The Truth About Kombucha…and What is Matcha?

Healthy food trends fade in and out of style faster than Instagram can keep up with. Think avocados, kale, smoothie bowls sprinkled with chia seeds, and pressed juices. They’ve all had their 15 minutes of fame with health food nuts fanatically pimping them out all over the Internet.

Two newcomers have started making waves in this world of hip healthy foods: kombucha and matcha. Both are variations of tea hailing from Asia, with histories of having incredible healing properties. Supposedly the cure for anything, these drinks have been receiving a lot of hype and attention, but with so many claims we can’t trust everything we hear.

Let’s break it down and get the truth on these trendy teas.

Chelsea Portner

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Called the “mushroom tea,” this drink garnered a following and is starting to emerge from the underground into the mainstream.

What it is: Bubbly and fermented, kombucha is made from a base of black or green tea and sugar. Colonies of yeast and bacteria are added and the drink is left to ferment. A rubbery disk of the bacteria forms on top, and the drink becomes naturally carbonated. The drink is said to be a medical elixir from China, but home brewing the drink took off in the United States in the 90s. The taste is tangy and almost vinegary, and often comes with added flavors like watermelon or strawberry.  

Claims vs the Real Deal: Kombucha has a bit of a cult following. There are claims all over the internet that the drink cures cancer, boost immune system health, provides anti-aging properties, detoxes the liver, aides with digestion, and increases energy.

The truth is that very little research has been done on the beverage. A number of nutritionists say that the healthy probiotics that potentially exist in the drink will probably help with digestion and make your gut feel good. And because it is made with caffeinated tea that drink will undoubtedly provide a boost in energy. Other than that, very few claims can be confirmed.

Where to Find It: Kombucha has popped up more frequently in recent years. In Syracuse, it can always be found at Strong Hearts Café and Wegman’s. If you are a member of the Syracuse Real Food Co-op they also carry the GT’s Synergy brand of the tea.  

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This espresso alternative has the potential to start popping up in more and more coffee shops.

What it is: Matcha is green tea that was raised in special growing conditions and has been grinded into a fine powder. Originally from Japan, matcha has been used for centuries in tea ceremonies. It is bright vibrant green and is traditionally made by being whisked directly into hot, but not boiling water. It has a fresh and grassy taste. Often served in small portions or mixed into other concoctions, a tiny pinch of the powder packs a punch.

Claims vs the Real Deal: Matcha enthusiasts believe the green drink prevents disease, is packed with antioxidants, contains anti-aging properties, improves cardiovascular health, detoxes the body and blood, and prevents cancer and HIV. These are hefty claims for the tiny plants.

However some of these do hold true. A study by the Journal of Chromatography A found that matcha contains three times the amount of a phytochemical compound called EGCG than regular green tea. This compound acts as an antioxidant that does help fight viruses, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

On top of that the drink packs a caffeinated punch, but instead of a jittery hit and crash, matcha provides a relaxed alertness.  This is why it gets compared to espresso because it is consumed in such small portions, but provides a highly caffeinated feeling.

Where to Find It:  Around campus you can find matcha in a few places. Starbucks Green Tea Latte is made using matcha powder. Café Kubal carries a Sweet Matcha starting at $4.30. Melo Velo Café in Westcott carries a Matcha Frappe for $4.75.  

While both these teas come loaded with claims of this and that, it seems we cannot determine how beneficial they actually are. This doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying and could definitely be an interesting alternative to your PSL or daily iced coffee from Dunkin.

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