Melbourne looks set to reach peak kombucha in 2017 as the famed fermented tea well and truly hits the mainstream. Booming “booch” sales across Australia are estimated to top $100 million this year – and more than $1 billion in the US. There are reports that even drinks giants Coca-Cola Amatil and PepsiCo will release their own versions of the health brew.
Since fresh fruit smoothies and wheatgrass shots in the ’90s, we’ve seen a slew of health drinks rise and fall: green juices, protein shakes, turmeric lattes and butter coffee have all seduced wellness warriors with promises of health-boosting powers. Why are we so into wellness tonics like kombucha?
“People are increasingly aware of the importance of gut health and reducing sugar intake, and kombucha is a great-tasting drink that is genuinely healthy,” says Emmet Condon, the co-founder of Melbourne brand Remedy Kombucha.
“It’s full of good bacteria, healthy organic acids and it’s a rich source of dietary fibre.”
As the lines between food and medicine become more blurred, it’s no wonder we’re looking towards food and drink for its restorative benefits. If we can eat or drink something delicious rather than pop a pill – bonus. What’s next on the drinks menu for body-aware Australians?
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Drinks such as kefir (a “milky kombucha”) are gaining popularity, along with other fermented food and drinks promising good gut health. Of course, kefir isn’t anything new. It dates back many centuries – apparently Marco Polo was a fan – but the yummy, yeasty, yoghurty concoction has now well and truly made it to the Western world.
Apparently souping is the new juicing. Unlike juicing, souping doesn’t remove the fibre from fruit and veg, allowing us to reap the rewards of fresh produce’s dietary fibre, such as feeling full, improved blood sugar levels and better bowel health.
Don’t worry, no one’s drinking small, woody plants (yet). The shrub is a zingy mixture of vinegar and fruit dating back to the 18th century. Shrub devotees love its digestive aiding and pH-balancing properties, while hipster mixologists play up its acidic twang and blend shrub with everything from berries to basil.
For those looking for a kombucha alternative, enter tepache, a Mexican probiotic drink made from fermented pineapple peels, brown sugar and warm spices such as cloves and cinnamon. For something with more zing, try a Carribean-style switchel. Made with apple cider vinegar, ginger and maple syrup, its main claims to fame are its ability to restore electrolytes and pack a big anti-inflammatory punch.
You’ve got almond, soy, oat and rice milk – but vegie milk? New US product Veggemo is a creamy, white-coloured, non-dairy milk made from potatoes, tapioca and peas. Makers say the peas give the product six grams of protein per serve. Hiding the kids’ vegies in their Weet-Bix might soon be a thing.
DRINK YOUR FUNGUS
Medicinal mushrooms … hmm. No, not the sort served up at full moon parties on tiny Thai islands. Dried mushroom extracts are used to create earthy brews and teas to lower stress levels and boost immunity. Chaga mushrooms, in particular, are winning superfood status.
The I Quit Sugar crowd is here to stay. Manufacturers continue to search for ways to give sweet tooths their hit. The monk fruit, a Chinese gourd, is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Known as “the longevity fruit”, it is an antioxidant-rich fruit dating back to the 13th century.