Kombucha Q&A with Our Wonder Drink Expert
Have you ever wondered what a scoby is or what makes kombucha so special? We sat down with our resident Kombucha expert, Bianca McVaugh to learn more!
Q: What is Kombucha and why do you think it has gotten so big recently?
A: At its most basic definition, kombucha is fermented tea. It’s sweet, sour, bubbly, and a bit earthy. In recent years, consumers have become more aware of the importance of balance in the gut, while at the same time looking for healthier soda alternatives. Kombucha is a great beverage that fits both ideas. The fermentation process produces many compounds that allow the good bacteria in our gut to thrive.
Q: Can you go a little deeper into how it’s made and the benefits that come from that?
A: Kombucha is made by adding yeast and bacteria cultures to sweetened brewed tea. Over time, these cultures convert the sugar into acids and other components. When consumed, these organic acids have an important role in keeping the balance in your gut. Tea also contains naturally-occurring polyphenols which are antioxidants. Other byproducts of the fermentation process may include carbon dioxide and alcohol. However, Wonder Drink uses a proprietary process to ensure that no alcohol is left over after fermentation.
Q: Okay, talk to us about the SCOBY.
A: SCOBY stands for “Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” As the bacteria and yeast munch on the sugars in the tea, they rapidly multiply and release strands of cellulose. The abundance of yeast and bacteria, along with the cellulose, form a gelatinous mat that floats on top of the tea. Sometimes the SCOBY is also called the “Mother” because it can be split up and used to start new Kombucha batches. At Wonder Drink, we use standardized cultures of bacteria and yeast that occur in SCOBY to ensure consistent quality and safety.
Q: How do you develop new flavors? What is that process like?
A: All of our new flavor innovation starts off with consumer needs in mind. This is a very iterative process involving various stakeholders. We believe any successful creation depends on finding that right balance between art and science. In our brainstorming sessions, we discuss new concepts, taste new ingredients, then proceed to a rapid prototyping session in Kombucha, followed by lots of informal and formal taste tests to get the flavors just right.
Q: Do you go through a lot of new flavors before you land on one you actually release?
A: Many of our ideas evolve into others by the time the product is “finished”. We may decide that a combination of flavors that we initially thought would be great together may not be. In that case, we’ll shift gears until we land on something that works. Our team has an infinite amount of ideas – but we can only launch so many items at a time!
Q: What makes Wonder Drink different from other Kombucha brands?
A: Wonder Drink has been around for 20 years! We know kombucha inside and out. We pride ourselves on having something for everyone – kombucha newbies and kombucha aficionados. Our new line of prebiotic kombuchas is also the first and only prebiotic kombucha on the market, giving you even more potential functionality from your ‘booch.
Q: What do you think people should know before purchasing kombucha?
A: There is a lot of misconception regarding probiotics in kombucha. The yeast and bacteria that ferment your tea are most likely not probiotics. Unless probiotics are added back in after fermentation, the main functionality from kombucha will always be the organic acids and tea polyphenols.
Since fermentation is a living process, there can be batch to batch variations. Many brands out there may not deliver the same product from one batch to the next. Wonder Drink has perfected its process over the years and is able to deliver a consistent product every time.
Q: What’s a prebiotic?
A: A prebiotic is a fiber that acts as food for probiotics. Your gut contains trillions of bacteria, some of which can be considered probiotics. By feeding these probiotics with prebiotics, you may be able to shift the balance of bacteria in your gut to promote the “good” bacteria over the “bad” bacteria. This can leave you with a much happier digestive system.
Kombucha has often been associated with probiotics, but probiotics are living and therefore their numbers will reduce over time. They may not survive in kombucha, or they may not make it through your stomach alive to colonize your gut. Prebiotics allow us to deliver a benefit to the probiotics that are already in your digestive system.
Q: What is the difference between your prebiotic, prebiotic plus and original?
A: Our Original line has been around for many years and is what we built our brand on. Products in this line have a rather nice but strong sweet and sour apple cider vinegar-like taste, for those who love and enjoy an authentic tasting Kombucha. The main benefits of the original line are from tea polyphenols, organic acids, and added prebiotics, delivered in 5 great flavor options.
Our Prebiotic line was established to give new Kombucha consumers a lighter but equally refreshing taste and functionality.
Our latest line, Prebiotic Plus, goes one step further and gives additional functionality on top of the prebiotics. Each flavor offers a specific functionality using unique ingredients.
Q: What is it about Prebiotic Plus that allows you to provide specific functionality like Radiance or Focus?
A: Each Prebiotic Plus blend was created with specific ingredients to offer the named functionality.
Our Prickly Pear Cascara Focus blend contains Coffee Berry Extract (with chlorogenic acids) and Ashwagandha, an adaptogen, known for stress management so you can stay more focused throughout your day.
Our Turmeric Ginger Radiance blend contains 100% daily value of biotin and Sea Buckthorn Extract, a super fruit with Radiant antioxidants.
Our Salted Watermelon Hydration blend contains B vitamins and electrolytes from Watermelon and Coconut Water to provide an extra boost to your daily hydration.
Q: Lastly, which is your favorite flavor and how would you describe the taste?
A: Tough question! It often depends on my mood. I like Apple Mint a lot because it is not a flavor combination that is often considered, but the bright tart green apple profile really works with the sweet mint. The Prickly Pear Cascara is also a great pick me up. It is a little more tart than some of our other flavors but is balanced out nicely with the subtle Prickly Pear and Cascara notes in the background.
Bianca McVaugh is a Senior Scientist at Pure Steeps Beverage where she manages commercialization of kombucha, cold brew coffee, and tea products. She holds an MS in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and currently resides with her husband in New Jersey.