Kombucha is an unusual drink. The look, the taste – basically, everything about it is odd. But it’s also supposed to be incredibly healthy. Not sure what to think, I took a casual poll of the office.
“I tried ‘the booger drink’ from these hard core hippies,” Art Director Scrappers told me. “They pulled a bowl out from under the kitchen sink with a giant mushroom on top. Why did I try it? I was peer-pressured into it.”
Associate Editor Anu Yagi also tried the drink, and recalled days in Haiku with raw food chefs feeding her this mysterious health elixir as if it were ambrosia. As for the rest of the staff, it was, “No way, Jose, we’re not trying that stuff.”
My first trip into bootch territory occurred in 1994. I was in college and working as a PA. My boss brewed it in the photography studio and swore that it had great health potential. I didn’t care much about health in my 20’s but I was certainly game to try the odd looking drink. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it – it wasn’t tasty, but also not terrible.
Now its popularity seems to have spiked. I see bottled kombucha in health food stores island wide. There’s the Maui Kombucha Cafe in Haiku, limited availability at Choice and Maui Booch on the Westside.
So what makes this elixir so popular?
First of all, the “mushroom” is not really a mushroom. It’s a Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), growing on a mixture of tea and sugar. The fermentation process process takes around three weeks and can be made with either black or green tea.
Fermented beverages and foods with live cultures, like kefir, pickled and cultured veggies that are not pasteurized are known for their health properties. These foods boost the immune system by increasing antibodies, the flora in in living cultured foods aid digestion (probiotics), they have antioxidants, enzymes, lactic acid, amino acids and are alkalizing to the body (click here for more on fermentation).
Bryan Willard knows all about kombucha. He’s the guy behind Maui Booch. Willard bottles his own kombucha and adds his own special blends of organic fresh juices. “You wouldn’t believe my biggest challenge is finding bottles!”he told me.
But he does, and the resulting beverage is delicious and in demand. Willard brews 50 gallons at a time and makes deliveries and sells at the Launiopoko Farmers Markets on Saturdays, 8am to 12pm.
I asked Willard how he got into making Kombucha.
“By trying just about every vitamin and supplement there is,” he says. “And there’s one thing I have been consuming for a few years that has kept up my energy levels, kept my skin clear, and at the same time, I haven’t been sick in years! I highly believe in Kombucha’s healing properties. I mostly use a green tea base for my Kombucha, which already, is full of anti-oxidants. Add live cultures to it, and you have a powerful elixir that not only tastes extremely good, but is packed full of vitamin B’s, pro-biotics and amino acids.”
Drinking Kombucha and other cultured foods can help your digestive tract restart itself after taking antibiotics, alcohol, commercial meats that have antibiotics, processed foods and chlorinated water – all of which can destroy your healthy intestinal flora.
After drinking my Maui Booch everyday for a few days, I found the flavors and effects were growing on me. But I also became curious about the murky swirl of stuff in the bottle. Was I growing a new culture?
“On the bottom of each bottle are live cultures and fruit extracts,” Willard told me. But new cultures won’t grow unless I leave it out of the fridge.
To prevent mold from contaminating the SCOBY (culture), Willard says that, “you must have VERY sanitary conditions and the right temperature, in which I control! I have never had any mold issues.”
You can get Maui Kombucha at the Maui Kombucha Raw Cafe (bring your own jug), or Maui Booch by calling Bryan Willard at 760-458-1120.