Popping open a bottle of kombucha is like popping a bottle of Champagne as the drink is effervescent and fizzes up the nostrils. It is a tangy drink that tastes almost like vinegar soda pop in its original form. However, producers are now introducing flavors to sweeten the acidic taste. And, like home brewers of beer, kombucha can be brewed at home. Home-brewed varieties start by either purchasing the ‘kombucha mothers’ or by using a starter sample from an existing culture to grow a new colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments in a clean jar for 7-14 days. Some brands are pasteurized to kill potential pathogens; other brands and most home brews are drunk raw or unpasteurized.
Experts warn about the dangers of home-brewed and unpasteurized kombucha prepared in non-sterile conditions and the risk for unhealthy bacteria getting into the tea. On WebMD.com, according to Janet Helm, MS, RD, a Chicago nutritionist and author of Nutrition Unplugged blog, if you want to drink kombucha, a safer bet is to go for one that is commercially prepared and pasteurized
There have been reports of adverse effects from drinking the tea, ranging from upset stomach to toxic reactions and metabolic acidosis (excessive acid buildup in the body). The FDA cautions that home-brewed versions are at high risk of contamination. However, a Holmdel resident turned entrepreneur by creating her own kombucha tea to save her daughter, now 17 and healthy, from having a liver transplant before age three. Ciara’s Komboost Kobucha was created and is currently sold at about 50 stores on the East Coast.
Kombucha is non-alcoholic and can be found in beverage cases at health-food markets and grocery stores like Whole Foods.