What is Kombucha and Why is Everyone Drinking It?
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Written by Emily Chow, a University of Alberta Student in theNutrition and Food Scienceprogram at the University of Alberta , and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team  

Kombucha and other fermented foods have risen in popularity in recent years. Kombucha and other fermented foods such as sauerkraut, cheese, and beer, all have unique tastes and textures due to the fermentation process. They also have some interesting nutritional benefits. Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of Kombucha!

What is Kombucha? 

Kombucha is a fermented tea that is made with bacteria, yeast, tea, and sugar. The bacteria and yeast grow together to create a bacterial culture and other by-products. The kombucha process takes about 1-2 weeks to complete.  

Don’t be afraid if you see any bits floating in your drink; this is perfectly normal and is just the (healthy) bacteria culture! It is known as “the mother” and is a sign that the yeast is active. 

A bottle of kombucha is a good source of probiotics and antioxidants. Since it is a fermentation process, some alcohol is produced, but commercial kombucha is required to keep this level below 0.5%. 

 In this article, we’ll give a run-down of all things kombucha including how kombucha is made, the benefits of kombucha, and share how to make your own kombucha at home! 

Where did Kombucha Originate? 

The exact origin of kombucha is still debatable, but many believe it originated in China around 200 BC. The name kombucha is allegedly derived from a Korean physician Dr. Kombu who brought the drink to Japan around 400 BC.

Kombucha eventually made its way to Europe, Russia, and Germany, where it quickly gained popularity. Kombucha became popular in the United States in the late 1980’s, when many people believed it could treat AIDS/HIV, however, this is not supported by research.

Kombucha has gained rapid popularity in the last few years and is projected to have a market value worth up to 8.15 million US dollars by 2026.

Potential Benefits of Kombucha 

  • Antioxidant benefits  
    • Antioxidants can protect cells against damage which can reduce the risk of many diseases 
    • The antioxidant activity depends on the type of tea used  
  • Decreased constipation  
    • No direct effect, but one study found that probiotics can decrease constipation in older adults by 10-40% 
  • May prevent diabetes 
    • One study done on rats found that kombucha slowed carbohydrate digestion which decreased blood sugar levels  
    • Kombucha made from green tea has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels  
  • Kills harmful bacteria and microorganisms 
    • Studies have shown that kombucha has antimicrobial activity against many harmful microorganisms 
    • These antimicrobial effects do not suppress the beneficial bacteria in kombucha 

Possible Kombucha Risks and Side Effects

Digestion problems 

    • Some people have reported digestive upset when drinking too much kombucha 
    • These symptoms may include gas and nausea 

Teeth erosion 

      • Due to the fermentation process, the pH levels of kombucha are fairly low 
      • Because of this, excess amounts may lead to teeth erosion 

Harmful bacteria 

        • Many people choose to make their own kombucha at home, but it must be done properly to ensure proper pasteurization 
        • Improper processes may lead to the growth of harmful mold or bacteria

Does Kombucha contain Alcohol? 

Like other fermented foods, kombucha contains alcohol naturally. When yeasts ferment sugars, it releases CO2 and ethanol. There is only a trace amount of alcohol left in the final product, but each brew is different.

Since store-bought kombucha remains under 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), it falls under the federal guidelines for non-alcoholic beverages. For reference, some non-alcoholic beers have 0.5% ABV. Hard kombucha sometimes does not even have added alcohol, it may just have been fermented differently and contain over 0.5% ABV.  


How to Make Kombucha at Home 

Many people chose to make their own kombucha, as it can be worth it in the end. Here is a recipe from Live Eat Learn to try at home! 


  • SCOBY 
  • 7 cups of clean water 
  • ½ cup of white sugar 
  • 4 bags of black tea or 1 TBSP loose tea 
  • 1 cup of unpasteurized, unflavoured store-bought kombucha 
  • First fermentation 
  • 14 cups of clean water 
  • 1 cup of white sugar 
  • 8 bags of black/green tea or 2 TBSP loose tea 
  • 2 cups of unflavoured kombucha (from the previous batch or store-bought) 
  • 1 or 2 SCOBYs per container 
  • Second fermentation 
  • Homemade kombucha from the first fermentation 
  • Sweetener 



  1. Bring water to a boil in a clean pot. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it.  
  2. Add the tea and allow to steep while the water cools to room temperature  
  3. Pour the sweetened tea into your jar(s) then pour store-bought kombucha in (if you’re using two jars, pour ½ of the store-bought kombucha into each). 
  4. Cover with a few layers of  tightly woven cloth and secure with a rubber band.  
  5. Set somewhere dark and at room temperature for 1 to 4 weeks, until a ½ cm SCOBY has formed

First Fermentation: 

  1. Bring water to a boil in a clean pot. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it.  
  2. Add the tea and allow it to steep while the water cools to room temperature.  
  3. Gently remove your SCOBY from the tea and place it on a clean plate.  
  4. Rinse out the jar(s). Pour the sweetened tea into your jar(s), then pour in starter kombucha. 
  5. Gently place SCOBY into a jar then cover it with a few layers of  tightly woven cloth and secure it with a rubber band.  
  6. Set the jar(s) somewhere dark and at room temperature for anywhere from 6-10 days. Begin tasting the tea at about 6 days by gently drawing out some of the tea with a straw.  
  7. Reserve 2 cups from this batch to use as starter kombucha for your next batch (just leave it in the jar with the SCOBY). The rest can move into the second fermentation. 

Second Fermentation: 

  1. Strain kombucha and funnel into bottles, leaving about 4 cm at the top.  
  2. Add your chosen sweetener and seal tightly with the lid. 
  3. Let ferment somewhere dark and at room temperature for 3 to 10 days. 
  4. If desired, strain out the fruit before serving. Place in fridge to slow the carbonation process. 
All in all, kombucha is a health-packed drink that is increasing in popularity. Kombucha is a great source of probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants. Next time you are grocery shopping, grab a bottle and give it a try for yourself, or if you’re feeling bold, try making it at home! 

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