High on Tea

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 4 January 2019

Here’s all about kombucha— the probiotic, fermented, slightly alcoholic, green tea that’s on its way to becoming the drink everyone’s drinking in the city

Imagine going to the pub with friends, or having a house party, and waking up the next morning without a hangover, and enjoy a good cleaning out of your system. If you think this is possible only in your imagination, here’s some good news — you’re wrong. 

The new trend is kombucha — a fermented, slightly alcoholic, flavoured green tea which is available at various restaurants and pubs in the city. You can find bottled kombucha by various brands at supermarkets in the city as well. 

While the origin of kombucha remain unknown, it is believed to have been brewed in Manchuria in 220 BC. According to legend, it was invented during the rule of the Qin Dynasty as ‘the tea of immortality’ for Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who is known for having started the construction of the Great Wall of China. 

But it wasn’t until the early 5th century when a Korean doctor came across this beverage during his travels While some stories say that kombucha was only consumed by monks and members of the Imperial court, other fables mention that the Samurai warriors from Japan would carry this beverage in skin sacks to get more strength during battle. 

After the World Wars, it became the ‘it’ drink among the still-rich in Russia, because poorer households could not afford ingredients like sugar and tea. Soon its popularity spread to the elite families of Italy, and making it’s way through Europe, it reached America at the turn of the millennium.
 
Vera Shrivastav, founder at Culture Colony, a city-based brewery that produces kombucha in a number of delicious flavours, says, “A friend of mine got back from the US in 2016, gifted me the SCOBY (an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) which is the mother culture used for fermenting tea. I started brewing kombucha at home for personal consumption, and soon got addicted.”

Kombucha is made by soaking the SCOBY into a broth of sweetened or flavoured tea and letting it ferment at room temperature for a couple of days. The sucrose is biochemically broken down into fructose and glucose, which are further converted to  gluconic acid, acetic acid and so on. This also contains various enzymes, amino acids, and ethanol (responsible for your slight buzz), apart from vitamin C which boosts immunity.  

The drink has a number of health benefits, though there hasn’t been real studies on human beings yet to back up these claims. A rich source of probiotics, it provides your gut with ‘good bacteria’ which helps in digestion. The drink also contains many bioactive compounds which act as powerful antioxidants improving cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and it is also believed to help prevent prostate, breast and colon cancers.
 
Health conscious drinkers in the city are now replacing their beer with this fermented tea. Not only is it a healthier substitute for beer or wine, kombucha can also be used as a mixer with other spirits to make exciting cocktails. “A large part of my life has been spent drinking tea, ritually.  When I realised that kombucha is basically an altered, fermented version of tea, I started making it for myself as I wanted a healthier alternative to soda and other aerated beverages,” says Shrivastav. 

Culture Colony currently produces five varieties — Classic, Orange Cinnamon, Hibiscus Ginger, Pomegranate, and Iced Coffee Kombucha. “Our kombucha is raw, gluten free, and has no added flavours or preservatives,” she points out, adding that the drink has great potential in city’s current food and beverage scene. “There is great potential for kombucha in the F&B sector, especially in the health and fitness space. However, kombucha is a rather versatile beverage which isn’t restricted to the health conscious community only, you can use it as a substitute for aerated drinks, soda or juices for your cocktails,” she adds. 

Though people are just getting aware of this wonder drink, Shrivastav is putting in a lot of effort to promote her brand and the beverage through social media. “Culture Colony kombucha is available at a few cafes and restaurants in Pune. We promote the health benefits of the product at these outlets, and also have tasting sessions where we can directly interact with the consumers. This helps spread awareness. Social media is also a great tool for us to interact with consumers and promote kombucha as well,” she says. 

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