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History of Kombucha — a Story of the Delicious Fermented Tea Drink

Kombucha is a tea beverage made by fermenting tea generally black tea or sometimes green and oolong tea and sugar with a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria (SCOBY) for 7 to 10 days.

The SCOBY is a biofilm of microorganisms resembling a mushroom cap, which becomes a starter for subsequent brews. The SCOBY comprises various acetic acid bacteria and yeasts.

Kombucha has been consumed since 220 BC. The exact origins of Kombucha are not known, although China is likely to be the place of origin. It may have been originated as recent as 200 years ago or as long as 2000 years ago. During the period of Tsin Dynasty in Manchuria, China, the tea was known for its suspected magical properties (Holbourn and Hurdman, 2017).

As trade routes extended beyond the Far East, Kombucha traveled to Russia and Eastern Europe. The tea became very popular in Russia and was consumed in east Russia at least as early as 1900, for the treatment for metabolic diseases, hemorrhoids, and rheumatism.

The majority of literature and information on the tea originated from Russian physicians citing medicinal uses. For example, it was noticed after World War II that the Kombucha-drinking regions of Russia had notably lower cancer rates than the nondrinking regions, despite industrial pollution and toxins present from the war.

During World War II, Kombucha consumption extended beyond Russia, to Western Europe and North Africa. Its consumption increase in the United State during the early 21st century. Having alcohol content (<0.5%), kombucha is not a federally regulated beverage in the United States. Some commercially available kombucha brands were found to contain alcohol level above this threshold, sparking the development of a new testing method before 2015.

With the rising popularity in the developing countries in the early 21st century, kombucha sale increased after it was marketed as an alternative to beer and other alcoholic drinks in the pubs, bars and restaurants. European uses for the tea focused on the supposed detoxifying effects on the blood and digestive system (Kapp and Sumner, 2019).

Kombucha’s popularity as a functional food is driven by its health benefits, which include “multiple functional properties such as anti-inflammatory potential and antioxidant activity,” and “the reduction of cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reduction of cancer propagation, the improvement of the liver, the immune system, and gastrointestinal functions.”

An excerpt from an article by Gigi Mitts on