Combining the benefits of a probiotic and a boost of caffeine, kombucha is popping up in club restaurants across the country.
Fermented ingredients have always had a home on club menus, but kombucha is finally making the leap from the health food store to the country club. On a very basic level, kombucha is created by fermenting sweetened tea. This fizzy, tart, and versatile beverage offers a unique take on the afternoon dose of caffeine.
While there are several recognizable brands on the market, chefs can easily build their own kombucha recipe to show off the club’s unique flavors. To make kombucha, chefs combine tea—typically black, white, or green, though herbal tea is occasionally used—-sugar, natural flavorings such as fruit or juice, and what’s known as a SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY is the collection of bacteria placed into the sugar and tea solution to launch the fermentation process.
Over the course of about seven days, the bacteria transform the sugars into acid and trace amounts of alcohol—typically lower than one-percent. Flavors are added during the second stage of fermentation when the beverage becomes lightly carbonated. The final product takes a tangy, vinegar-like flavor, which is often balanced by the sweetness of the added juice.
The Benefits of Kombucha
In addition to kombucha’s unique and vibrant flavor, the drink is said to offer several health benefits, many of which are helpful after a long day on the green. While research is still scarce, kombucha contains healthy bacteria for gut health, vitamin B for metabolism, and the traditional benefits of green or black tea. Some feel that kombucha provides a more refreshing energy boost than coffee or other carbonated drinks.
Additionally, chefs can push the boundaries of their kombucha recipe, offering a range of flavors that rotate based on the seasons. Popular flavors include blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate, pineapple and raspberry. Earthier tones such as ginger, mint, chia seed, and a paired-down tea-based recipe are also popular choices.
While kombucha is a popular choice at the snack bar and bistro, it is not uncommon to spot kombucha on club bar menus as a nearly alcohol-free alternative.