Now even Safeway has a cooler of Kombucha. Packed with so many brands and varieties, surely it is an example of test marketing gone wild. How does one discriminate?
Kombucha is fermented sweet tea with added flavors. Black tea is the most popular base. The culture, or SCOBY is made from a colony of bacteria and yeast. It forms a pancake on the surface of the liquid that is called the "mushroom." Babies can be skimmed off the top to start new cultures.
Because of its ancient, exotic, and non-Western origins, there are many anectdotal claims of health benefits for Kombucha. However, according to the American Cancer Society, it is not a cure for cancer or anything else. There are no human studies or published literature to support health claims of any kind. Kombucha does have natural probiotics, so it can be compared to yogurt and other functional fermented foods that offer digestive benefits. But, proper preparation of the tea is essential as several deaths have been linked to drinking home brews.
As always, the choice is yours. For myself, I would rather spend the $4 per bottle on real food that is also functional.