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Kombucha Club: a look at the fermented frenzy

Kombucha is trending in the Valley and throughout Northeast Wisconsin. Not only is it lining the local store beverage aisles, but it’s also appearing on deli and coffee shop menus. The drink has even found its way into our beer and health food markets, and we’re fascinated by the frenzy.

086-DINE-Kombucha-introWHAT’S KOMBUCHA?

Kombucha is a fermented tea, believed to be of ancient Asian origin. It’s sweet and tart, sparkling and effervescent, and brewed with a live bacterial culture, which gives it reported health benefits.

“Everyone’s becoming more health conscious and that’s why we’re seeing kombucha go mainstream,” says Jim Ploetz, brewer and owner of Duck Creek Vineyard and Winery in Denmark.

Ploetz began brewing and drinking kombucha to increase his energy levels about 10 years ago.

“Kombucha is made by combining tea, sugar and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, commonly referred to as a SCOBY,” says Ploetz.

He’s state-certified to brew and sell his kombucha. But don’t let the name on the bottle — mushroom kombucha — fool you. There are no mushrooms in this tea; it’s commonly called  such only because the SCOBY looks like the head of a mushroom.

BENEFITS

Kombucha drinkers swear by its numerous health benefits. Some claim the drink can relieve everything from arthritis and muscle soreness to liver and kidney damage. It even serves to control blood sugar and digestive health, and acts as a powerful detoxifier. This is because the tea forms antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and acids during the fermentation process.

“We now know optimal health begins in the gut, and our organic kombucha is a powerful probiotic that aids in digestion,” says Gerard Alberts of Purely Living, an organic kombucha manufacturer in Oconto.

Few studies have been conducted to verify the healthful claims. Many say that the key to introducing kombucha to your diet, however, is to start slow. Kombucha tea, while tangy and delicious, should be enjoyed in moderation.

“Start by drinking one ounce a day,” says Aaron Depies of Trust Local Foods, a local healthy foods and kombucha distributor in Little Chute. “You can increase it to three to four within a week.”

086-DINE-Kombucha-crateTEA ON TAP

Kombucha is typically bottled and comes in various flavors, from fruit to coffee. Bottled kombucha will keep for a couple months if the cap is screwed on tight and it’s kept refrigerated.

While Alberts maintains selling his kombucha in 750ml bottles, which you can find at Seth’s Coffee House in Little Chute, he’s also doing something different and interesting.

“We sell kombucha taps,” says Alberts. “It’s the best way to enjoy kombucha because it keeps it totally fresh for months.”

One of these taps is at Waseda Farms Market in De Pere. Here you can buy glass jars, from 12 ounces to growlers, and fill them with your choice of kombucha from eight different taps.

“It’s crisper from the tap,” says Alicia Slusarek, Waseda Farms Market ­dietitian, “and because you can buy the glass jars and refill them, it’s reducing environmental waste.”

KOMBUCHA BEER086-DINE-Kombucha-Beer

The bubbly, fizzy kombucha is often called nature’s soda by health-conscious consumers and is a good alternative for those who want a thirst-quenching, carbonated drink without the guilt.

Brewers have started using it to make beer, too.

“It’s a great gluten-free beer option,” says Meg Zabel, who, along with Bob Wall, owns Green Gecko Grocer & Deli in Appleton.

They’ve been selling the beer by Unity Vibration, a brewer in Michigan, for a year because of customer requests.

Just down the street, Tandem Wine Shop also sells bottled kombucha beer in ginger and raspberry flavors.

“My wife and I really enjoy kombucha,” says store owner George Koenig, “so when we heard there was a beer, we had to try it. It’s vegan and gluten-free, keeping with our diets.”

If cocktails are more up your alley, the internet is teeming with recipes that incorporate kombucha. A simple Google search for “kombucha cocktails” yields results galore. Try some and see what the frenzy is all about.

086-DINE-Kombucha-SethsLocal Kombucha Locations

  • Seth’s Coffee, Little Chute
    Purely Living 750 mL bottles
  • Green Gecko, Appleton
    Purely Living 750 mL bottles
    Unity Vibration beer 16oz singles and 4packs
  • Tandem Wine and Beer, Appleton
    Unity Vibration beer 16oz singles and 4packs
  • Waseda Farms Market, De Pere
    Purely Living tap 12oz cups to glass jars and growlers
  • Duck Creek Winery and Vineyard, Denmark
    Mushroom kombucha 16oz and 750 mL
  • Free Market, Appleton
  • Trust Local Foods, Appleton
  • Many Local Grocery Stores

—FC

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