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The term “superfood” is thrown around pretty loosely in the wellness community, making it pretty damn hard to figure out which foods, supplements, and beverages truly work towards your overall well being. What makes kombucha different is its adoption into mainstream nourishment; not just by influencers vouching its effects. We asked the expert behind Inspired Brews, Jessa Stevens, what makes kombucha so damn appealing (even with all of the floaty bits), and whether or not the so-called “super-beverage” really does attribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Where and when can the first batch of kombucha be traced to?
There’s a legend that the first batch was created by a man brewing tea on his stove in China. He left the brew by mistake for a while, something blew in through the window, and he came back to a slightly tangy tea, which he thought was so good that he decided to try to make it again. But, whether that’s true or not, the first documentation of kombucha is 212 BC in China - no one knows what came first...the scoby or the kombucha tea. This is not a modern trend; it’s an age-old elixir.
What part of the kombucha-making process makes it different from drinking regular tea?
The SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) works together with the sugar to break down the vitamins and minerals within the tea (and any flavoring added), making it more bioavailable for your body to “soak” in. Kombucha contains high amounts of b12 - so vegetarians and vegans usually get a good boost after drinking it. It also contains lots of good acids for digestion and all those good probiotics to amp up immunity plus that glowing skin, microbiome goodness.
Kombucha has alcohol in it. Will it get me buzzed?
Haha, there is .5% alcohol in kombucha. I just read an article where a guy drank one gallon of kombucha as fast as he could and took a breathalyzer - and it read 0.01. I will add he didn’t feel great either after drinking that much that fast.
If I were to add alcohol to it, that’s probably no good, right?
Kombucha cocktails are amazing! You can do a 4:1 kombucha to alcohol ratio and have a very easy delicious cocktail. We’ve even done kombucha mimosas! Also, there’s documentation that kombucha helps detox alcohol from the body, so people who drink it before, during, or after a night out can experience a sobering effect. Yay!
Kombucha seemed to have a cult following, but now it feels more mainstream. Why do you think people have adopted fermented drinks?
My mom texts me every time she sees kombucha on a television sitcom or in the paper. I think there’s been more and more research proving fermented beverages and foods are so healing/healthy for people’s digestion and overall well being that more and more people are giving it a green light. It’s not as weird as it used to be. Kombucha is just a weird word. My dad pronounces it koom-bah-cha...which makes me laugh.
Is there a tried and true formula, or does making kombucha always feel like an experiment?
There are definitely some scientific aspects to kombucha which are really fun to get into. The cool thing though is you can experiment to get very different outcomes. I love that today we have so many more options than the ancient world had; hello amazon prime! We can create something that the ancient world never could...but we could also be super simple and reminisce history too.
What the hell is a SCOBY?
Bah, something you hide from anyone who’s new to kombucha, haha. When I was brewing in my house and had friends over, I always hid the SCOBY until after they drank my kombucha and approved of it. It reminds me of a jellyfish! It’s a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The Bacteria breaks down the sugar into glucose and fructose then takes it to the yeast, which creates bubbles, natural carbonation, and that small percentage of alcohol. Your sweet tea doesn’t taste the same, and it does way more for your body now!
What does “raw” mean? How do you ensure your kombucha is 100% organic?
Raw means that we NEVER heat the product to pasteurize or kill the good bacteria within. That’s what makes kombucha kombucha; without it, you’re just drinking flavored tea. The life within it is what’s desired.
Our SCOBY has been our SCOBY for the past seven years. I have been brewing with organic tea from the start. SCOBY’s continually renew, so you’re getting a brew that has only ever known organic tea for that long! Most of our kombucha uses completely organic flavoring ingredients. We do, however, love to support local farmers, and often we cannot get our apples and pears organic, but we do discuss with the farmers their growing procedures and order from farms who practice IPM (integrated pest management).
Where do you get inspiration for Inspired Brews flavors?
I really get inspired with the fresh produce that’s grown right around Philly. I start with a fruit or veggie and go from there.
How does kombucha attribute to a healthier lifestyle?
Since I started brewing seven years ago, I haven’t stopped drinking it! I immediately fell in love with the way it made me feel. I had digestive issues and I just felt better! Not to mention my hair and nails were growing faster and stronger than before. It became something I craved daily. A little time in my day to celebrate with bubbly and feel good from the inside out.
Seriously, what ARE those floaty bits?
Those are some of the yeast, and *mainly* pulpy flavoring bits...small pieces of the fruits, spices, and herbs we use to flavor the batches!
Jessa Stevens, a former division one athlete, letterpress printmaker, and avid health nut, launched Inspired Brews in 2014 with a dream to bring Philadelphians around a beverage that was not only delicious, but health-full. “This beverage puts the ‘fun’ in funky!” Jessa exclaims, as she describes the bubbly drink that she fell in love with. She brews the beverage in the traditional way (by the way it dates back to 212 BC, so move over modern fads), leaving the beverage with the living bacteria in tact - no pasteurization here!