After her recent workshops at Showroom, health coach Hayley Cotton stopped to talk to us about fermented tea.

1. What is kombucha?

Kombucha, the fermented beverage the ancient Chinese called the Immortal Health Elixir, has been around for more than 2,000 years and has a rich anecdotal history of health benefits like preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.

Kombucha is a probiotic, microbiological food. Probiotic - means "for life."

It is used to describe products which include microorganisms that are beneficial to health. It helps regenerate the bowel flora and is excellent for wellbeing. It is an incredible substance, considered by many to be part food, part supplement. From sugar, tea and a groovy little Scoby organism comes fizzy, slightly tart, completely delicious and refreshing probiotic drink.


2. Is it as awesome as the hype around it would suggest?

Yes it certainly is! Kombucha, like most fermented foods has gained popularity recently, but fermented foods are not new; they've been around for thousands of years.

Fermenting used to be the way we would keep food. Eating fermented foods provides a daily intake of enzymes, probiotics and beneficial acids that help our immune system and consuming fermented foods as part of the daily diet will have significant health benefits.  Fermented foods are anti-carcinogenic but we stopped having them as a regular component of our diet when we had the advent of industrialised foods, refrigeration, and canning coming into the picture.

We no longer had a need to preserve our foods in the same way and because of this we lost the art of fermentation and along with that we lost the daily intake of a very healthy medicinal food.

3. Why are fermented foods so good for us?

Most cultures around the world have some sort of fermented food in their traditional diet and along with that come thousands of recipes that you can find on the internet for sauerkraut, kombucha, water and coconut water kefir etc.  All wonderful foods to include in your daily diet.

Fermenting foods allows the beneficial bacteria and or yeasts to start a process on the food that creates a bunch of enzymes that boost the nutrient density of the food so that you get a lot more of the vitamins and minerals, its easier to digest and as a result has significant health benefits. It seems strange to us these days to let food sit at room temperature as we are so used to putting food in the fridge to prevent bugs, but some bugs are our friends as long as we are cultivating the right ones.  We are essentially allowing microbes to make our food better for us.

A healthy gut does indeed a healthy person make! But the way to gut health isn’t necessarily through a bottle of probiotic supplements. By eating whole foods that have been fermented, you’re ensuring that the probiotics you’re ingesting are live and active, packaged with a whole host of symbiotic nutrients. By eating fermented foods regularly, you will consume various strains of good bacteria that will keep your gut healthy through diversification.


4. How much kombucha should we be drinking?

It’s a good idea to start of slowly and with small amounts when you are eating fermented foods and then build up.  When eating fermented foods, two things can happen:

  1. Big detox effect
  2. Big die off effect

When you consume fermented foods they are active and ready to get to work if you have overgrowths in your gut chances are you probably do, due to our modern diet, stress levels, chemicals in foods and medications such as antibiotics we most likely have an overgrowth of bacteria.

Good bugs will kill of the opportunistic microbes that have overgrowth.  When they die, your liver has to step up and so more work to break down all of the by products from the bacteria.

If you do too much too soon, the liver has problems keeping up and you might feel a little worse for wear from anything from a couple of hours to a day – things such as headaches, cold and flu symptoms or an exacerbation of digestive issues you currently have.

So go slowly and build it up, start with a shot glass and build up to a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup to 1 cup.  If you experience any of these symptoms, step it back and give yourself longer to adjust. You only need to drink a glass of kombucha a day to get the benefits, but with a healthy gut you can drink as much as you fee like!


5. What are your favourite flavour combinations?

My absolute favourites are strawberry and ginger or ginger and turmeric, but there are so many different flavour combinations you can make using fruits, herbs and even spices!


6. Is kombucha hard to make?

Not at all.  It is so easy for anyone to do themselves at home. Once you understand the basic recipe and have the equipment it's really very easy.  I have made hundreds of batches and never had a problem.

Sometimes people get a little scared about using living foods and the process of fermentation but really the SCOBY does all the work for you.  Its very simple and takes very little time to produce a batch.

7. I've been to a workshop, I've googled a recipe, I've got my scoby, I'm ready to go. Are there any dangers of DIY kombucha making I should watch out for? 

Making Kombucha is relatively simply.  There are only a couple of things that can go wrong that can go wrong, mainly due to mould, pests and PH level but we teach you all about how to avoid these at the workshops and I'm available by phone and email to talk to people about any issues they might be having.

In all my time of making Kombucha I've never lost a batch to these things, so as long as you follow the process you will never have to worry.


8. Will you be hosting another workshop soon?

Im hoping to do more workshops in the near future.  Im so passionate about fermented foods and how wonderful they are for us.  I think if the only thing we changed in people's diet was we increased the amount of fermented foods they ate, we would have a very different looking health care system and I'm driven to share what I know with others who are wanting to improve their health, wellbeing and happiness.

Want to make your own Kombucha? We love this recipe here.

Catherine Roberts