Kombucha: what is it? See benefits, how-to and recipes

Some prefer to buy the finished product in stores or markets. In fact, a few years ago, finding kombucha on the shelves is not a complicated task, as the market has grown significantly – so much so that about 5 years ago there were only 2 or 3 production brands.

In 2018, Brazil saw the emergence of ABKom, the Brazilian Kombucha Association, which brings together more than 40 companies and producers from all over the country.

In the USA, where it is already well known, the sale of kombucha generates about 1 billion dollars annually (almost 4 billion reais) and in Brazil, the estimate is that it moves more than 20 million reais in 2018 alone.

The promising segment makes it evident that the product is very popular with consumers – be it for the variety of flavor or for the benefits to the body.

What is Kombucha?

Sweetened, gaseous and slightly acidic, kombucha is the result of black tea or green tea sweetened with sugar and fermented with a colony of bacteria called Scoby.

Sugar acts as food for bacteria, causing them to multiply and add the carbonated characteristic to the drink.

No matter exactly the pronunciation – kombucha or kombutchá – it is the benefits and flavor that make the drink famous, which originated in China, passed through Europe, America and arrived in Brazil.

With probiotic properties, that is, rich in bacteria good for the functioning of the organism – similar to those found in yogurts and kefir – each cup of kombucha is rich in live microorganisms that proliferate and promote good intestinal functioning.

In addition, depending on the substances added to the drink, it is possible to obtain a liquid rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and C, essential for the maintenance and functioning of the organism.

Drinkers are still betting that the drink can improve the immune system, provide more disposition and assist in digestive functioning. But it can also be an option to replace soft drinks and industrialized juices, making the intake healthier, without losing flavor.

Origin

Kombucha is not new – in fact, there are indications that the drink was already popular in China of the Quin Dynasty, that is, more than 2,000 years ago. Chinese traditions have spread and influenced various cultures around the world, with kombucha being no different.

It didn’t take long for the drink to reach Russia, India, Europe, North America and, more recently, Brazil.

In Europe and Russia, the product was quite appreciated and popular in the period before the 2nd World War. But due to the rationing of products such as sugar and teas, consumption has become increasingly smaller and more difficult.

But without losing tradition, kombucha was reincorporated into consumption practices, becoming popular mainly in Europe.

Gradually, with more studies on the benefits of food, the product aroused interest due to its functional properties.

Benefits: what is it for?

Kombucha is considered a probiotic and functional food . Its benefits are similar to those of natural yogurts, helping to balance the intestinal flora and participating in the proper organic functioning. Among them are:

Improves nutritional absorption

Due to its probiotic capacity, kombucha helps in the health of the intestine, favoring the correct elimination of feces and the balance of bacteria naturally present in the region.

In addition to improving the symptoms of constipation , for example, probiotics make nutrients better absorbed in the intestine and, therefore, the body takes better advantage of the vitamins and minerals ingested at meals.

Increases satiety

Probiotics can encourage the production of hormones related to satiety, leptin and insulin, which work by reducing hunger and controlling blood sugar levels.

When the body is able to stabilize hormones, food intake can be reduced naturally and, combined with a balanced diet and frequent physical activities, it is easier to maintain or reduce weight.

Improves the health of skin, bones and organs

With the vitamins being properly absorbed in the intestine and well used, the whole organism is benefited, as there is no point in eating properly if the nutrients cannot perform their organic functions.

The consumption of kombucha can help to compose the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, providing more balance to the menu.

In addition, the drink can increase fluid intake, making the skin more hydrated, resistant and nourished.

Age as an antioxidant

Depending on the tea chosen as a base, kombucha may have good amounts of antioxidants. Green tea and white tea , both derived from the Camellia sinensis plant , have the greatest ability to fight free radicals – which are associated with premature aging and degenerative diseases.

Improves mood

Teas have, in general, caffeine – especially black and green. The advantage is that the concentration is lower than that of coffee (and therefore it will hardly affect sleep), but it can give a little help when it comes to bringing more energy and disposition to activities.

In addition, caffeine can help metabolism, albeit subtle. As long as the drink consumer is not sensitive to the stimulating substance, it can be ingested to aid in the maintenance or reduction of weight or fat.

Harm

The kombucha, if properly produced and ingested, does not harm the healthy organism. It is important to note that the probiotic drink can alter intestinal functioning and cause discomfort in some people. Gases and stuffing may arise , for example.

Because it is an acidic food, there may be minor digestive changes, due to the interaction with stomach pH. In general, it tends to occur in people who already have stomach problems, such as gastritis or reflux.

Reports from the 1990s show that some patients who consumed kombucha for long periods had liver dysfunction, accumulation of lactic acid in the body (lactic acidosis), nausea and allergic reactions.

However, the results also indicate that adverse reactions may be isolated cases or due to inadequate preparation of the drink.

Like any product, kombucha can manifest adverse reactions, as each organism behaves differently in relation to food. So the ideal is always to observe the body’s signals.

Does Kombucha lose weight?

Not directly . Weight loss is a multifactorial process, which depends on a healthy routine, balanced diet, physical activities and a good functioning of the organism.

Read more: How to lose weight healthily: diet, exercise, medicine, menu

But the consumption of kombucha can be an ally when it comes to reducing measures, as the product is probiotic and helps in the balance of intestinal flora.

With the digestive system functioning properly, nutritional absorption is improved and the whole body is benefited. Which can, among other things, reflect well-being, disposition and assist in the practice of physical activities.

In addition, with the regular functioning of the intestine, symptoms of irritation or anxiety caused by constipation, for example, can be minimized and, with this, maintaining an adequate diet without excess is simpler.

Another way to combine the drink with weight loss is through healthy exchanges. Since kombucha resembles a soft drink, choosing it over another industrialized drink can reduce the amount of calories you eat and make your diet healthier.

By adding thermogenic supplements, such as ginger , metabolism is favored and calorie burning can increase as well.

How is done?

Without a lot of secrets, producing a few probiotic liters of kombucha is a simple task – just a base of preferably green or black tea, sugar, containers and Scoby is enough. Learn more about each component:

Tea

Teas are the base of the drink, which traditionally can be black, green or mate. As kombucha becomes popular, other bases are being tested and used, such as hibiscus tea , fennel and white tea.

Rich in some properties, such as polyphenols (catechins or tannins), which have an antioxidant effect, in addition to some nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and folic acid , teas are part of the food culture of several societies.

In addition, they help to compose the flavor and color of the kombucha, and can be chosen according to the preference of acidity, intensity and sweetness of the drink.

Sugar

Sugars act as food for bacteria. White, organic, demerara or crystal sugars can be used, which will interfere with the taste, aroma and color as well.

In general, sugar can be chosen according to its properties and characteristics – remembering that the refined and the crystal are more processed and caloric, while the organic and brown ones are more natural and preserve nutritional properties.

It is possible to use any one as a fermenter, but brown sugar does not always become a good option, as it can delay fermentation and affect the result of the drink.

Although they are generally considered bad, white and refined sugars are the most recommended for fermentation.

The good news is that the sugar added to tea is largely consumed by bacteria. This means that after fermentation, the drink contains approximately only 5g of the substance (much less than the approximately 100g recommended for fermentation).

Remembering that the amount of sugar in the final product also depends on the fermentation time – the longer the kombucha ferment, the lower the sugar index and the more acidic the drink.

In general, after 5 days of fermentation, the drink already has much less sugar than soft drinks or industrialized teas.

For this reason, people with diabetes or restricted carbohydrates and sugars, can generally drink in moderation without their blood sugar levels being affected.

Read more: What are the symptoms of diabetes? Pre, type 1, type 2, gestational and more

In addition, there is another characteristic of kombucha resulting from added sugars: alcohol, which aerates the liquid and makes it similar to a soft drink.

Although it is not added to the preparation, alcohol is the result of fermentation, because yeasts feed on sugar, generate carbon dioxide gas and very small amounts of alcohol.

But calmly, the drink can be consumed quietly, as the content is extremely low, below 0.5%, making the kombucha not fit as an alcoholic drink.

Scoby

Also called the mother of the kombucha, Scoby is a gelatinous disc formed by bacteria and yeasts.

The name is an acronym for “ symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast ” or, in free translation, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.

With a transparent appearance and viscous consistency, the colony is a cluster of good and functional microorganisms, which – like any natural food – can have its composition varied according to the place and time of production.

In general, the most common bacteria and yeasts present are Acetobacter xylinum, Acetobacter xylinoides, Acetobacter ketogenum, Saceharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyces and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  

These microorganisms are also found in yogurts, fermented milks and kefir.

As the culture reproduces, Scoby will grow and form new discs, which can be donated or stored for new kombucha productions.

Starter

The starter is the liquid that comes with the first kombucha culture and should be used in small quantities in fermentation. Its function is to assist in the regulation and maintenance of the pH of the drink, making it healthy.

It is indicated because the freshly prepared tea has a different pH from the kombucha and, therefore, adding the starter helps to regulate the acidity, which favors fermentation.

In addition, by lowering the pH of the base, there is no contamination by harmful or unwanted microorganisms, preserving the healthy microbiotic environment of the drink.

How to make kombucha?

To start producing kombucha at home, it is necessary to get a Scoby.

In general, social networks have groups of donation and exchange of information that make obtaining easier and faster. It is also possible to find information about donors in health food stores or vegan emporiums, for example.

Scoby does not always come in disk form – in fact, it is usually just a small piece, with about 1g or 2g of the culture.

Some come with a small amount of liquid and others come drier, but in general there is little interference in the fermentation process.

To get started, you need:

  • 1 Scoby;
  • 100mL of starter (which usually comes with Scoby);
  • 1L of water;
  • 6 tablespoons, or according to the packaging recommendations, of your favorite tea (preferably black or green);
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar or more;
  • 1 container of 1.5L or more.

Bearing in mind that, when you buy the dryest Scoby (that is, without enough starter), you can follow the process normally, just without adding the liquid to the preparation. After the first fermentation, you will have produced your own starter.

To start, bring the water to the fire and add the sugar until it boils. It is worth remembering that any sugar can be used, but that the white and refined ones present better results, as they facilitate fermentation.

After boiling, add the herbs or tea bags, cover the pan and let it steep. Wait for the drink to stay at room temperature, allowing it to cool naturally.

If the tea was made with loose herbs, it is important to strain the liquid.

Putting the tea inside the container for the kombucha, add the starter and Scoby.

Remembering that it is a culture of bacteria and, therefore, it is essential that hands and containers are properly sanitized and dry.

The kombucha’s disc can sink, float or be suspended in the middle of the liquid – there is no standard behavior.

As the fermentation needs oxygen, the container must be covered with a clean cotton cloth, securing it with an elastic band, so that there is no contamination of the drink.

Read more: Step by step: how to make water and milk kefir?

Tips and care

It is necessary to take care with the handling and the materials used in the fermentation of the kombucha.

All containers – bottles, cutlery, sieves, pots, cloths and rubber bands – must be properly sanitized, preferably with hot water, and thoroughly dried before starting the process.

Always choose wooden or plastic cutlery and do not use metals, steel or stainless steel, as the materials can affect the fermentation of the liquid.

Ideally, the bottles should be made of glass with high-sealing caps, to prevent the gas from escaping and the drink from losing gasification. When choosing the glass container, you must also ensure that it is dense and withstands high pressure , as it can crack or explode.

First fermentation

For the first fermentation, it is necessary to wait about 7 to 14 days. In that time, Scoby will grow and move around the container, forming a “daughter culture”.

Remember to keep it in a protected environment, preferably in the dark or out of the sun.

After this period, the Scoby will be much thicker and denser, and must be separated from the fermented liquid.

To do this, place the disc in a plastic or glass container and cover with about 200mL of the finished kombucha.

In general, there are those who prefer to discard the liquid from the 1st fermentation and do the process again before starting consumption.

However, there are studies and adepts of kombucha who use the 2nd fermentation just to add flavor to the drink, consuming the product of the initial fermentation.

If you prefer to discard the first process, you can use it as a substitute for vinegar for cleaning foods, for example. In this case, the process starts again with the preparation of the tea and the placement of about 100mL of the fermented (starter) from the first production.

If you choose to consume the kombucha from the 1st fermentation, just follow the process of flavoring or the 2nd fermentation.

Second fermentation

The 2nd fermentation can be carried out to add flavor to the kombucha or for those who want the most carbonated drink .

It is important to remember that the gas production process in the 1st fermentation also occurred, but as the container is covered with a tissue, the gas is able to escape and, therefore, results in a liquid more similar to a juice than to a soft drink.

To add flavor to the drink, the ideal is to make a mixture in the proportion of 20% of the container composed of juice or fruits and the rest of kombucha. For this, it is best to choose glass bottles, as fermentation generates gas and can cause pressure and damage to the container.

For fermentation to occur properly, it is recommended to reduce the presence of oxygen as much as possible, so whenever possible fill the container to the mouth (promoting an anaerobic fermentation).

After adding all the spices and completing the bottle with the kombucha, seal the packaging well and store it in an environment protected from light and without moisture.

The kombucha must ferment for about 3 to 7 days, according to the temperature of the region (warmer places accelerate the fermentation).

During this time, it is necessary to observe the process of formation of bubbles (gases), because glass bottles do not expand and, therefore, they can break or explode.

How long does fermentation take?

The time and place of fermentation will directly interfere with the final product, but there is no rule. Therefore, the ideal is to rely on the flavor and consistency of the last kombucha to regulate the fermentation of the next.

In general, the following criteria can be followed:

  • Less fermentation time : sweeter flavor;
  • Longer fermentation time : more acidic and vinegary flavor;
  • Cold environments : slower fermentation;
  • Warm environments : more accelerated fermentation.

But it is worth remembering that the addition of fruits, supplements and even the health of Scoby can affect the flavor and amount of gas in the drink.

How to taste the kombucha?

There are several ways to leave the kombucha with a special flavor, varying in intensity and giving more options to consumption.

There are not many rules when choosing what to use, since it is the taste and the will that predominate when it comes to testing flavors and adding ingredients.

Some of the most common when tasting the drink are:

  • Fruits : lemon, mango, strawberry, blueberry, apple, orange, pineapple and passion fruit;
  • Spices and extracts : ginger, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, mint, chamomile;
  • Ready-made whole juices : grape, apple, passion fruit.

Read more: How to make cinnamon powder tea?

Scoby: how to care?

When adding Scoby to the tea, don’t worry if it sinks, floats or stops in the middle of the container. Either way, it will proliferate.

What can happen is that the colony deposits at the bottom of the container and, when it grows, generates a Scoby-child on the surface of the liquid. That is, there will be 2 discs after a few days.

But if it remains floating, close to the surface, the Scoby will just thicken. When opening and removing the drink disc, it will be possible to separate them without difficulty.

The colony has a gelatinous, transparent appearance and pulled in shades of cream and beige, but quite resistant. That is, it is possible to handle it without fear that it will break or tear.

But it does not always look like a perfect record – sometimes they can take on a strange shape and appearance.

Black specks or agglomerates are common and do not represent mold or contamination. Generally, it is the yeasts that accumulate.

It is worth remembering that as fermentations are carried out, Scobys become increasingly uniform and aesthetically pleasing.

To always have a healthy disk, it is worth remembering that temperature and storage precautions are indispensable. Although you do not need to keep the scoby in the refrigerator, it is good to avoid excessive heat and exposure to the sun. Also, never put it in hot tea.

For the first fermentation, do not use lids or seal the container completely. Always prefer cotton cloths so that oxygen can pass.

Remember not to leave the disc dry, because in order for the bacteria to stay alive, they need food – that is, sweetened tea.

And if something goes wrong and your colony gets moldy, you need to dismiss it. It is best not to try to eliminate mold, as it can bring great health risks.

Should I wash Scoby?

In general, it is not necessary. If, when removing the disc from the liquid, you notice that the yeasts are accumulating, forming transparent “patches” on the disc or loose in the drink, it is possible to wash it.

The ideal is to remove excess yeasts annually, which are stuck to the discs and floating in the tea. Then, you can use filtered water or apple cider vinegar to clean the colony.

Read more: 10 health benefits of apple cider vinegar

Remembering that the procedure should be done, at most, once a month and always in a delicate manner.

To do this, place the disc in a suitable container (plastic or glass) and squirt the water or vinegar, passing your hand gently and removing the yeast.

Did my Scoby spoil?

In general, it is quite easy to see when the kombucha or Scoby were contaminated, since the fermented disc or liquid has moldy plaques – similar to those that occur in fruits or food that spoil.

If it occurs, the most recommended is to start a new culture so that there is no risk to the organism.

How to store Scoby without fermenting?

If you don’t want to brew more tea, you can save Scoby for future use.

But it is worth remembering that because it is a living organism, storage for an indefinite period can affect the health of the disk.

To store properly, you must place it in a plastic or glass container, with a small amount of the fermented liquid or with sweetened tea – enough to cover the disc -, seal the packaging tightly and place it in the refrigerator.

If the storage time is longer than 20 days, it is recommended to change the liquid, as it is the food of the colony. So, keeping it alive depends on food renewal.

It is also common for the plastic container to be stuffed or the glass container to build up pressure due to gas production.

Therefore, the ideal is to open the container weekly so that the gases are released.

How to take kombucha?

The consumption of kombucha can be pure – after fermentation, it is possible to drink it directly, without tasting it – or after the 2nd fermentation, in which flavors are usually added.

There is no right time for consumption, but fasting, 15 minutes before meals, the drink can bring more benefits to the intestine.

Remembering that kombucha is not a medicine, but a functional food. Therefore, its consumption is, in general, well tolerated by anyone, as long as there are no food allergies or intestinal problems related to probiotic foods.

How much to consume?

The ideal daily amount is quite relative, not least because there are those who drink only for pleasure and taste – a healthier substitute for soda – or those who want the benefits of the product.

In this second case, it is best to start a daily intake of about 150mL per day, until the body feels the effects and adapts to the probiotic action of the kombucha.

After 1 week – if there is a good adaptation to the product – the daily amount can be gradually increased.

It is important to observe the effects, such as going to the bathroom or changes in the intestinal rhythm. If there is discomfort, consumption should not be increased, and in cases of adverse reactions, it is best to suspend the intake.

In general, you should not exceed 3 glasses of up to 200mL per day, as everything – including food – should be eaten in moderation.

Although the liquid is beneficial, it is necessary to introduce kombucha as a supplement, not forgetting to ingest the 2 liters of water per day and maintain the care with other meals .

How to store?

After fermentation, it is possible to store the drink and consume it daily. For this, it is important to use plastic and glass containers and utensils that can be sealed or properly covered, avoiding any contact with areas of metal, steel or iron.

The drink must be kept in the refrigerator and can be consumed for up to 1 month. However, it is worth remembering that the kombucha keeps the bacteria alive and therefore continues to ferment, causing the flavor to undergo slight changes, becoming more acidic (similar to vinegar).

Who can’t drink?

In general, drinking is well tolerated by most healthy people, but there may be contraindications or sensitivity to properties.

Among the people who need to seek professional guidance or not recommended to consume kombucha are:

  • Children under 6 years old;
  • Patients with changes in the liver;
  • Pregnant and lactating women;
  • People with addiction to alcohol and other drugs;
  • People with diabetes and other chronic diseases;
  • People with intestinal tenderness, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome or diarrhea;
  • People with immunity problems;
  • HIV or AIDS patients.

In addition, post-operative patients or those in the process of recovery may be more susceptible to infections resulting from the consumption of kombucha, especially when done by hand and without evaluation by health agencies.

Remembering that patients who use continuous medications should always talk to a professional before introducing foods, supplements or vitamins into the routine.

Recipes

The drink is versatile and can be taken pure or flavored. Below are some recipe tips to add more variety to your diet:

Ice cream with kombucha

  • 150mL of kombucha flavored with fruit;
  • 1 scoop of ice cream.

Arrange the ice cream in a jar or container, add the chilled kombucha and serve next.

Detox de kombucha

To prepare a drink capable of speeding up your metabolism and making your diet lighter, you need:

  • 500mL de kombucha;
  • 2 slices of ginger;
  • 2 kale leaves;
  • 50mL of water;
  • 2 slices of apple.

To prepare the detox kombucha just beat the apple, cabbage, ginger and water in a blender until you get a homogeneous mixture.

Then, just mix with the kombucha, put it in a sealed bottle and let it ferment for 24 hours. After that time, refrigerate and consume daily.

Read more: Detox juice: slimming, to lose belly, how to do, recipe

Fake kombucha mojito

Mojito is a traditionally alcoholic drink, with lemon and mint in the preparation. You can make a natural and healthy version, which is very refreshing:

  • Mint leaves;
  • Sliced ​​lemon;
  • 50mL of lemon juice;
  • 100mL de kombucha.

Prepare the lemon juice until 50mL of the concentrate is obtained. Place the lemon slices, the concentrated juice, the mint leaves and the kombucha in a container, close and let it ferment for about 24 hours. Serve chilled.

Read more: What is mint tea for?

Where to buy kombucha and price

It is possible to find the drink ready for consumption in stores and emporiums of natural products or markets.

In general, it is sold in small 330mL bottles, with a diversity of flavors and colors.

The price range depends mainly on the brand, which can be from R $ 8, reaching R $ 25 per bottle.

For those who want to produce their own drink at home, it is necessary to purchase Scoby. In general, in social networks, exchange groups and in the stores themselves, it is possible to find donors.

In some places, you can find scobys for sale, which are sold between R $ 25 and R $ 50.


Searching for new ways of eating and promoting health improvements, the market and consumers invest in functional foods, such as kombucha.

Conquering more and more space, the product can be found in stores – ready to consume – or it can be produced at home – making the relationship with food more artisanal.

To find out more tips on nutrition and well-being, keep an eye on the Healthy Minute!

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