Iowa native, business owner to talk about kombucha craze

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By Laura Farmer, correspondent

Do you like sauerkraut? Pickles? If you have a taste for these tangy, fermented foods, you may enjoy sipping on some Kombucha, a fermented, lightly sweetened tea known to aid digestion and boost energy.

President of Kombucha Brewers International and author of “The Big Book of Kombucha!” Hannah Crum is returning to her home state of Iowa this week to give a series of lectures and events on this tasty beverage, including tips for how you can make it yourself.

“It’s super easy to make,” she explained in a recent phone interview. “I’m someone who wasn’t much of a cook. I still had my college-level cooking skills: microwaving food, making ramen, eating cereal — stuff like that... But all you have to do is boil water. It’s tea and sugar.”

Crum discovered Kombucha in the early 2000s while visiting a friend in San Francisco, who happened to have some Kombucha brewing. When she got back to Los Angeles she picked some up for herself at the supermarket.

“In retrospect, it was like the angels were singing and the lights were shining down. It has this tangy flavor to it — it really reminded me of pickle juice, something my mom would yell at me for sneaking out of the fridge. There was an energy to it that just really captivated me.”

When Crum’s thirst outgrew her budget, she decided to try making it herself.

“I immediately noticed (drinking Kombucha) improved my digestion. It reduced my craving for sugar and alcohol. It cleared up my skin. Also, gave me more energy. And over time I feel it’s changed what it is my body wants to eat. There are certain foods I used to love and now I can’t even stand the idea of.

“That garbage that used to taste good to you no longer tastes good because your body’s like, “Eh, you can do better than that.”

Crum and her husband are partners in their business,, and they wrote their wildly popular book, “The Big Book of Kombucha!,” together.

In addition to recipes, the book also explores the history of Kombucha.

“There’s a lot of circular stories about Kombucha: they all quote the same story, but there’s no original source. And that drove me crazy. So in 2007 I reached out to someone in China who was brewing Kombucha. I majored in mandarin Chinese, so I was able to use my minimal skills to try to get some more information.”

“And that’s really where we debunk some of the myths. We’re trying to root it back into reality and out of the “woo-woo.”

Kombucha is quickly becoming mainstream, Crum explained, and it’s common to find Kombucha in supermarkets and health food stores across the United States, including here in the corridor at Hy-Vee and other local retailers.

“We founded our trade association, Kombucha Brewers International, in 2014 with 40 companies. Now we’re at over 140 in just 2.5 years. It’s a testament to just how quickly this product is growing,” she said.

“We like to call it the 21st century yogurt. I don’t know if you remember when yogurt wasn’t on all the shelves, it was just something old people in the mountains ate and they lived to 100... Then ultimately it turned into a multi-billion dollar industry that’s ubiquitous.”

“We really see Kombucha as following that same trajectory.”

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