Crazy about kombucha
Not enough folks in Chennai have heard of kombucha. That’s probably the reason why this largely ‘homemade’ health drink sells at Rs 100 for a 200 ml bottle in the city. While over at Auroville — thanks to a substantial expat populace — you can get your hands on it for as low as Rs 30.
A miracle concoction brewed with black tea, water, sugar and SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) — the recipe has silently been trending in fitness circles in Chennai for a couple of years now. And here is why. Broadly speaking, it improves everything from your gut health to your acne, helps in weight loss and is even known to prevent cancer. So much so that the Chinese called it the ‘tea of immortality’ when the drink was first whisked up, over 2,000 years ago. But be careful to sip, not guzzle. “We suggest that if it’s your first time drinking it, you split a bottle (200 ml) over two days, or share it if you buy one as a couple,” says Shalini Phillip of The Farm on OMR, which has been selling it for about six months now. Adverse effects go only as far as a bout of flatulence and perhaps an additional visit to the bathroom we are told, but be advised — the probiotic properties of this ‘fizzy fruit drink’ are not to be taken lightly.
So far, the flavours we have come across include apple, grape, orange, hibiscus, lemon grass, ginger and earl grey. These are available at your local organic store or sourced directly from start-up brands like Ka Kombucha or the bulkier litre version by wellness blogger Ishika Sachdev of The Beauty Reel. The latter, who has watermelon and mango flavours in the works, says she is often asked if it is all right to consume for diabetics. “The answer is yes,” says Ishika. “Kombucha is not sweet, as all the natural fruit sugar sugar is eaten up during the fermentation cycle. It is actually recommended for diabetics,” she adds.
The proof of its health perks seems also to lie in the fact that kombucha has turned many an experimental home brewer into an entrepreneur. Arun Deo, one of the earlier people to catch on to the trend three-and-half years ago, while on a routine vegetable run at an organic store — has since given up his job in logistics and merchandise to brew his business full-time. “I ordered my culture in from the US and made my colleagues my guinea pigs for a while there,” he recalls with a laugh. Like most people, however, who see a glass bottle with a nondescript label, Arun admits he was skeptical at first. “I remember asking the Nepali guy across the counter if he had tried it and joking said, ‘you haven’t died yet, so... ” Little did he realise then that he might have to deal with the hassle of immortality. Well, the recipe certainly stands testament to that possibility.
How much should I drink?
The recommended daily allowance is 250ml. Drinking more than that is not harmful, but is also not necessary. You can drink it at any point of the day, but do not consume tea or coffee 45 minutes before or after drinking your kombucha.
Know your kombucha:
- It should not be overly sweet. If the product is overly sweet, that means the fermentation cycle was not complete as all the sugar has not been eaten up by the bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Consequently, the kombucha will be weak in benefits and high in sugar, which is something you do not want.
- If you drink 250ml of high-quality kombucha on a daily basis, you should start to feel better in at least a week. Some customers have felt better (reduced acidity, reduced numbness in fingers and toes etc) in 3 days.
- You want to buy a product that is brewed and sold in glass bottles. Glass will not affect the acidity of the brew and will prevent BPA contamination (which is the case with plastic).
- Since most labels do not contain the pH, if you really want to check your Kombucha's pH, buy pH strips from the pharmacy and check it yourself. Between 2.8 and 3.2 pH should be your results, if correctly fermented.
(Contributed by Ishika Sachdev of The Beauty Reel)