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Kombucha

A bottle of kombucha fermenting on Byron Kuehl's refrigerator. 

Kombucha lovers and future kombucha brewers of Sioux City are in luck as a kombucha brewing workshop is taking place Aug. 31 at Evolve Yoga’s rooftop ballroom.

Led by Byron Kuehl, a musician and assistant manager at Big Sioux Terminal, this workshop will give an understanding of the steps it takes to make the fizzy, fermented tea beverage, as well as provide a kit for making the drink in the comfort of your own home.

“I’m kind of a foodie,” said Kuehl. “I’ve worked in restaurants over the years and once you get used to a certain level of food or drinks, or find out what you like, it can be hard to find, so it is easier to make it for yourself. I got tired of paying $3 or $4 for a bottle of store-bought kombucha. It is so much cheaper to make yourself and you can make whatever flavor you want."

Byron and Francys

Francys Chavez and Byron Kuehl talk about the wonders of kombucha tea. Both are advocates; both will be involved in a workshop helping others make their own.

Francys Chavez, a kombucha fan and employee at Evolve Yoga, agreed.

“I feel like if more people had access to make it or just knew how to make it, they would not pay the high prices for the stuff you find in the store,” said Chavez. “I know people that complain about the price all the time, but they don’t learn to make it.”

“That is the same reason I used to brew beer, too,” added Kuehl.

For those in the dark on the drink, kombucha is a tea that starts out sweet but, after weeks of fermenting in a jar, becomes a refreshingly tangy beverage. Its origins are debated, but the consensus is that it is from the Far East and was first used between 1,600 and 2,300 years ago. It has long been thought of as having health benefits due to the healthy bacteria living in it provided by the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The bacteria live in your stomach after drinking it, and assist gut health.

“In Chinese medicine, when somebody has an illness, the first place (doctors) check or treat is the gut, the digestive system,” said Chavez. “The way we eat today in the U.S. there are people suffering from celiac disease, constipation, bloating, gluten intolerance…there is a vast amount of chronic problems. The majority of them are developed through what we eat, in my humble opinion. We begin to tear down the walls of the digestive system, so we don’t have a strong response mechanism for digestion. I think it is important to incorporate some form of probiotic in our everyday life.”

Kombucha Workshop

This healthy drink is fairly simple to make, you just need to set aside some time to do so, and you can’t expect results until the brew has had time to ferment.

“You basically brew a black tea and sweeten it with white sugar,” said Kuehl. “Then you put it into a fermentation vessel with a SCOBY, like I have on top of my fridge. You then add some vinegar or some previously made kombucha. That is the first stage. After that, you let it age and get as vinegary as you like it. Usually I let it go for two or three weeks. When that is done, you strain it and flavor it by adding juice and letting it sit. I like to use ginger and pomegranate. Finally, you bottle it and let it naturally carbonate.”

You may be wondering if it is an alcoholic beverage due to the fermentation, but for the most part, it is not. Most store bought kombucha has an alcohol percentage of less than one-half of one percent.

The kombucha craze has gained massive popularity in recent years along with yoga, especially with the health-conscious community.

“The way yoga has come into vogue, the same thing is happening with kombucha,” said Kuehl.

One question people have about the drink is if it makes you feel better than normal.

“I tell them I don’t know, but that’s the way it goes when you feel good," Kuehl said. "You don’t think anything of it. It’s like the absence of aches or having a good complexion.”

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