Spilling The Tea On Kombucha | MF Guide
Is it tea? Is it alcohol? Is it both?
I had a long list of questions I needed answer to before I set myself up for the task of truly channeling my hipster roots. However, with the answers, it became clear to me that kombucha is so much more than a current health fad.
Tracing back decades, the internet led me to 221 BC, when “The Tea Of Immortality” was first recorded to be used in China, Japan, Russia and Eastern Europe. However, there are many versions about how kombucha came into being. While some stories involve the use of kombucha as energy replenishers for samurais, other stories owe its invention to humankind’s need to find a life elixir.
While it’s certainly no “Tea of Immortality”, it does come with a ton of health benefits. For starters, kombucha introduces live cultures of beneficial bacteria (SCOBY) into the gut, which works wonders in regulating the entire digestive system. Our gut biome is also responsible for our immune system, as well as the function of the brain, so drinking kombucha not only makes us healthy, and less likely to get ill, but also more mentally alert and feeling great overall. It is a natural detoxifier, and a natural probiotic, which maintains healthy gut microbiome, aids in digestion and improves immunity, which in turn has a trickledown effect on weight management, and improving skin and hair texture.
With all this mystifying information surrounding kombucha on the internet, I reached out to people in Mumbai who are producing and selling their own Kombucha, to get a grip on what it’s all about.
Kombucha took over Shailaja Sharma’s life back in 2016. The love for the drink made her take it up as a full-time profession, and now she’s responsible for creating kombucha to an ever-growing market. Before setting up HappyBooch, Shailaja converted her kitchen into a kombucha lab by spending an entire year doing research and understanding the Asian market. In this time, she also completed a kombucha making course in Thailand, and returned to home with a bottle full of ideas.
However, Shailaja explained to me that even in a developed market like the USA, the awareness about Kombucha is less than 2% of the population. “In India, it’s far lower, however, in a market such as Mumbai, the awareness is growing. And this is largely through word-of-mouth from consumers who see the benefits for themselves and want their family or friends to incorporate this healthy option into their lives.” she says.
Her pride lays in the unique, yet easily acceptable flavours she creates for a local audience. Flavours like Ginger and Herbs, Mango, Passionfruit, and Chai Spice give HappyBooch an easier entry to the humble palates that come enquiring.
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“Every kombucha brand tastes different from the other world over, because it takes a lot from your environment, air, and your energies.”, says Shailaja, and explains why and how her kombucha has received so much positive feedback.
All their ingredients – teas, herbs, flowers, fruits, and cane sugar are organic and locally-sourced. Their teas and herbs are USDA-certified organic and come from Assam, Darjeeling, and Himachal Pradesh, while their organic butterfly pea flower comes from Thailand. Their fruits are locally-sourced from organic farmers, and their culture (SCOBY) too, is organic and over time, has been collected from India, the US and Australia.
Shailaja recommends: Her personal favourites are the Chai Spice, Ginger Lemongrass and the Butterfly Pea, but for someone who hasn’t tasted Kombucha before, she recommends milder flavours, like Rose Lavender and Apple Cinnamon.
Cost: INR 150 for 250ml, and INR 250 for 500ml, across all flavours.
Rakhee Jain Arora, was always into fitness and healthy eating growing up, which led her to become a certified clinical and sports nutrition coach. Despite being cautious of her diet, Rakhee had to give up dairy owing to health problems she was diagnosed with four years ago. In search of a dairy free probiotic, she stumbled upon kombucha in a local farmer’s market in Melbourne, where she purchased a kit to brew it herself. What started as a home experiment and passion project, turned into a business.
Rakhee says that the response has been good so far. It can be an acquired taste, for some, but once you try it, she says you can definitely get hooked on to it. The best part about it, is that it’s an excellent alternative to carbonated drinks, artificial fruit juices, and alcoholic drinks. Zen Tiger’s USP is that it is very rich in antioxidants, and you could get a day’s worth antioxidants in one bottle itself. Zen Tiger has limited, but really tasty flavours, such as Hibiscus Kokum, Rose, Apple Cinnamon, and the Classic.
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For the long term, Rakhee really wishes to reach out to as many people as she can, so that Kombucha becomes a mainstream health drink, instead of a niche one.
Rakhee recommends: The seasonal mango flavor for Kombucha beginners, though her personal favourite is the Hibiscus Kokum.
You can grab a bottle of Zen Tiger Kombucha at Amiri Plus in Versova, Society Stores in Lokhandwala, Neelam Foodland in Khar, and Food Hall in Palladium, Lower Parel, or you can reach out to them on Facebook or Instagram to order.
Cost: INR 150 for a small bottle.
Monika Powlowska and Nitin Gandhi are constantly experimenting with flavours and pushing out new ones at lightning speed with Bombucha. From Kanji to Coffee Date, their large variety of kombucha flavours aren’t the only thing in their arsenal. They are pioneers in the fermented food space and have recently launched Bloomst, their naturally aerated version of ginger ale, a coconut water and non-milk based kefir called Cocofir, as well as sauerkraut, beet kvass and kimchi.
One of Bombucha’s specialties is delivering top notch quality which truly makes a difference in people’s lives. “Integrity is everything. Some of the other brands make their kombucha quite sweet in order to attract more people. We don’t do that. Overly sweet tasting kombucha is under fermented, which means it’s low on the beneficial ingredients and high on sugar. We make sure our kombucha is fully fermented, so that most of the sugar is absorbed by the bacteria, leaving the drink a bit tangier, with a bit of a kick, and full of goodness, which is really appreciated by the kombucha enthusiasts.” Monika explains.
Last Sunday at Bandra's Farmers'market we collected 80+ empty bottles , which were exchanged for full Bottles. We genuinely appreciate the efforts made by all our customers who help us recycle these bottles. We will be at Bandra and Powai farrmers market tomorrow. So if you have 6 empties , then bring it by and get a full one for FREE 🙂 #bombucha #thefeelgooddrink #enjoyrealness #feelalive #drinkinawareness #kombucha #craft #mumbai #andheri #bandra #juhu #bouldering #yoga #wellness #calmness #awareness #hiking #camping #madewithlove #healthysip #easeandcomfort #selfunderstanding #takecareofyourwellbeing #recycleit
They also propagate sustainability. They have introduced a great bottle return program, which encourages customers to return used bottles so that they can be recycled. Bombucha gives customers one free bottle of kombucha of their choice every time they return six used bottles.
Monika and Nitin recommend: Hibiscus Lime, Apple Spice and Mango Turmeric to Bombucha beginners, and their personal favourite is the Yerba Mate Tea which is a South American green tea flavoured with lavender and moringa.
Bombucha is available at Bandra’s Farmers’ Market held every Sunday, Farmer’s Store in Bandra, Amiri Plus in Versova, Rare Earth Organic in Khar, Sri Siddhi Organic in Mulund, Cornucopia in King’s Circle, and Kenorita in Nepeansea Road. They are also at several cafes, Blue Tokai, Fab Cafe, Leaping Windows, Candy and Green,Kala Ghoda Cafe, The Quarter at The Royal Opera House, and they do deliveries all over the city through placing orders on their website, or by contacting them through Facebook and Instagram.
Through all this research, I personally taste-tested kombucha, and though I was skeptical at first, it blew my mind and it’s safe to say I’m very impressed. I’m also very excited about these women-led businesses doing such a courageous job by bringing in something so exotic and out there to Mumbai, where a lot of us can be very close-minded. Making kombucha a part of my daily diet has been nothing short of exciting and motivating, and now I truly believe that it’s more than a hipster fad. If you still have more questions about kombucha, hit us up in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer. Go try some kombucha today!