Have you jumped on the kombucha bandwagon yet? Even though this effervescent drink has only recently popularized in the U.S., it has a long history.
It originated in Manchuria (northeast China) around 220 B.C., where it was known as the “immortal health elixir” and was consumed for its detoxifying, healing, and energizing properties.1 The trade routes brought kombucha to Russia and Eastern Europe. Through the 1900s, it made it’s way to France, North Africa, Italy, and Switzerland.
In the 1960s, researchers in Switzerland reported that kombucha was as beneficial as yogurt in terms of providing probiotics, and its popularity increased.
Now, you can find this probiotic-rich beverage all over the world in a variety of different and creative flavors.
What Is Kombucha, & Why Should You Drink It?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. The concoction is fermented for about 7-30 days, and during that time the bacteria and yeast eat the sugar and form what’s known as a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Because the bacteria eats the sugar, it yields a low-sugar yet slightly sweet and tangy drink.
So why should you drink this bubbly fermented tea? I think there are five primary reasons:
Kombucha is a fantastic source of probiotics, which means that it’s gut-friendly. Because of antibiotics, sugar alcohols, and eating food allergens, many people have compromised gut bacteria.
Drinking kombucha could help promote and maintain a healthy gut flora, which could improve digestion, nutrient digestion, and nutrient absorption.
The tea used to create kombucha is rich in antioxidants. Kombucha is generally brewed using green, black, or white tea, which are great sources of antioxidants. The fermentation process of kombucha preserves and concentrates those antioxidants.
You can think of antioxidants as nutrient superheroes. They fight free radicals in the body, thereby helping to fight chronic illness and disease. And they help slow the aging process.
3. Acetic Acid
Acetic acid is one of the by-products of kombucha’s fermentation process, and it’s what gives this drink its characteristic vinegary taste. What’s great about acetic acid? It helps to balance your blood sugar.
4. Curb Sugar Cravings
Because kombucha is slightly sweet and rich in good gut bacteria, it helps satiate your sugar cravings.
Additionally, kombucha tends to have a little bit of caffeine, as well as b-vitamins and iron. All of which give you a boost of energy to get you through the mid-day slump when you’d normally grab something sugary for an energy-boost.
By helping you eat less sugar, kombucha can also help you lose weight. It’s a low-calorie and filling beverage that can help control appetite.
Growing up, I always saw my dad taking glucosamine, and I’m pretty sure that he still takes it to this day. Why?
Glucosamine is known to heal and repair the cartilage in your joints. In addition to supporting joint collagen, it also supports the collagen all over your body, thereby maintaining your skin health and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
The Best Kombucha Brands With Incredible Flavor (& Less Sugar)
Because kombucha has become so popular, there are numerous brands on the market now. Having tried quite a few of the brands available today, I’ve found that some are better than others.
What makes one kombucha better than another?
I recommend avoiding brands that have a high amount of sugar, added sweeteners, and artificial flavors or preservatives.
Generally, a high sugar content in kombucha indicates that there was more sugar added after the fermentation process or that it was blended with fruit juice.
Some brands add sweeteners like stevia to their kombucha. While stevia is a zero calorie, all-natural sweetener, I personally don’t like the taste of it and find that it gives me headaches.
And kombucha should be raw and unprocessed. If there are artificial ingredients or preservatives added, it has been pasteurized. Pasteurization kills all of the probiotics in kombucha, so you’re essentially left with soda.
What To Look For When Choosing Kombucha
Personally, I like my kombucha on the less sweet side. In general, I look for a kombucha that has 1-4 grams of sugar per serving. This keeps the kombucha light, flavorful, and healthy. I also look for simple, organic ingredients. And I make sure that the kombucha is raw (which indicates that it’s unpasteurized).
Here are my top three favorite kombucha brands right now:
When I first saw Happy Leaf Kombucha, I was curious but skeptical. Why? Because it came in a can. I found it at one of my favorite cafes in Boulder – Wonder Press.
Happy Leaf Kombucha was founded in Denver, CO, and got its start at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market. Now, they have a brick and mortar location in the Highlands in Denver.
Happy Leaf has high quality standards for their products, and are seasonally-driven. They focus on organic ingredients, and infuse their ingredients into their kombucha, which is what makes their flavors so unique and refreshing.
Favorite Flavors: Grapefruit Citra, Orange & Basil, and Cranberry Lavender.
Rowdy Mermaid came on my radar when my friend Chelsea said that they were her favorite brand. I had seen their bottles in Whole Foods before, but for whatever reason I hadn’t thought to try them. But I had to see what Chelsea was talking about, so the next time I saw Rowdy Mermaid I bought one. And I haven’t gone back!
Rowdy Mermaid is also a local Colorado brand, founded at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder. They’re mostly organic – using organic tea, organic herbs, and fresh fruit to make their unique flavors. My favorite part – they use Colorado snowmelt to brew their booch. They take ayurveda into consideration when creating their incredible, probiotic-rich beverages, and concoct their flavors based on what’s seasonally available.
Favorite Flavors: Rowdy Belly, Savory Peach
I first encountered Cliffhouse Kombucha at American Cultures, a kombucha bar in Denver that offers about 20 different flavors and features a variety of fantastic brands.
On a hot Denver day, I wanted something cool and refreshing to drink. That’s what brought me to American Cultures, and the flavor that sounded the best that day was Ginger Peach made by Cliffhouse. It was really hit the spot that day. Even better – my boyfriend, who wasn’t into kombucha at all, tried it and loved it. He’s now an avid kombucha drinker.
Cliffhouse Kombucha is a family-owned and operated brand based out of Jamestown, Colorado. They use organic tea, organic sugar, and water from the St. Vrain river to make their booch. Nothing is ever added after the fermentation process, ensuring the best quality and nutrient-density.
Favorite Flavors: Ginger Peach
Try Kombucha & Find Your Favorites
In short, why do I love these brands? Because they’re low in sugar, have amazing flavor, are mostly organic, and are locally made in Colorado. And they make me feel really good when I drink them.
While these are my favorite kombucha brands and flavors, I encourage you to go out and find your favorites. Always be sure to check the ingredients label, because some brands are not as good (or high quality) as others. The live cultures are what make kombucha so great.
Do you drink kombucha? What are your favorite brands, and why?