Aug 06, 2014, 08:24AM

The Cult of Kombucha

The ancient Chinese knew what they were talking about.

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We sell many brands of kombucha tea at the juice bar where I work. People often approach me and ask: is kombucha good for the immune system? Will it detoxify my body? Can it help burn fat? Will it give me energy? Does it cure cancer?

My answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal yes. Kombucha will fill your heart with joy. It’ll mend your broken relationships and forge new ones. It’ll enlighten and send you on a quest for knowledge. Kombucha will elevate you to God status.

At least I wish I could say that, since those idiots would believe it. Instead I have to be deceptively vague so we don’t get sued. My auto-response is: “Well, some people claim that kombucha flushes out their toxins,” whatever that means.

Kombucha revivalists are similar to hardcore Jesus freaks. They’re always trying to convert me, and when I ask them to back up their claims with proof, they respond the same way: “It’s easy to have faith when there’s proof right in front of you, it’s harder when you simply have to believe it exists. You will be rewarded for your conviction.”

People probably believe kombucha is a cure-all for the same reason that they think drinking one ounce of wheat grass juice will compensate for a week of eating fast food or that bee pollen will prevent them from ever catching a cold. It’s a pretty idea. I often mentally compare my regular kombucha customers with kids who buy X-ray glasses from comic book ads. They can’t help but believe these wild claims even though subconsciously they know they’re being ripped off.

Never mind that there’s no scientific research to validate the health benefits of kombucha. Apparently, anecdotal evidence is all that believers need. Skeptics beware, members of the cult of kombucha will probably point you to websites like this and this, where hypotheticals are posed (“Want to get rid of sickness in your body?”) and claims are made (“Kombucha aids digestion and gut health”).

Nothing is definitive, because as noted above, there is no scientific evidence to validate the health benefits of kombucha. Maybe it does cure cancer and hepatitis and AIDS, but I doubt it. For now, I’ll trust the Mayo Clinic, where it’s thought that kombucha is nothing more than sugary tea.

There is one reason to drink it, though: it tastes good. Sometimes that should be enough.

  • I've got to start hanging out at the juice bar. These people crack me up!

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  • Kombucha is just another part of the health machine designed to make money. None of this stuff is any better for you than any other food, it's just more expensive. Who knows what the next buzz food will be.

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