Kombucha: An ancient drink for modern times

Commentary: The author shares her story of how she came to love a strange, but nutritiously-packed beverage.

Are you looking for a great way to boost your immunity and improve your digestion? If the answer is “yes,” I recommend you try Kombucha (COME – BUCH – CHA). I trained myself to love this odd, fermented fruit drink so I could reap its health benefits and I am confident you can too. It wasn't love at first gulp, but I am proud to be a Kombucha advocate.

I closed my eyes and took a gulp, hoping that if I just chugged this bottle it would make me feel better.

Here’s how I was introduced to Kombucha. During winter break my freshman year, my extremely health-conscious and fearless foodie friend, Negeen, began raving about Kombucha. “How weird,” I thought, “another stupid health food trend.”  I refused to try it.  She begged me as she turned the lid of the glass bottle. I took a whiff.  It was disgusting. She told me to get over it and insisted that it was the healthiest drink at Whole Foods. I took a sip of the Cherry flavored GT Synergy beverage and was repulsed. “Ew! That’s nasty!” I exclaimed. I did not care that it has been regarded as a health tonic for more than 2,000 years in China. It just was not for me.

It was not until my junior year when I gave Kombucha another chance. Since freshman year at SU, I felt my immune system becoming weaker with the Syracuse weather and change in climate from my hometown of Los Angeles. This pushed me to start taking precautionary actions towards my health. I tried being a vegan, drinking multiple cups of hot tea everyday, and was an avid Natur-Tyme shopper. My goal was to do as much as I can to avoid getting sick, which I feel is very easy on a college campus.

It was right before finals and I felt flu-like symptoms taking over my throat and nose. Desperate, I left my apartment to find something at Marshall Square Mall that would relieve my pain. I had an inclining to check out the smoothies at the recently opened Strong Hearts Cafe, but ended up being mesmerized by the vibrant colored glass bottles in the refrigerator. For some reason, I felt compelled to pull out a Cosmic Cranberry GT Synergy Kombucha. I was astonished by the amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and probiotics under the Nutrition Facts.

I closed my eyes and took a gulp, hoping that if I just chugged this bottle it would make me feel better. I was instantly relieved. The bubbly tonic immediately calmed the scratchiness in the back of my throat. And after drinking the entire bottle, I was able to breathe thru my nose and my throat did not feel so sore anymore. Did Kombucha cure me, I wondered. The next day, I bought another bottle and by the end of the weekend I felt I had recovered.

The leading brand of Kombucha is GT Synergy and it sells anywhere from $3.75 to $4.25 per bottle from boutique cafes and health stores such as Wegmans and Whole Foods Market. It is made from fermented tea and culture similar to that of yogurt and milk products.

“We’ve carried it since the beginning of the East Genesee location cause it’s known to be a health food drink,” Strong Hearts Café manager, Laura Ryan, said. “You know health food and vegan usually go hand in hand, so a lot of vegans want to drink it for its health benefits.”

According to the Daily Mail, “cell-based studies conducted on animals have shown that Kombucha helps protect the liver, combats yeast infections and fights free-radicals that are associated with the aging process.” Of course when there is a new health product, you can bet celebrities are fans. Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Paquin and Matthew McConaughey are among celebrities who are photographed with GT Synergy in their hands.

“I always drink it if I have a stomach ache. The bubbles help with your stomach and immunity. It’s just full of so much good stuff,” Ryan explained. Kombucha is made from organic and raw vegetables and fruits with only two grams of sugar. It has a variety of B vitamins as well as organic acids that act as antioxidants. There is less than one percent of alcohol in each bottle of Kombucha, but that is simply due to the fermentation process.

Now that I have shared my story of Kombucha with you maybe you will be inspired to try it for yourself. Take the quiz below to see if Kombucha is right for you.

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