By Allison Hunt.If you have been in real-food circles for any amount of time, you have probably heard of the probiotic drinks Water Kefir and Kombucha. Kombucha is so popular that its sales provide almost 1% of Whole Foods’ revenue.1 When Wilmington got our first big-box health food store, I knew I would find some kombucha there, and decided that the time had come to try it. On our first trip to the store, I bought just one bottle. I assumed I wouldn’t like it, but I was going to drink it for my heath and the health of my family.
I took my first sip. Not so bad. It had punch! I took another sip. I was hooked before I finished the bottle. It felt like my body needed more. I had recently learned that immune health is directly related to the bacterial balance in the intestines, if the body has more bad bacteria than good, the immune system is not functioning at its best. Kombucha felt like the right thing at the right time for me.
At nearly $4 per 16 ounce bottle, though, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to continue purchasing kombucha. We drink it nearly every day. My children adore flat strawberry kombucha. I like to start my day with a glass of plain, fizzy kombucha. Thus began my journey of brewing my own.
Kombucha is sugar sweetened tea fermented by a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). A kombucha SCOBY is disk shaped and has a gelatinous appearance. Kombucha can brew for 5-30+ days. Kombucha is sweetest if consumed sooner in the brewing process, but has more probiotic benefits if allowed to brew longer. The strength of kombucha also gives it the potential to detoxify the body.
So how is kombucha different from water kefir? Water kefir is fermented by “grains” (also a SCOBY) that feed on sugar water; water kefir grains look like large sugar crystals. Because it ferments for a shorter amount of time (48 hours, and not longer than 72 hours), kefir has a sweet, mild flavor. Because it is ready so quickly, that also means that it needs attention about every other day. Kombucha provides great flexibility in how often it needs attention since it can brew for weeks at a time. Both drinks can be carbonated through a second fermentation.
So which drink should you choose? Both! Both provide much-needed probiotics, and they each provide different strains of healthy bacteria.
Allison Hunt began her journey to real food with a diagnosis of low blood sugar. Seven years later she learned that her hypoglycemic episodes actually came from eating gluten. The diagnosis of celiac disease required her to read labels and pushed her to learn about all those crazy ingredients they contained. She now spends lots of time finding and tweaking recipes to make delicious gluten-free, dairy-free, REAL food. She loves that her kids adore good food and beg for more veggies, kefir, and kombucha. When Allison isn’t in the kitchen you can find her spending time with her husband and two active toddlers, researching natural health topics, or sewing cloth diapers.
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