WHAT’S IN KOMBUCHA?
Mostly water. To brew a batch that’s all you need along with a few black or green tea or teabags, some sugar and a SCOBY “pancake”. For flavour, add slices of lemon, orange, strawberries or ginger root when serving. Most recipes we looked at make around 2 litres (quarts) which makes the price per 100ml/3½fl oz around the cost of a teabag and a couple of teaspoons of sugar (say 30 cents) – most people get the SCOBY from a neighbour or friend already brewing. We took a look at what’s in three top-selling brands owned by international corporations. We found that they cost significantly more – around AUD$1–1.35 per 100ml/3½fl oz serving.
KEVITA Master Brew Kombucha – Ginger (PepsiCo)
Ingredients: Sparkling Water, Kombucha Culture (Filtered Water, Black Tea Extract, Green Tea Extract, Natural Flavor), Filtered Water, Cane Sugar, Ginger Extract, Bacillus coagulans LactoSpore MTCC 5856, Black Tea Extract, Black Tea Essence, Caffeine (Green Coffee Bean Extract), Green Tea Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract.
- LactoSpore is a commercial probiotic preparation containing L(+) lactic acid producing microbial preparation from Bacillus coagulans, MTCC 5856 (earlier known to be Lactobacillus sporogenes).
- Stevia Leaf Extract is a collection of intense sweeteners derived from stevia leaves. These contain a number of steviol glycosides – a type of very sweet molecule. Stevioside, rebaudioside A and M have been commercialised and are added to foods and beverages and used in tabletop and pourable products.
MOJO Crafted Kombucha – Ginger (Coca-Cola)
Ingredients: Organic Crafted Kombucha (Water, Organic Sugar, Organic Tea, Kombucha Culture), Ginger Juice (2%), Probiotic (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086).
REMEDY Organic Kombucha – Ginger Lemon (Lion Nathan)
Ingredients: Certified organic raw kombucha, (pure water, wild kombucha culture, organic black tea, organic green tea), organic ginger, naturally fermented organic glucose (erythritol), organic lemon, organic stevia (steviol glycosides).
- According to the nutrition information panel, Remedy contains 5g carbohydrate but no sugars. So where do the carbs come from? We think it is probably the erythritol which is a derivative of glucose (a monosaccharide sugar). It would be interesting to know how much glucose goes into the pot.
- Erythritol is a polyol (sugar alcohol), which is a type of carbohydrate with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol. It’s naturally found in very small amounts in some plants (grapes, melons, and mushrooms), and is manufactured in commercial quantities by a fermentation process typically using wheat or cornstarch. In the US and Canada, polyols are listed on food labels in the carbohydrates section; Australia’s regulations are unhelpful for consumers in this regard which is a pity as they are increasingly being added to the food supply as sugar replacers – and the more you consume the more likely you will succumb to the potential laxative effect.
- While most polyols have a reputation for having a gassy and laxative effect, erythritol doesn’t because most of it is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine and excreted unchanged in urine. Only about 10 per cent enters the large intestine, where either the healthy bacteria feast on it, or it is excreted in faeces. EU approval for erythritol excludes its use in beverages, as there is a concern that the laxative threshold value may be exceeded when it is consumed this way, especially by young people.