Posted by Barry Silverstein on March 26, 2010 01:34 PM
First it was green tea. Then it was ginseng tea. Now the latest craze in the organic beverage world is kombucha tea, which "is showing signs of turning into a gold mine for some companies," according to The New York Times.
Kombucha is unusual because it is a fermented tea. In fact, kombucha home brewers are a special breed who share recipes and swap fermented cultures. The "Kombucha Exchange" is a worldwide online forum where brewers list "babies" – smaller portions of the tea that split off from starter tea, called "the mother" – available for sale or given away free.
But kombucha has become a commercial sensation as well. GT's Kombucha, one of the leading brands, was started by a home brewer named GT Dave in California. More than a million bottles of GT's Kombucha were sold in the United States last year. Now branded kombucha seems to be popping up everywhere. Carpe Diem and Honest Tea offer bottled versions of kombucha, and Yogi makes a version of kombucha in tea bags.
Dr. Daphne Miller, a University of California (San Francisco) professor of nutrition, tells The New York Times, "It's become incredibly trendy lately in the 20-to-30 something, foodie, intelligentsia set. Kombucha is like their Coca-Cola." But famed alternative health physician Dr. Andrew Weil warns that there are no scientific studies supporting the tea's health claims.
Those health claims are substantial – some people believe kombucha can aid digestion, while others believe it stems hair loss. Kombucha was said to be beneficial for those with HIV and AIDS in its pre-commercial days during the early 1990s.
The tea's popularity spiked when the health food chain Whole Foods distributed GT's Kombucha throughout the US in 2004. With the current interest in well being, kombucha is getting a new look from health-conscious consumers who want "a healthy, fizzy drink to replace sugary soda and juice." Who knows, maybe the day will come when we'll see kombucha drinks replacing soda in school cafeterias.