IF you feel like kombucha is everywhere these days, you'd be correct.
The probiotic health drink is shedding its reputation as a "hipster" drink and has become a popular alternative to soft drink, filling shelves in supermarkets, cafes and even the servo.
It's good for your gut, low in sugar and, depending on your palate, tastes delicious.
It starts with a scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that is added to a mixture of sugar and tea which then ferments to, eventually, create kombucha.
Lisa Lowry, of Mayfield, began brewing kombucha six years ago, and this year launched her own brand, Fermented Sista, stocked at the Newcastle Food and Flower Markets at Sandgate. She makes around 60 litres each week out of her home kitchen.
Lowry says there are a few things to look out for in order to get the best.
"The first thing for me is that it's organic, it has no additives and that the kombucha itself stays true to form, so the actual carbonation of it occurs naturally through that fermentation process rather than having things added to it at the end that make it artificially fizzy," Lowry explains.
"Also having that light, tangy taste of fermentation, but not overpowering, so that it hasn't moved too far and become vinegary.
"You can always taste the difference between something that has been made using fresh fruit as opposed to a flavouring, so those things to me are what makes it nice and enjoyable to drink."
Here's five places to try kombucha - bottled, on tap, in your own starter kit or even spiked with gin - around Newcastle:
Newcastle Food and Flower Markets, 1 Rural Drive, Sandgate Lisa Lowry's journey into brewing kombucha began while working at the flower markets. Owner Jessica Eckford-Aguilera sampled Lowry's kombucha and encouraged her to bottle it. The kombucha is available in the cafe and the store in 330ml and 750ml bottles. She creates a variety of flavours, including original, but generally bases each brew around in-season fruit. This week, keep an eye out for beetroot and apple, and lime, mint and blueberry. And don't be put off if you find "floaties" in your drink. "If you are getting a real-deal kombucha, you would find a few floaties in there and you might even see it starting to develop its own little scoby on the top. It's a very light gel-like film. And that's okay, it won't hurt you," Lowry says. "That's what you're after, the good, live bacteria, because that's what you're drinking it for."
Good Gut Probiotics
Ka-Fey Cafe, 148 Hunter Street, Newcastle The team behind Ka-Fey Cafe not only bottle and sell their own brand of kombucha, Good Gut Probiotics, but also put together starter kits. The kits range from $60 to $160. They sell scoby for those starting from scratch and also stock jun scoby, which feeds off green tea and honey, making it ideal for those yet to come around to the taste of kombucha. "It doesn't have that vinegary taste. It's really good even without any flavouring and it's lighter too," owner Lucy Glover says. If you prefer not to make it yourself, pop in to try their own brew, available by the bottle or the glass. Glover's personal pick is the carrot and beetroot kombucha. Her journey into probiotics began years ago when she was searching for a tonic to combat a skin condition. "It takes a lot of work, it's like feeding an animal every day. There are lots of different elements that are important: the sugar or the tea that you're using, and even the water quality," Glover says.
Corner of Steel and Parry streets, Newcastle West The indoor skate park, shop and cafe has a following for its great coffee, but for kombucha drinkers, it's also a must visit. They serve Sydney-based raw organic brand Kombucha Me flowing fresh from not one, but five taps. They have a range of blends, such as raspberry and lemon, pomegranate and grape, and the "superblend". The taps rotate regularly, based on what the supplier is making and concoctions that are suited for the season. In winter, Sanbah had immune-boosting kombucha with echinacea and ginger. In warmer months, expect to find tropical flavours such as mango and pineapple, or coconut and lime. They dress it up with fresh fruit too (ask when you order and they will be happy to create it). And served with a eco-friendly metal straw.
Prince of Merewether
1 Morgan Street, Merewether With its rise in popularity, it's no surprise that kombucha would eventually find its way as a mixer too. There is a tiny alcohol content in kombucha because of the natural process of fermentation, but spiked kombucha is making its way into bars as well. Freshly renovated The Prince has boozy kombucha on tap. Gin infused kombucha, to be precise. Yes, you read that right. Brewed in Byron Bay, Dirty Bucha (4.2% ABV) is an offshoot of kombucha brand The Bucha which launched an alcoholic kombucha range earlier this year, with three flavours using rum, vodka and gin from Cape Byron Distillery. On tap at The Prince you'll find Dirty Bucha gin blended with lemon myrtle kombucha. It's aromatic and, again, low in sugar, so that's gotta be good for you, surely.
Goodness Me Organics
617/621 Glebe Road, Adamstown Both an organic grocer and cafe, kombucha is aplenty at Goodness Me Organics. They serve Central Coast-based kombucha makers Zentient Culture on tap, with two varieties available every day, which vary seasonably. "We have strawberry and lemon at the moment, and ginger and turmeric is a bit of a staple," cafe owner Andy Ward says. They kombucha is even used to create a spider, topped with coconut ice cream, which is available on the cafe menu.
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