Kefir and kombucha might not be in most people’s refrigerators as a drink option, but Stacey Tress with Garden Therapy Yorkton suggests maybe they should be.
“We’re always behind in the west,” said Tress, who suggested drinking kefir, kombucha, and similar drinks are common place in Russia, Germany, South America, Africa and Asia. “They’ve been doing it far longer,” she added, noting the names and exact recipes vary significantly, but the resulting drinks have similar properties.
Tress said in North America interest in the drinks is growing.
“It’s sort of a traditional skill and wisdom we’re just learning,” she said, adding even a year ago she’d mention kefir and few, if any, would have any idea what it is. Today there is a growing interest in the product.
“Dr. Oz mentions it and it’s not scary anymore,” she said with a smile.
It’s also a case where more people are focusing on preventative health care, said Tress.
“Our society is becoming a little bit more health conscious,” she said.
In terms of kombucha and kefir, they are drinks made through a fermentation process not dissimilar to that of making sauerkraut, sourdough and pickles, offered Tress, adding such processes “are basically processing without heat.”
Kefir is a fermented milk product that originated centuries ago in the Caucasus mountains, and is now enjoyed by many different cultures worldwide, particularly in Europe and Asia. It can be made from the milk of any ruminant animal, such as a cow, goat, or sheep. It is slightly sour and carbonated due to the fermentation activity of the symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
The word ‘kefir’ is derived from the Turkish word ‘keif’, which literally translates to the ‘good feeling’ one has after drinking it.
Kefir can also be made using water as the base liquid, creating what is also known as tibico.
Kombucha is an effervescent fermentation of sweetened tea that is used as a functional food.
Kombucha originated in Northeast China or Manchuria and later spread to Russia and from there to the rest of the world.
Kefir and kombucha are both drinks which Tress said have body cleansing properties based on probiotic properties. She said the probiotics work in the gut to help with food digestion, absorption and excretion.
Each drink has its own specific chemical mix and thus different effects on the body.
“Kombucha has liver cleansing properties,” noted Tress as an example.
Kombucha is a tea-based drink, where tea is added to hot water, along with sugars as a food source for the microbial process which makes the actual drink.
Kefir uses a similar reactive process with different starters specific to milk and water drinks.
In the case of water kefir it is a two-part process. The first creates the basic probiotic liquid, offered Tress, adding the second fermentation “is where the fun is.” The base liquid is mixed in a 50/50 concentration with fresh fruits to create a flavoured drink, like a raspberry-lemon one Tress was in the midst of making the day of the interview.
Tress said interest in probiotics is certainly there, with store options from enriched yogurts to food supplement pills.
Kefir and Kombucha are a “local and inexpensive” alternative.
For those interested in learning more about kefir and kombucha including how to make it at home, Tress will hold a workshop in Yorkton Saturday, Sept. 14. Check out www.gardentherapyyorkton.com