Working for You: Kombucha Tea

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Fermented tea on tap. It’s a growing trend at some coffee and tea shops.

Customers like the taste, and nutrition experts applaud the health benefits. But most tea that is fermented contains some levels of alcohol.

There are some questions about this beverage craze and whether consumers should be concerned.

Katerina Eichenberger loves tea and recalls the first time she tried a special tea called kombucha.

“I have a friend who’s really into a lot of the organic drinks, and she was drinking it one day, so I tried it,” she explains.

Kombucha is a bubbly, fermented tea that you’re likely seeing more and more in coffee and tea shops, or on store shelves and now even on tap.

“Most of the people like the delicious taste of it. However, people will drink it because it’s healthy,” says Ilana Malka, owner of Physical Graffitea. She says customers are drinking up the health benefits. “It’s really good for the immune system, mostly and it’s good for insomnia. It helps people to relax.”

Kombucha is made by mixing tea and sugar, which is then fermented using a probiotic culture in bacteria and yeast. The bacteria feeds on the sugar, and ferments the tea. Experts say the fermentation process increases the nutrients in the beverage.

“So, you’re getting more acids and antioxidants, enzymes, B-vitamins, and of course the probiotics and with all of those you’ll see some health benefits. It can aid digestion,” says Laurie Meyer, a registered nutritionist and dietitian.

Fermentation also means that most kombucha has at least a trace level of alcohol in it, usually less than point-5-percent, which can make it a beverage not for everyone.

“There’s a little bit of alcohol that’s produced, and so it’s not known whether or not this is going to be hazardous to pregnant women, so the recommendation is just don’t drink it, and also for children under six, it’s not recommended,” Meyer says.

She suggests you may want to take it slow the first time you try the fermented tea since it does contain live cultures, which can make you feel ill if you have a digestive disorder.

“If you’re feeling flu-like symptoms, if you’re getting some stomach upset, it means you’ve taken too much. Back off of it,” she recommends.

Katerina is not backing off, and says she’s liking this fizzy fermentation.

“It’s like having tea. It’s a little bubbly. It tastes good,” she says.

Kombucha is not new to the Eastern world. Meyer says it actually originated in Asia more than 2-thousand years ago. You can save money by brewing your own at home. Some health stores sell the probiotic culture, which can be used over and
over.

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