Kombucha is an ancient drink having its origins in Machuria, China. For thousands of years, this traditional beverage has been brewed and consumed throughout the world and only recently, has it been mass marketed to consumers and businesses in efforts to spread the product further.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage which is mixed with tea, sugar and SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and takes around 10-12 days to be fully prepared by going through a total of three phases (see: How Kombucha is Made for more details on the production process).
The drink is classified as a ‘functional beverage’ – indicating it as a nutritional beverage containing vitamins, amino acids and other nutrients which provide various health benefits to consumers.
It is said that Kombucha was first discovered in 220 BCE in Northeast China. The derivation of the word is said to be inspired from the name of Korean Doctor Kombu, who first brought the fermented drink to Japan as a healing medicine for the then Japanese Emperor Inkyo.
In the early 20th century, due to expansion of global trade between Asia and the rest of the world, the drink was introduced to Europe – firstly appearing in Russia as “Kambucha” and then to Germany as “Kombuchaschwamm.” It gained a more mainstream following in the continent following a 1960s Swiss study comparing its health benefits with yogurt.
Since the 1990s, owing to various grassroots as well as corporate efforts to promote the beverage, the boom in Kombucha consumption has been increasing by a handsome amount. Sandor Katz, a leading expert in fermentation and author of ‘The Art of Fermentation’ suggests that the initial popularity was largely due to the perceived health benefits of the drink – including claims that it helps to fight AIDS, cancer and other serious medical conditions.
After numerous studies since then, the actual health benefits of Kombucha have yet to be debunked till now. Though claims of reducing or even curing ailments seem exaggerated, the fact that the beverage does contain herbal elements like green tea and is organically fermented do indicate that it contains benefits similar to herbal teas and fermented foods – including probiotic benefits encouraging gut bacteria cleansing and support in digestion.
Today, Kombucha is made both not only by enthusiasts and longtime consumers, but also by major companies including PepsiCo which in November 2016 bought the popular brand KeVita after seeing rising demand. In 2014, sales of Kombucha were estimated at $400 million which grew astonishingly fourfold since 2010. By 2020, sales are expected to reach $1.8 billion with an annual rate of growth of 25% since 2015.
As we’ve seen, the history of Kombucha has been a colorful and long time – journeying from the Far East to the United States over many centuries. Come visit our store or browse our online selection and try out the flavors – each with its own little history inside!