The year was 221 BCE. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, was gripped by an intense fear of death, and desperately sought the fabled ‘elixir of life’. Legend has it that it was during this time a fermented tea was concocted and served to the emperor. It may not have been the magic potion he sought, but it came close enough. Over two millennia later, that fermented tea has captured the imagination of mindful, young Indians for the many benefits it bestows on one’s health and wellbeing. Kombucha is the go-to health drink this summer, and a number of homegrown initiatives are brewing their own artisanal batches for you.
Brewed With Love
Named after a certain Dr Kombu, a Korean who first brought this tea to Japanese emperor Inyoko in 414 CE, kombucha has since been consumed in Japan, Eastern Europe and Russia for several centuries and was introduced to the West by a German doctor, Rudolf Sklenar, sometime after World War II. Brought to India by globe-trotting Indians, who’ve had a taste of kombucha abroad and benefited from its nutritious qualities, it has been the trendy hipster drink in Goa and Mumbai the last couple of years, with several brands coming up to make it accessible to more people.
One such early initiative is the Mumbai-based Bombucha, run by the husband-wife duo of Nitin Gandhi and Monika Powlowska. Powlowska first tried kombucha in Bali to recover from a parasitic infection. On her return to India, she decided to give making it a go. Thus, the concept of Bombucha was born. Bombucha now retails an extensive range of flavoured kombuchas online and through supermarkets and cafes across the country. In Delhi too, homegrown brands such as Atmosphere and Khukrain’s Kombucha are popularising the drink as a healthy alternative.
A Taste of Health
The recipe for kombucha may be fairly simple—tea, sugar, water and SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), but its workings are what Gandhi describes as “very elegant”. The SCOBY acts on the sugar in the tea to convert it to alcohol, which in turn is turned to acetic acid that produces the fizzy, tangy flavour so unique to the original, unflavoured kombucha. What this process also does is it packs the fermented tea with a host of nutrients, probiotics and enzymes that work wonders for your body.
Wellness consultant Jia Singh says that kombucha can help protect the liver, reduce inflammation and bolster immunity. She says, “It’s a rich source of probiotics and is touted to be great for gut support. Today, most medical practitioners advocate that a healthy body begins with a healthy gut.” Singh, who has been drinking kombucha regularly for the past four-five years, finds it particularly refreshing in the hot summer. She however, suggests caution in consuming it. “People with diabetes should watch their consumption to avoid added sugars in their diet. The caffeine content may be lower than in coffee or tea but it also has a low amount of alcohol, so pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid it.”
Jun 14, 2019 20:54 IST
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