The Art of Katboocha: Ancient Fermentation with a Modern Twist

>> If you’re keeping up with the food and beverage scene, it’s more than likely that you have had the chance to try a taste of kombucha, the fizzy and flavorful microbial rich tea-based drink which has become a staple in the diet of many health-conscious individuals. As a self-proclaimed microbial enthusiast, Katarina Schwarz, the owner of Rochester’s own kombucha brewery, Katboocha, explains that her obsession with the drink began as she turned towards consuming foods that were filled with microorganisms: “I was really leaning towards eating foods that were still alive, foods that had microbials on them which was anything from kombucha to yogurt to kimchi. But also fresh farmed fruits and such that are directly from the earth and do not have preservatives on them.” After experiencing a number of health issues which led to the diagnosis of a stomach disorder, her doctor explained that the leading cause of many gut imbalances in young individuals lead back to stress. Schwarz began researching her condition, and she quickly learned that “one of the better things you can do for your gut in this situation is to replenish it with microorganisms because those can turn your gut back into a healthy, functioning organ.” Diving into a range of holistic solutions to regulate one’s digestive system, Schwarz became captivated with homebrewing kombucha, and after experimenting with a myriad of flavors and tea combinations, she expresses that “the kombucha was completely filling up my kitchen, and I was having to give it away to people.” While she was satisfied with her two unique and innovative jobs at Fuego Coffee Roasters and WXXI Public Radio, Schwarz knew that these places did not offer the platform that she needed for her career to take off. After this realization, she decided to quit both jobs and turn her homebrewing passion into a full-time reality. In January of 2018, Katboocha officially opened up for business and has been distributing Rochester’s most beloved selections of the specialty drink across the city for over a year.

Kombucha has only recently entered the pop-culture spotlight in the United States. However, Schwarz explains that the drink has been recorded for its use in Eastern medicine as far back as 220 B.C.E. There are a number of stories which detail the drink’s assimilation into Chinese society, including one tale which refers to an individual named Dr. Kombu who would prescribe kombucha as a “curing tea.” In Mandarin, the word for tea is “cha,” and many individuals claim that the doctor’s name combined with this term gave it the moniker that it holds to this day. However, Schwarz is careful to assert that this is only one of the many stories told about this ancient beverage, as some people swear by its origins in Eastern Europe. Kombucha is traditionally known as a simple tea-based fermentation, and in countries such as Japan, Schwarz explains that their conception of the drink is entirely different than the beverage that we consume in the United States: “What we consider to be kombucha in the United States is basically a fizzy, tea-based beverage which has ‘health benefits,’ and I’m using air quotes here because you don’t want to make any claims, but we do know that tea is good for you, and we do know that when you consume microorganisms regularly they have a beneficial effect. So, in the United States, we consider it as a drink which is low in sugar and carbs, and then people mix them with a lot of fun flavors. But traditionally, in Japan, there’s kombu, the type of seaweed that they harvest and it kind of looks like matcha. It’s so vast, and this is one of the sticking points of our business because kombucha hasn’t really been defined.” Schwarz touches on the difficulties that the industry has faced in holding down a definition for the beverage, and cites a lawsuit between Kombucha Brewers International and the popular tea-brand Yogi, who recently came under fire for labeling one of their tea-bags as “kombucha tea.” Shaking her head over the matter, Schwarz tells us that even if there were living organisms in the tea bag, they would be killed off instantaneously when the bag became immersed into the hot water, removing the element which defines kombucha as a product. << Continue reading HERE!

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