KENNEWICK, WA - Here in the heart of wine country where hops for craft beers are growing like wildflowers there is another drink trend taking hold. This one dates back to an ancient Chinese dynasty. Then, about 30 years ago it became commercialized in the United States. Today, annual sales are at over $500 million and it's a growing trend that's likely to stick around.
"I do like the flavor but I felt for me personally it was acquired at first until I started trying new flavors. I didn't even realize there were different flavors," said Stefanie Davis of Trios Health - and boy are there a lot of flavors.
"We boast the largest kombucha bar I think in the United States," said Encore Wellness 4 Life owner, Mark Keith. "Because everywhere you go you see four five or six of them but not 30."
He has plans to open another kombucha bar with 50 flavors on tap. So, what exactly is kombucha?
"It's basically tea with a SCOBY. People say, what's a SCOBY? It's symbiotic culture of bacteria in yeast," explained Mark Keith. "So that fermentation that happens, it eats the sugar. You have to feed it sugar as you're making kombucha. As it eats the sugar it makes this really strong probiotic blend."
Registered Dietician Stefanie Davis said our bodies already have both good and bad bacteria in them and kombucha helps balance that.
"Probiotics are really good for our gut health," said Davis. "It helps maintain a healthy balance, helps with digestion. There's been some support that it helps with your immune system which is really great especially this time of year."
Kombucha can have a sort of vinegar taste. It can be sweet, sour and tart. At Encore Wellness 4 Life or your neighborhood grocery stair there are nearly endless options to try.
"Everybody's palates are different," said Mark. "It's just like going wine tasting, you have to have a selection."
People do make kombucha at home and Davis said she believes it's no more dangerous than any other food handling safety - like cooking chicken or canning jam. People just need to know the proper preparations.
If you would like to check out Encore Wellness 4 Life and its kombucha bar the address is: 135 Vista Way suite E Kennewick, Washington.