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Posts tagged ‘Kombucha’

Strange Brew

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.

Flea-Bitten: A Saturday Adventure to the Brooklyn Flea

It’s Saturday morning in Manhattan. Most people my friend Emily and I pass on our walk to the subway at 10am are still puffy-eyed, and disheveled in their outfits from last night. But we were ready for an adventure.

In 2008, a market of roughly 200 vendors started up in a high-school parking lot in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Located at 357 Clermont Ave., nr. Lafayette Ave, it’s a short easy trip from anywhere in NYC, it took us about forty minutes on the R-train, because of service changes on the 6. For other directions visit the Brooklyn Flea’s website.

Emily had been to the Brooklyn Flea before, but this was my first trip to Fort Greene. She recommended stopping for a quant mediterranean brunch at Olea Mediterranean Taverna where we both enjoyed a Turkish Breakfast ($10) of organic cilantro-heavy scrambled eggs, rustic wheat pita, herbed yogurt, and marinated eggplant. Marissa’s Famous Bloody Mary ($8) accompanied our meal. Served in mix-matched glasses with a spear of cucumber and a fresh lemon wedge, it had a perfect bite of horseradish, a hint of celery salt and was mellowed out with cucumber juice. It was a refreshing and tasty start to our morning, and left us satisfied and slightly buzzed, perfect for a day of treasure-hunting.

While the Brooklyn Flea housed many vendors and we enjoyed searching through vintage prints, antique jewelry, furniture, and books, it was the local food vendors I was the most interested in. Emily was surprised, as the amount of food seemed to have increased significantly since her last visit just about a month ago.

Around noon, lines began to grow around the vendors, especially The Good Fork, a stand run by a husband and wife owner of the Red Hook restaurant that goes by the same name, where you can grab 4 freshly prepared steaming hot veggie dumplings paired with siracha hot sauce for just $5. Pizza Moto‘s mobile brick oven creations were another popular choice. Customer’s snacked on 12-inch rustic crusted pies, with globs of fresh buffalo mozzarella, and sprigs of fresh basil while picking through trash and treasure alike. We picked up pretzels from Lower East Side based Sigmund Pretzelshop, saving our soft, warm, doughy pretzels twisted with bits of salty bacon ($3 each) for later in the afternoon.

Sigmund Pretzel's stand, full of warm, creative twists on the classic pretzel

All the vendors were extremely friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be at the market on this beautiful day. They were anxious to tell us about their companies and products, and provided samples without asking.

A young couple was at the Brooklyn Flea selling their Organic Bison Jerky for the first time. The husband offered us a sample, and told us the back story of how they got started, beginning in North Dakota at his wife’s father’s sustainable buffalo farm, Ragged Butte Bison, while his wife busily handed out “ghetto business cards” on strips of brown label paper.

Early Bird Foods & Co offered a variety of organic granola mixes. For $7 I picked up a bag of the Jubilee Recipe made with organic rolled oats, organic coconut, extra virgin olive oil, sour cherries and pistachios.

The most enthusiastic and friendly vendors we encountered were Eric Childs and Rick Miller of Kombucha Brooklyn. Emily asked Miller about Kombucha, and he happily explained how the 2000 year old beverage is made, and the benefits of it’s naturally occurring probiotics, polyphenols, B vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids. Meanwhile, I chatted with Childs, the “Brewmaster” who had me sample the Red Ginger Root variety. Also available in Original, and Urban Passion, I decided to bring home a half-gallon growler Red Ginger Root Kombucha for $7. The tea had a sweet flavor with a mild hint of ginger and a significant amount of natural carbonation. Any one who is familiar with the health benefits of kombucha should give Kombucha Brooklyn a try, a fraction of the price of the bottled version in stores, it’s just as tasty and the guys intend to donate a portion of profits to Brooklyn and New York City based community and environmental services and urge others to do the same. Also, bring back your growler every weekend for another deep price cut. Finish that day, and get a free refill.

Our other favorite was McClure’s pickles, come back tomorrow for another entry just about their Bloody Mary Mixer.

Overall it was an absolutely amazing day. It was incredibly informative, we came away with numerous business cards, and plenty of information about some exciting local companies. It was great to see how enthusiastic customers were about supporting these small companies, and how passionate the vendors were about their products. I hope to visit Fort Greene again soon and learn a little more about the vendors mentioned here, and the other great vendors I didn’t get to check out. Next time you have a sunny Saturday morning free, make sure you head over to the Brooklyn Flea with an empty stomach and an open mind, and prepare yourself for some unique local flavors.

For a complete list of vendors visit the Brooklyn Flea website. The Flea Market in Fort Greene is every Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and on Sundays the market is located at nearby One Hanson with the same hours.