7 Things You May Not Know About Kombucha

Kombucha. We hear the name but aren’t sure what it is.

Kombucha. We hear the name but aren’t sure what it is. Many of us only know it as that weird looking stuff people wearing Lululemon drink as they exit Whole Foods. And you’re not wrong. But you’ll be surprised to learn that Kombucha is a surprisingly nuanced elixir made from fermented tea that deserves a spot outside the world of holistic health.

If this strange sounding concoction scares you, here are seven facts to hopefully put you at ease.

1. Nobody Knows Where The Name Kombucha Originated.


Wait, you mean kombucha wasn’t dreamed up by a hipster in Brooklyn?

The name popped up around 1991 and is similar to the Japanese konbucha, which is a tea made of seaweed with a similar appearance. With unknown origins somewhere in Asia, its many names throughout the region roughly translate to “red tea fungus,” “tea mold” and the like.

2. Kombucha Is Alive.


Trust us, it will taste better later. Photo: Robert Anthony Provost / Flickr

Kombucha is made from something called SCOBY that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. As a fermented tea, it’s made by combining tea and sugar with a culture of fungus and bacteria.

3. Kombucha Can Be Turned Into Clothing. Really.


Biofilm from kombucha culture. Photo: Charles Des Mille Isles / Flickr

While not exactly in the same league as leather or silk, dried kombucha culture forms a textile called microbial cellulose. With a feel similar to well-worn leather, it can be made into jackets, shirts, and even shoes.

4. Kombucha Is Alcohol-ish.

Kombucha1 Bye-bye boring brew. Hello, flavor!

Since Kombucha is fermented, it is also mildly alcoholic though most of the stuff you pick up in the store falls somewhere under .5% ABV (an average beer is around 4.5%).

In 2010, Whole Foods was even forced to recall Kombucha because of its alcohol content, but at around 30 calories per serving it’s far lower in calories than any light beer.

5. Kombucha And Beer Are Cousins.


I’d like the mushroom fungus tea with my steak, please. Photo: Kirybabe / Flickr

Both beer and kombucha use a similar brewing process involving yeast. Unsurprisingly they drink like one another too. Kombucha has a slightly tangy-sweet flavor with an effervescent mouthfeel that is similar to drinking a Belgian sour ale and pairs well with food like any other light ale.

6. Kombucha Is Healthy, But Don’t Believe All The Hype.


A tasty drink with some benefits, to boot. Photo: Saeru / Flickr

Kombucha is known as a “functional beverage,” with one origin story pegging it as the “Tea of Immortality." And while it does offer probiotic benefits similar to eating yogurt, along with a decent amount of B vitamins, it would be smart to remain skeptical of greater claims and just enjoy it.

7. It’s One Of The Fastest Growing Beverages On The Market.


Even bars are getting in on the kombucha craze. Photo: George Rulz / Flickr

With sales of over $400 million dollars in 2014, the kombucha business is currently seeing around 30% annual sales growth, which is rare in the beverage industry. While the majority of those sales are from GT’s Kombucha, other craft brews are also popping up for shelf space.