Kombucha the living drink
Sunday, September 23, 2018 Food
An apple a day was enough to keep the doctor away, or so the saying went. But if the latest health food craze to sweep the supermarket aisles is anything to go by, the answer might actually lie in a cold cup of sparkling, fermented tea.
Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, kombucha is a ‘living drink’ made from a blend of water, tea, cane sugar and a special live culture called a ‘scoby’, or a ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’ to give it its full name.
The ‘scoby’ starts the fermentation process in the blend, converting the sugar to alcohol and activating the friendly bacteria, which in turn consume the alcohol. The result is a lightly sparkling fermented tea full of acids, enzymes and live probiotics and a trace of alcohol.
Reported health benefits range from boosting immunity by promoting a healthy gut, where about 80 per cent of our immune system is found, to helping liver function, improving the body’s cardiovascular system and even managing diabetes.
Helen McGinn gave her verdict on a selection of the latest Kombuchas as the ‘living drink’ becomes the latest health craze. She says Kombucha Kat Original (pictured) is ideal to try if your new to the fermented drink
Which would be all well and good if it were delicious. The reality is it might be trendy, but its tart, often vinegary character can leave a bitter — some might say disgusting — taste.
But there’s no escaping kombucha now it’s broken out of niche health food shops and on to the shelves of Waitrose and M&S. So if you’re going to join the healthy drink brigade, which kombuchas won’t make you wince?
Here, the Mail’s drinks expert braves a selection of the best ‘booch’ to be found on the shelves…
Kombucha Kat Original
Brewed in small batches from organic green tea, this one looks like it’s going to sort out your gut before you’ve even pulled the ring on its medicinal-looking bottle. Only lightly sparkling, its neutral in taste with fresh apple flavours and just a slight, reassuringly acidic feel to it.
Definitely less tart than most, it’s a good one to try if you’re new to kombucha and don’t fancy the full-on mouth-puckering experience of some. This one would also make a great base for cocktails on less healthy days. 3/5
Los Bros Organic Passion Fruit Kombucha
Helen says Los Bros Organic Passion Fruit Kombucha (pictured) tastes like weak cider but their passion fruit version stands out for its balance of sharpness and fruit
This fabulously packaged kombucha brand boasts the usual credentials — low in sugar, gluten-free, vegan-friendly — and is brewed over three weeks in small batches.
The Original mix is fairly simple with a sour tang, a bit like flat, weak cider, but things get more interesting once flavours are introduced.
The Passion fruit one is a standout favourite, balancing a natural sharpness with the sweetness of the fruit perfectly. 4/5
Profusion Organic Kombucha Turmeric, Lemon & Ginger
Helen was unimpressed with Profusion Organic Kombucha Turmeric, Lemon & Ginger (pictured) and says it left her feeling flat rather than energised
This one looks more like an energy drink with its bright colour and vivid label, but it definitely left me feeling flat rather than energised.
The big appeal of kombucha lies in the balance of sweet and sour. This offering tastes too sweet and lacks natural flavour. Not so mighty ‘booch’, sadly. 1/5
Wonder Drink Asian Pear & Ginger Kombucha
Wonder Drink Asian Pear & Ginger Kombucha (pictured) is available exclusively at M&S. Helen says it smells great and feels healthy
Launched in the U.S. in 1999, this Oregon-based brand is available exclusively in M&S. A blend of black and oolong tea, with pear flavouring and ginger extract, this is 100 per cent organic, suitable for vegans and gluten and alcohol-free.
It smells great with lots of pear aromas and a whiff of tea. The vinegar twang comes after, but the ginger flavour kicks in, too, along with bubbles, and it feels like a really healthy mouthful. I love that it comes in a can, not a plastic bottle, too. 5/5
Equinox Original Kombucha
Helen praised the packaging of Equinox Original Kombucha (pictured) and says it is very palatable due to its fresh flavours
Started by friends who discovered ‘booch’ travelling in Asia, Equinox is organic and brewed in Yorkshire.
Flavours will soon include Pink Grapefruit and Guava, but their Original is definitely worth trying. It smells a bit like weak apple cider (in a good way), with a hint of sweetness balancing the tartness.
There’s a whiff of fermentation to it, but it’s very palatable thanks to fresh flavours and a gentle bubble. I love the flower power-inspired packaging. Peace out. 5/5
No. 1 Kombucha Ginger & Turmeric
Helen says No. 1 Kombucha Ginger & Turmeric (pictured) feels like it’s doing your gut some good and is easy to drink
Easy to drink with punchy ginger aromas and fresh flavours, this is naturally sweetened with white grape juice and holds its flavour.
More polished than most; there’s no harsh vinegar taste at all. But — and this is the important bit — it still feels like it’s doing your gut some good. Kicks some of the other brands into touch.3/5
Thorncroft Kombucha Cordial
Helen says you only need to use a small amount of Thorncroft Kombucha Cordial (pictured) and it can be blended to suit your taste
As a cordial, this one needs to be diluted with water, but that means you can adjust it to suit your taste — which is more like a rosehip-flavoured fruit cordial than kombucha.
So if you want the reported benefits without the fermented tea taste, this is a good way to get gut-boosting goodies into your system.
It’s very sweet, so you only have to use a tiny bit (the serving suggestion is to dilute it 1:10). 3/5