My first sip of kombucha did not go as planned. I'd heard about this fizzy, fermented tea of sorts. I'd heard it might serve to settle your guts after you'd possibly abused them by eating too many cheeseburgers and drinking too many Manhattans. I'd heard it had probiotics, which sounded like it made sense -- isn't that what the queen of healthy guts, Jamie Lee Curtis is always talking about? I'd also heard that it tasted really weird, which is ordinarily something I'm keen decide for myself. But for some reason, whether it's the bottles it is usually packaged in or the hefty price tag, I still expected that it was going to taste vaguely like juice.
For those of you who are not already laughing at me, kombucha does not taste like juice. Let me repeat that, just in case you are about to take your first sip: kombucha does not taste like juice. Kombucha tastes like what it is -- fermented tea. In case you are having an understandably difficult time guessing what fermented tea tastes like, I have another descriptive flavor word for you: vinegary.
Those who know me will report with absolute certainty that I really like vinegar. I really like kimchi. I really like beer. Fermented foods and I are bros. Which is why, when I opened my first bottle of kombucha, took a big gulp, widened my eyes into saucers and spit it immediately into a nearby garbage can, my husband was very surprised.
"It's vinegar soda!" I shouted (I did, actually, shout that -- apologies to the other people on the train platform that day). I tried to choke down a few more sips, but ultimately resigned myself to failure and threw the bottle away. Over the next few weeks, I acted truly grumpy about this maybe-health-food-but-maybe-not that everyone else seemed obsessed with. I made barfing noises when someone mentioned it. I really, really wanted to hate it.
But. Slowly, surely, after one too many cheeseburgers or Manhattans, kombucha started staring at me in bodegas. It was looking right through me, daring me to give it another shot. I am rarely content to not like something after only trying it once, and I knew it had to be done. One day, on my lunch break, without friends or co-workers, I slipped into a deli I don't normally go to, like I was trying to cover my tracks or something. I bought a kombucha, dealt with the fact that it costs as much as a pint of beer in a bar, and gave it another shot.
It IS vinegar soda, but guess what -- I like vinegar and I like soda. Does it repair my gut health after abuse? I have no idea. But it does serve to settle my stomach, and at least for a little while provide me with the satisfaction of doing something good for myself. Even if that is an illusion, it usually helps me think more clearly, motivate to do other good things for myself and also get ready to eat another cheeseburger and drink another Manhattan.
Oops, I accidentally love kombucha.