The exact story of how kombucha was created remains a mystery, but what does seem certain is that it arose from the Far East. China, Russia, Korea, Tibet—these are a few of the countries that lay claim to the discovery of this beverage. Regardless of who was the first to stumble upon and consume this remarkable drink, it has been enjoyed in these parts of the world for thousands of years.
Kombucha is made by mixing black or green tea with special strains of bacteria, yeast, and sugar. This mixture is allowed to ferment in a controlled environment for a week or more. The fermentation process forms a mushroom-like layer on top of the tea, called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). Once fermented, this tea is infused with flavors that can range from fruity to herbal, creating a tangy, fizzy, and delicious beverage. Though fermented, the tea doesn’t create enough alcohol (only 0.5%) to be considered as an alcoholic beverage.
Known as the “Tea of Immortality”, kombucha is believed to have many health benefits. This is due to the incredible amount of probiotics that naturally thrive off of the yeast and sugar in the tea. This provides the consumer’s stomach with healthy bacteria. These bacteria are good for digestion, reducing inflammation, and some even claim that it could help with weight loss. Because of this, kombucha is considered to be a functional beverage, meaning that it is intended to convey a health benefit.
But how did kombucha get from the Far East to the Western world? According to an article in The Atlantic, German POWs of World War I brought kombucha to Germany with them from Russia. It took awhile for kombucha to find it’s way into mainstream America, however. It is believed that this was first “fueled by the AIDS epidemic,” in the 1990s “and later by a growing interest in probiotics and gut health.”
Three Tree will now be serving the Golda Kombucha brand. Golda is a 95 year-old lady who has been fine-tuning her kombucha for over 40 years. A "living testament to health", Golda has passed her recipe down to her grand-daughter, Melanie Wade, who has added her own twist to the family recipe with taste profiles native to Georgia, such as lavender-lemonade and peach-ginger. Melanie brought the kombucha to local farmers markets and craft fairs in 2013. As the brand has grown, so has the need for greater facilities. Golda is now "available on tap, in ready-to-drink bottles, and in growlers at dozens of restaurants, bars, and grocers throughout the Southeast, including in over 100 Kroger supermarkets and in several Whole Foods Markets." As well as being an entrepreneur, Melanie is currently Secretary of the Board of Kombucha Brewers International, giving further credence to her knowledge and a greater respect for her in the world of kombucha.
To many of us, kombucha seems like a drink that could have healing properties. Well, maybe, and maybe not. As of 2016, there was no real science supporting the health claims. “There is only evidence from lab bench studies and animal studies. No published studies come from human clinical trials of drinking kombucha.” Still, the studies that have been done look promising. And why not give kombucha a try if you haven’t already. It’s tasty and has a bunch of good stuff in it, such as polyphenols (those bright pigments in fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidants), healthy acids, and vitamins.