We can’t promise you’ll enjoy the taste of kombucha— it’s fermented tea, after all—but you’ll appreciate its ample health benefits. 

Why is a beverage that has notes of vinegar and beer-soaked cigarettes flying off shelves at six dollars a bottle at health-food markets? Perhaps it’s because kombucha (pronounced kom-BOO-cha), a microbe-based carbonated tea, is a healthy powerhouse that’s low in sugar, caffeine-free, and packed with probiotics.

Kombucha is made only from four ingredients: water, sugar, tea, and SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and is fermented for seven to 30 days. Since it’s fermented, there are small traces of alcohol. Give yourself a two-week adjustment period to let the taste—made well, kombucha has a slight effervescence and actually combines sweetness and tartness—grow on you. The mental clarity, energy, and health benefits, though, will have you ditching those nutrient void sugar bombs.

It is made with a symbiotic bacteria and yeast culture is added to sugar, tea, and water. The yeast breaks down the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas, giving the drink its natural carbonation. 

Different flavors of kombucha are derived from adding cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, rather than artificial agents. Look for the organic or non-GMO seal to ensure quality.

The niche market for unique, craft brews is becoming more competitive with brands such as GT’s, KeVita, Health-Ade, and Revive, fighting for shelf space in the refrigerated drinks section. All four are non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free. Why the recent burst in sales? Health-Ade founder and CEO Daina Trout has one answer.

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“Our bodies crave kombucha, since it contains probiotics, B12 and healthy acids, which are things we’ve starved ourselves of over the past decade, during which we’ve adopted a more ‘mass-market’ diet,” Trout says.

A serving of kombucha provides a mix of antioxidants and detoxifying acids, which fight free radicals, along with billions of live bacteria that can help to ease digestion.

Kombucha has been pushed as a magic elixir, said to cure everything from GI-tract disorders to hemorrhoids. But with every food marvel, there’s a downside. Kombucha’s side effects, associated mostly with homemade brews, can include upset stomach and allergic reactions if made in unsanitary conditions.

While kombucha isn’t as widely available as soda, you can buy it at health-and specialty-food stores. When ready to consume, don’t shake the bottle before tapping. As with soda, the results are explosive. Just healthier.

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