the health-minded individual. There are a lot of disputes about the extent of its health benefits, but the fact still stands that it is a natural anti-bacteria, low in carbohydrates and low in calories.
Its origins are Northeast Chinese and Manchurian, and it is considered a functional food because of its probiotic benefits.
Large Californian distributors such as Synergy have dominated the Kombucha market, but there are other, more local alternatives.
Local indie favorite, House Kombucha, just relocated their brewery from San Francisco to East Oakland. The owner, Rana Chang, is a lawyer turned entrepreneur who has dedicated herself not only to making the healthiest kombucha with the lowest sugar on the market, but also to keeping her business green.
Ms. Chang sets up a system with her vendors where the glass bottles her kombucha comes in can be returned. For each bottle that is returned to her brewery to Chang donates five cents to Save the Bay, a foundation that is dedicated to protecting the San Francisco Bay from pollution and inappropriate shoreline development.
“It’s really all about the environment, keeping the landfill at a minimum, and resources plentiful” says Chang.
Chang’s business started when she began brewing kombucha out of her home. Many other Bay Area residents have taken up this home brewing of kombucha for personal use, trading recipes and ideas on blogs like kombuchakollective.wordpress.com.
Brewing begins by using a starter called a “mother,” which is comprised of live bacteria cultures. When the mother is placed in sweetened tea and allowed to sit for seven to fourteen days, a glob of symbiotic bacteria and yeast grow on the surface. This glob grows, expands and breaks apart into what are called babies or scobies. The scobies are then sold or given away by brewers.
There are classes and online tutorials, such as Tim Anderson’s video on instructables.com, that can help home brewers make their own Kombucha. Craigslist is full of people selling their scobies, and home brewing kits and classes to sign up for abound online.
Another local company Cultured, sets up every Tuesday and Saturday at the Berkeley Farmers market, and brews inventive flavors such as Jalapeno Watermelon, a flavor that garnered the company the honor of Drink of the Week by the New York Times.
Flavors can range anywhere from fennel to cayenne and mango. This artisanal brewing of kombucha in different flavor profiles, adds to the drink an aspect of Bay Area foodie culture.With all the resources local and easy to try and make, kombucha is readily available to the health conscious and curious epicure alike.