Lately, Kombucha, the ancient Chinese fermented-tea drink, has been making headlines. Vendors, notably Whole Foods, and other health-food stores have pulled the beverage from shelves due to the slightly higher-than regulation 0.5% alcohol content. But this isn’t the only reason it’s making news. There have been rumors that troubled celebrity Lindsay Lohan’s (who was sentenced 90 days jail time due to probation violation) SCRAM bracelet was triggered by her favorite beverage, kombucha, which the starlet drinks regularly.
So, unless you are a devoted fan (which many individuals are, and are deeply upset, even angered by this recall) you may be asking yourself, what exactly is kombucha.? Maybe you’ve seen it in your local health food store or Bodega, it’s that glass bottle, colored green, blue, or brown with stuff floating around on the bottom.
According to the brewers over at Kombucha Brooklyn, kombucha is:
made by fermenting tea and sugar using a kombucha culture known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). Kombucha’s origins date back to the Tsin Dynasty (220 BC) in China. When we add the culture to sweetened tea, it begins the process that transforms the tea to kombucha. Like winemaking and beer brewing, the art of brewing kombucha follows a special procedure, but is made unique depending on each kombrewer’s technique.
So why drink it? The naturally effervescent beverage contains probiotics, polyphenols, B vitamins, enzymes, and amino-acids, some believers claim it has cancer preventing properties, and aids in boosting the immune system, digestion, boosting metabolism, and even cures acid reflux.
But, like many herbal remedies, not much of this is backed by science. And while there are many devotees, there are many critics of the beverage that believe it can in fact be hazardous to your health, especially batches brewed at home.
But back to the original debate.
According to a Huffington Post article, Pasteurized versions of the beverage – where the yeast and bacteria are heated, much like milk – can still be found for sale because the process kills the yeast, which make the alcohol. But fans tend to prefer the raw version. Kombucha makers say it leaves production with almost no alcohol. But alcohol can develop over time in unpasteurized versions because the yeast is still alive, converting sugars to alcohol. The more sugar a drink has, the more alcohol can ferment. So each recipe might be different. But commercial brands have continued to stress it is a labelling issue, not a health risk, that is the cause of the recall.
As for its return… G.T Dave, CEO of G.T’s Kombucha and Synergy has been quoted as saying “We’re hoping this month, but nothing is definitive.” For those of us who can’t wait that long, options include making your own, starters are available online at Kombucha Brooklyn’s website (as well as other sources), or searching out local vendors who make their own that blow below the 0.5% alcohol content.
And as for Lindsay… Ms. Lohan herself has denied that Kombucha was the cause of her alcohol monitoring anklet going off, she tweeted: “”FYI… kombucha was not the reason that my scram went off-i wouldn’t of been allowed to drink it if that were the problem.. i love kombucha,” and has defended the brand (G.T. and Synergy) and it’s product.