Tuesday, January 5, 2010

crazy about kombucha?

Starting the new year off in a sleek, saucy fashion, I comissioned a dear writerly friend to offer her wise words on the craziness of kombucha. A professional at its tastes, to say the least, Jen reviews two brands, allowing your 'buds to become tranced at the excellence of the holistic brew.

Hello, stink-happy fizzies. Of course, I’m talking about kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha). It’s often called raw tea or the elixir of life—sometimes even the champagne of life, given its carbonated-seeming pep.

The science-minded explain that kombucha is a living culture of beneficial microorganisms. For several weeks, a process similar to fermentation wheedles yeast and bacteria to grow, forming active enzymes, probiotics, amino acids, and antioxidants all in the mix. Skip the guesswork; this drink is alive and kicking as it skis down your throat.

Kombucha is an organic senses-provoking beverage in that its distinctly stenchy aroma, tartly effervescent taste, and “floaties” (strands of the living culture) sometimes turn drink-goers off from testing out a single sip.

True, kombucha may be an acquired taste or crafted from flavors only meant for more daring of palates. Before venturing beyond the picky palate world myself, my beau, a Philadelphia-schooled chef, told me how odd it appeared that I was so darn picky, and yet I went nutty for this somewhat obscure beverage with its smell he likened to feet in a glass bottle.

A year or two ago, I noticed GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha (seen above) in the produce section of Douglassville’s Kimberton Whole Foods. Despite my then more choosy palate, I decided to test out the only drink not akin to the colors of typical fruit juices. I grabbed a bottle of Multi-Green, which includes Klamath Mountain blue-green algae, spirulina, chlorella, and not surprisingly, “100% pure love!!!”

I’ve heard some Negative Nancy reactions to Multi-Green, and that’s me putting it lightly. To my relief, I was wild for the zippy, rejuvenate-my-insides flavor of Multi-Green and especially loved liking something just that bizarre. Yes, I in fact enjoyed the taste of the chef-coined foot beverage produced in California.

On a recent trip to the store, I purchased GT’s Cosmic Cranberry from its Synergy Organic & Raw line. Zippy and singing in zing, indeed, it reminded me quickly of bogs up north if cranberry bogs could buzz—because this bevvy buzzed.

A brand I wasn’t familiar with, High Country Kombucha of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain region, sat on the same shelves. I picked out Chai Spice and Lemon Myrtle (photo, seen below).

High Country markets its kombucha somewhat differently than GT’s and seems to craft its product similarly but with a few variations, one being that its culture feeds on caffeine and sugar, while GT’s is caffeine-free and only contains the sugar already in its whole ingredients, like fruit.

The Chai Spice involves extracts from organic herbs: cardamom, chicory and ginger roots, carob, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

The blooming plant-inspired second flavor I tried had the extract ingredients of lemon myrtle, hyssop, chamomile, meadow sweet flower, and hibiscus. Its flavors seemed less distinct, but maybe that’s because I’ve been on a kombucha-tasting kick! Very kombucha-y nonetheless.

A tip for newbies to this tongue twister of a drink—the settled culture strands floating almost in slow-motion in the bottle may tempt you to shake it up before you open it, but this is your worst bet, as you’ll spew the kombucha across the room. It’s never too snazzy cleaning up a sticky mess after that! I can vouch for this firsthand; even a barely bumpy ride home in the car can startle an explosion out of a freshly opened bottle.

So shake gently, and realize—that’s an understatement!

If you can in fact nudge your brain out of thinking this bevvy is too new age (it’s actually been brewed across the world for hundreds of years with a still longer-known history in some countries) or bizarre for your olfactory machine and taste buds, know that avid kombucha sippers claim a nearly endless inventory of health benefits from drinking it.

Kombucha’s plethora of carefully thrown together ingredients makes it naturally anti-bacterial as well as anti-fungal.

With its balancing properties, this suggested daily health tonic aids in digestion, works to detoxify the liver, and promotes a sense of good feelings health-wise. Do a quick search via the interwebs and find list after list of discovered health benefits kombucha lovers have tacked to its tail.

Overall, I am pushing GT’s over High Country, although I only dabbled in two out of the latter company’s six new herbal flavors. They also sell five flavors in their starter line (seen below) —Original, Goji Berry, Ginger, Wild Root, and Aloe.

When I find something I love and pine to share it with others, I generally take the liberty of turning it into a verb. So please, if your palate dares, kombucha it up!