Kombucha. Maybe you've seen the colorful bottles lining the refrigerated beverage section of Whole Foods. Maybe you’ve seen Lindsay Lohan holding a bottle or two. Or maybe you've been brewing your own batch for years. Whether you’re a fan of this functional beverage or not, this drink is more than just a trend. So, what is Kombucha? It's time we learn about this drink.

The History Behind the Drink

Emily Stamp

Surprisingly, Kombucha is older than you think. The drink can be dated all the way back to 220 BC in Northeast China where it originated as a detoxifying tea. Then in 414 AD, a physician named Kombu brought the drink back to the sickly Emperor Inkyo of Japan. This event lead to the drink spreading throughout parts of Russia and Germany. 

How Kombucha Is Made

Fast forward to today, and it's common to drink a cup of tea that's usually brewed from leaves to calm nerves or detox your body. Uniquely, Kombucha is made by a double fermentation process of SCOBY—a circular culture of bacteria and yeast with a Jello-like consistency—in a mixture of sweetened green or black tea.

Initial fermentation involves letting the mixture sit in a room-temperature environment for up to three weeks. Then, the mixture is bottled and left to ferment at least two weeks before being sold in the refrigerated beverage sections of stores. 

Why Is Everyone Drinking It?

alcohol, sweet, ice, juice
Rachel Hartman

For a drink that's been around since 220 BC, it's interesting that it's suddenly so popular. Considering how our food-obsessed society became increasingly health-conscious in recent years, it's no surprise that kombucha's health benefits grabbed the attention of many. 

However, it should be mentioned that kombucha is not the "cure-all drink" that many people think it is, and there is no direct evidence that this drink cures cancers or any other diseases. Nevertheless, kombucha contains a lot of probiotics that overall promotes a healthy immune system. 

The Kombucha Ban

Besides the crazy amount of probiotics, kombucha's popularity can be attributed to the alcohol regulation crisis back in 2010. As kombucha became readily-available to the public, inspectors realized that the drink can easily continue to ferment after packaging and has potential to develop some serious alcohol content. The concern was that anyone of any age could buy and consume this possibly-alcoholic drink, as some bottles contained more than 0.5 percent alcohol content. This led to a Kombucha ban from stores for about two months.

Rather than leading to its demise, the ban played in kombucha's favor and ultimately led to an increase in sales once it returned to the shelves. While some companies made sure to decrease the alcohol content of their Kombucha, others decided to fully embrace the drink’s boozy qualities and market it as a healthier version of a beer with fewer calories and lower sugar content.

What's Next for Kombucha? 

With regulations in place, kombucha is thriving. In fact, its sales are projected to grow up to $1.8 billion by 2020 in comparison to the $100 million sales made in 2010. This popular beverage captured the attention of major beverage companies, including Pepsi and its recent acquirement of a leading kombucha brand, KeVita. 

So, what is Kombucha? Between its health benefits and seriously aesthetic bottles, kombucha is a drink that's continuing to make headlines with its unique properties. Though not the miracle drink that it was known to be,  it miraculously survived thousands of years and a regulation crisis to make it to its current stardom. It looks like this drink is here to stay for a while.