What's behind the kombucha craze?

A look at how fermented tea is thought to soothe tummy troubles and more

If you haven’t yet heard of kombucha, you may be in the minority. The fermented beverage, which is usually served cold, has become very popular over the past few years, and several local companies brew their own right here in Eastern Iowa.

“Kombucha is a fermented tea that some say dates back 2,000 years,” said Greg Wild, founder and owner of Eisbach Kombuchery in Marion.

“Kombucha undergoes a combination of lactic fermentation and alcohol fermentation. … The fermentation creates a drink that contains live probiotics and healthy acids and antioxidants.”

It is the probiotics that are thought to help balance healthy gut bacteria.


While the FDA and clinical research don’t support the purported benefits of kombucha — and the Mayo Clinic cautions its use until more medical information

is accumulated — brewers and drinkers alike report positive results related to gut health.

“I can tell you that, anecdotally, I have had many people share the improvements they have seen — particularly people that struggle with digestive issues,” Wild said.

“Kombucha seems to benefit those that suffer from acid reflux,” he said. “Many people who become nauseous from medications or other causes find that kombucha makes their stomach feel better.

“Several people have said it helps them with joint inflammation or helps them get over a cold more quickly.”


Rachelle Schmidt is the co-owner of Wild Culture Kombucha, which is on tap at area bars and breweries and has a taproom at 210 N. Linn St. in Iowa City. She said that consuming kombucha regularly could be a good alternative to other popular sources of probiotics, like yogurt.

“Consistency is best when it comes to drinking kombucha,” she said. “So, a little every day is when you will really reap the benefits.

“We recommend 8 to 12 ounces to start out and then work your way up and see how you feel. It’s kind of like taking a probiotic pill every day, but

it’s way more beneficial for you.”


If you haven’t yet tried kombucha, you’ll find a wide variety of options and flavors to choose from — some with a small amount of alcohol and

some without.

“Kombucha naturally contains some alcohol through the yeast fermentation,” Wild said. “The lactose fermentation consumes some of that

alcohol so the alcohol content is much lower than beer. Kombucha alcohol content can range from 0.2 to 1.5 percent.”

Wild Culture Kombucha offers two types of kombucha. “Our juice style is brewed with fresh, in-house-made juices and is for 21 and over,” Schmidt said. “Our herbal style is brewed with organic herbs and spices and is for all ages. They are both made from the same unfiltered raw base batch of kombucha.”

Flavor options are seemingly endless, including rhubarb, honey lavender chamomile, ginger hibiscus jasmine and a wealth of others.


“For people who have not tried it, I usually tell them not to base their opinion of kombucha on one tasting,” Wild said.

“The flavor profiles are so varied that different brands and flavors can taste very different. Some are quite weak and don’t really taste like kombucha. Some are extremely harsh.”

Eisbach Kombuchery products are available locally at Beans Teas in Marion and Dry Creek Brew in Robins as well as at the Marion and Hiawatha farmers markets. As the industry continues to grow, so does the selection of products available to consumers. Kombucha can be found in many stores, markets,

co-ops and even bars and restaurants.

“Kombucha is the fastest growing beverage category in the United States,” Wild said. It is also often combined with locally brewed beers, tequila, gin, rum or vodka to create cocktails.

“People are becoming more and more health conscious and want to consume products that won’t diminish their health,” Schmidt said. “Kombucha is good for you, but it also tastes amazing.”

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