Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Kombucha: Anything That Tastes This Awful Must Be Good for You

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge kombucha.jpg

Off and on, for the past few months, I've been drinking this stuff called kombucha. It's a kind of fizzy, fermented tea supposedly full of helpful bacteria and digestive agents. My neighbor recommended it, with the caveat that it's strangely addictive--strange because it tastes like a smelly sock steeped in salad dressing and Fresca.

But I've gotten oddly hooked on the stuff. For one thing, if you purchase it at Whole Foods, you get this look of sudden alarm from the cashiers. "You've had this before, right?" they ask, as if you were picking up a plutonium rod for transport to Oak Ridge. "You know not to shake it, right?" Yes, in addition to its foul smell and vinegary taste, naturally carbonated kombucha will explode if shaken.

I learned this the hard way the first time. Laughing off the warnings, I gave it a firm shake and started to screw off the lid. The resulting spew made my car smell like a marinated artichoke for days. Now I cradle the stuff on tiptoe like the dude in The Wages of Fear inching his truckload of nitro down Pothole Boulevard. Did I mention that it costs about $3.49 per 16-ounce bottle? Something this volatile, finicky and bilious-tasting must be good for you, right?

Since I lack, among countless other attributes, the discipline for scientific method, the jury's out. I have made only one conclusive finding about the effects of kombucha on the human body: one good swig produces a burp that'll indent aluminum siding at 50 paces. But I have noticed that somehow I've escaped the pit of contagion that claimed my wife and kids almost instantly after school started.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But if I were a germ, I'd rather do the backstroke in Listerine than suck on second-hand kombucha.

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