Drinking the Kombucha Kool-Aid

When I first heard about Kombucha, it was from a friend who told me it was made from fermented mushrooms, a piece of misinformation I promptly passed on to numerous friends and acquaintances.

I later found out that the “mushroom” used to make Kombucha is actually a ball of yeast and bacteria called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria And Yeast). While this struck me as being a tad disgusting, it didn’t matter: I was already hooked on the stuff.

Part of it is the taste. Once the SCOBY is mixed with tea and sugar, it creates an effervescent sweet-sour drink with just a slight undercurrent of alcohol — a little like hard cider — that I find strangely delicious. So much so that I am willing to overlook the occasional unidentifiable floating blob (UFB) that is part of the Kombucha drinking experience. Not only do I enjoy the taste, I buy the hype: I am convinced that drinking Kombucha is going to make me a healthier — and yes, better — person.

Maybe it’s the fact that the words “reawaken, rethink, retain, reactivate, relive, rebirth, repurpose, rebuild, reclaim, and restart,” wend themselves across the label of my bottle of G.T.’s Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha. Or that slogans like “Live long and Thrive” and “Living Food for the Living Body” can also be found there.

You see, Kombucha-drinkers don’t just imbibe this stuff, we believe in it. We are convinced that it is going to detoxify our livers, balance our metabolism and cure us of cancer. I mean, it says so right on the label, right? And even though there is no credible evidence that Kombucha does any of these things – in fact, the Mayo Clinic advices against drinking Kombucha — that does not stop us. (Mayo is not a credible source of information for Kombucha-drinkers; Dr. Mercola and Dr. Weil are our online health gurus.)

Drinking Kombucha is like subscribing to The New Yorker, or listening to NPR; it places one in a very specific cultural/consumer demographic. You will recognize us by our yoga mats and canvas bags, our Priuses and non-paraben body products. You will pass us buying sacks of organic apples at the local Farmer’s Market or scouring the aisles of Whole Foods for gluten-free bread. We drink raw milk and eat grass-fed beef. We don’t believe in flu shots. Our health practitioners are homeopaths and acupuncturists and we nurse our children until they are old enough to ask politely. (It will come as no surprise that many of us reside here in the People’s Republic of Berkeley where I live.)

It’s easy to laugh at us — I laugh at us – but that still doesn’t stop me. Because while it may seem like nothing more than tea and fermented bacteria to you, to me Kombucha is pretty much the elixir of life. Just read the label.

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9 Responses to “Drinking the Kombucha Kool-Aid”

  1. Faye Reitman

    This is wonderful! States unequivocally why places like The People’s Republic of Berkeley and Seattle’s PCC (the only place where I can purchase my chickens and produce) exist.
    I love your insights, wit and writing!

  2. Bernadette Powell

    I went straight to the Mayo Clinic website (though I do have Berkeley tendencies) because it would have to be a proven anti-cancer drug for me to drink it!
    How happy I am that so many things to drink don’t tempt me, considering so many things to eat do….

  3. Bill Lenderking

    Very few drinks give me an instant burst of healthy well-being–I feel it entering my cells, and I feel so fine. It’s so much better than champagne, I just love it. I don’t drink it that often, but I just had a bottle of gingerberry in my frig which was mighty smooth and hot! I loved it.

  4. Hope

    Great post, Zoe. Here in the People’s Republic of Topanga Canyon there are also many avid Kombuchans though, sadly, I remain partial to coffee. Organic and free trade whenever possible, of course…

  5. Susan English

    I gotta get me some of this stuff!

  6. Brenda Kezar

    Unidentified Floating Blobs . . . I love it! I have a friend that drinks an organic beer (no health benefits, he just digs it) that has UFBs in it. He held out the glass for me to try, and I told him, “No thanks. I prefer not to have to chew my beer.”

    You’ve intrigued me. I’d love to give Kombucha a try, but I doubt I’ll be able to find it in my area. There’s only one organic/whole foods store within a 100 mile radius and their products are pretty basic (eggs, milk, bread, veggies). Stocking tofu is considered pretty avant-garde around here. Maybe the next time I’m in Minneapolis/St.Paul I’ll see if I can find any.

  7. Rob R

    It’s a slippery slope (or a slimy one, I suppose;) I started drinking kombucha late last year, then brewing it myself about 6 weeks ago. I’m now on the third batch. Don’t use Earl Gray-the bergamot oil retards the metabolization. But that first batch was darn tasty, anyway. The beet, carrot, celery ginger concoction was a tad harsh, but quite drinkable. Batch two is in secondary fermentation as I type (oolong green tea) and batch #3, made with Assam black tea, is perking away on top of the refrigerator.


  8. a

    the bummer is that dr. weil, after searching “kombucha” on his sight, states that he sees no benefit to drinking it. pretty lame and close minded of him and a bit disappointing.

  9. Nathan

    The problem is many of these doctors that endorse/do not endorse certain products may not be the most reliable source of information. There’s a difference between a general practitioner and a research scientist. Most of these guys are trained to go into their office and prescribe drugs all day. On mayo clinic’s site they pretty much any risks associated with it only apply to the home-brewed stuff.

    On a side note: I live in Texas. I work at an oil company. I did not vote for government handouts/the Muslim president. I drive a truck that gets 16MPG…and I like this stuff. The good thing is it’s available not only at Whole Foods, but at some other major grocery stores too if you look in the right place. I’d really be interested in some validated research on kombucha, because I can feel the benefits.

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