In recent years, the health and wellness trend has given rise to a myriad of health-promoting beverages. One that has gained considerable traction in my world is kombucha. Who would’ve thought fermented tea could have such staying power? With its unique taste, potential health benefits, and minimal downsides, I am happy to see it mixing things up. While I’ve seen it more prevalently in the U.S., it’s not so easy to find here in Budapest. So last week we decided to test its versatility and host a kombucha tasting at our wine bar. Many thanks to Steap Tea for featuring at the event. Let’s take a look at what kombucha is and how it can fit into our bar culture.
The Taste Sensation of Kombucha
Kombucha is a tangy, effervescent beverage created through the fermentation of sweetened tea using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY consumes the sugar in the tea and produces a range of compounds, including organic acids, enzymes, vitamins, and gases. These compounds contribute to the distinct taste and mouthfeel of kombucha.
The taste of kombucha can vary widely based on factors such as the type of tea used, the fermentation time, and any additional flavorings added. Generally, kombucha has a slightly sour and tangy flavor, often accompanied by a hint of sweetness. The effervescence resulting from the fermentation process gives it a fizzy quality akin to a lightly carbonated beverage. It’s actually a refreshing option for those seeking an alternative to sugary sodas.
Steap Tea Makes Great Kombucha
Steap Tea is a new boutique producer in the Hungarian marketplace. We just discovered them a few months ago and we really like the drinks as well as their way of thinking. Owner Richard Pesti is constantly tinkering with ingredients and recipes, trying out new flavors. And he’s perfected a way to can his drinks that requires no artificial preservatives. His kombucha is shelf stable, mildly carbonated, with no alcohol and only trace amounts of caffeine.
So we hosted a tasting night to showcase Steap Tea’s four flavors:
- Himalayan Black Tea
- Ginger, Cardamom, Turmeric Blend
- Green Tea
The evening’s menu: (Follow our Instagram feed for up-to-date info on our thematic events)
And since we’re more than just a wine bar we decided to create cocktails incorporating each flavor. The challenge was to build recipes that would feature the kombucha without being overwhelmed by it. Also, not to forget that the cocktails had to work well with effervescence too. But I didn’t want to just substitute kombucha in for sparkling wine, like say in a French 75. I wanted the drinks to stand up on their own, not as forced kombucha alternatives.
Here are the four kombucha cocktail recipes we created for the event:
The drinks were pretty well received. Which one appeals to you?
Drink Kombucha and get Health Benefits
I really like the idea of sipping cocktails and simultaneously nursing my health. So can we say kombucha cocktails are healthy? I’m not going to take that road but kombucha enthusiasts do praise the beverage for its health benefits. Most of these are attributed to the various compounds produced during fermentation. While more research is needed to solidify some of these claims, several potential advantages have been suggested:
- Probiotic Powerhouse: Kombucha is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial microorganisms that can support gut health. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to improved digestion, immune function, and even mental well-being.
- Antioxidant Arsenal: The fermentation process generates antioxidants, which are compounds that help combat oxidative stress in the body. These antioxidants have the potential to reduce inflammation and support overall health.
- Vitamin Boost: Kombucha fermentation can lead to the production of B vitamins, particularly B12. These vitamins play a crucial role in energy production and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.
- Metabolic Influence: Some animal studies suggest that kombucha consumption might help regulate blood sugar levels and promote weight management. However, these effects are not yet fully understood in humans.
“Fermentation is a fascinating science. I’ve done a few batches of homemade kombucha. Partnering with microorganisms in an act of creation… Pretty amazing! And the product is good. Thank you for the free skilled labor.”
Balancing A Few Considerations
While kombucha holds promise, it’s important to consider potential drawbacks. Also, like with most things, we recommend moderation.
- Acidity: The acidity of kombucha can be problematic for individuals with certain digestive conditions, such as acid reflux. Excessive consumption may exacerbate these issues.
- Sugar Content: Despite the fermentation process reducing the sugar content, kombucha is not sugar-free. Those watching their sugar intake should be mindful, as some commercial varieties might still contain notable amounts of sugar.
- Alcohol Content: Kombucha is a fermented beverage, and as such, it may contain trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process. However, commercially available kombucha is typically regulated to contain alcohol levels below 0.5%.
- Potential Allergens: Kombucha is made from tea, which contains caffeine. While the caffeine content is generally lower than in brewed tea, individuals sensitive to caffeine should be aware.
- DIY Concerns: Homemade kombucha involves the manipulation of live cultures and fermentation, which can lead to contamination or imbalances in the SCOBY. Improperly prepared kombucha could potentially be harmful.
Is Kombucha coming to a Tap near You?
As with any health trend, the key to reaping the potential benefits of kombucha lies in moderation and awareness. Incorporating kombucha into a balanced diet can offer a flavorful and potentially health-enhancing alternative to sugary beverages. When choosing commercial brands, it’s essential to read labels for nutritional information, sugar content, and ingredient transparency. We’ve had really good experiences with Steap Tea and certainly recommend trying them out. For those intrigued by homemade kombucha, following reputable recipes and guidelines can help ensure a safe and delicious outcome. It’s funny, I remember back to around 2012 when I was a wine sales representative in Seattle for Southern Wine and Spirits. One of my customers, Oddfellows Cafe, had kombucha on tap. It was damn good and I thought surely it would spread. It never quite became the bar scene’s next cider but it did cement its place on many important drink lists. Maybe my next tap slot should be devoted to the healthy drinking public. Cheers!