In October, when my husband came home from work and announced that the medical industry had made poop pills that will increase healthy bacteria in a person’s guts, I was like “no shit.” It made big news in the media, which makes sense given that people were ingesting fresh poop in hopes of curing their digestive tract.
I thought the whole thing totally absurd. Do we really have to eat poop? Why couldn’t you just increase the good stuff in your gut with edible pro-biotic foods like miso and kim chee? After reading up on the poop pills, I realized that the folks taking them were suffering from special problems, but I was also right that increasing good bacteria in your stomach is a good thing for digestion.
Our modern diets have evolved to the point where we eat food heavy with wheat, protein and fat, fast food, rich sauces and mountains of sugar with very little regard to how they affect our digestive system. In response, the health industry is latching onto the word probiotics, touting its benefits in pills, supplements and foods, but people rarely know what these are or why they’re good for them. Worse yet, it’s all bacteria, and that often doesn’t sound appetizing to people.
One person who can tell you about healthy bacteria is Cory Anderson of Awaken Tea Kombucha. I met him recently while he was slinging samples of his Maui-made tea at Choice Health Bar in Lahaina. Anderson says he was suffering from caffeine overload–understandable, considering he was a substantial coffee and tea drinker who also suffered from panic attacks and anxiety–when he started drinking kombucha on a regular basis and he began making his own tea.
“I am from Bainbridge Island in Washington near Seattle,” says Anderson. “We drink really strong coffee, and have a caffeine culture there. Then I moved to Alaska and was a hiking tour guide–again we drank coffee and that was the lifestyle. Once I started to have issues with anxiety, I needed to find a new pick-me-up.”
While Anderson drinks it to supercharge his day without anxiety, Tiffany–his wife and business partner at Awaken Tea–has her own reasons. She was diagnosed with celiac disease, which means her body has a gluten allergy.
On the website KombuchaKamp.com, Hannah Crum writes about the history of Kombucha. Following its fermentation in kitchens in China over hundreds of years, Kombucha latched onto Genghis Khan and the silk road, then later made its way to Europe. While its ancient secrets piled up, the Industrial Revolution, world wars and the industrialization of our food supply tossed fermenting tea traditions to the curb for decades. Until relatively recently, that is, when Kombucha began seeing a resurgence.
Bev Net Magazine reports a 37 percent increase in Kombucha beverage sales from 2012 to 2013. It’s one of the fastest growing drink categories, and is breaking out of health food stores and into mainstream markets at a staggering pace. In fact, Kombucha teas are set to create more than $500 million in revenues for the beverage market this year. Hannah Crum and Alex Lagory of KombuchaKamp.com organized the Kombucha Brewers International just last month, and plan to have a Kombucha Kon conference in January.
“We are not separate from nature,” Crum wrote on KombuchaKamp.com. ”Without helpful bacteria and other microorganisms, we cannot survive. In our modern culture, it is easy to believe that we control nature because of our air conditioners, cars and homes. However, by ingesting Kombucha, you are actively acknowledging that you live in symbiosis with other living beings. This is the natural state of the world.”
Anderson says he wants to be a part of the crossover of Kombucha to the mainstream. He’s developed flavors like fresh pressed ginger, hibiscus tea and golden chai in hopes of appealing to folks unfamiliar with kombucha tea.
“Sometimes you get those bottled versions that taste really vinegary or sour,” says Anderson. “I feel bad that that is some peoples first try of Kombucha. My kombucha is proof that you can get something that tastes great. Its fresh, its made on Maui. We create our own tea blends, we package our tea in 36-ounce reusable bottles.”
Ultimately, Anderson says his dream is to operate a mobile Kombucha bus, bringing the good stuff to people all over the island, along with gluten-free snacks. But for now, the Andersons make Awaken Tea Kombucha in Kihei, and you can find their product at Choice Health Bar in Lahaina or at the Upcountry Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
Check out their website at Awakentea.com for more about their kombucha.