Go with your gut: The rise of fermented foods 

Ellen We is Sea to Sky's first kombucha brewer certified by VCH

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - tea time The growth of Kombucha, a naturally fermented tea, is a prime example of the rise in popularity of fermented foods.
  • shutterstock photo
  • tea time The growth of Kombucha, a naturally fermented tea, is a prime example of the rise in popularity of fermented foods.

A food trend that's been growing in popularity in recent years has left a sour taste in the mouths of the health-conscious among us — and that's a good thing. A new report by U.S. marketing firm J. Walter Thompson found that fermented foods are on the rise as "consumers become more sophisticated and confident in their understanding of food."

Obviously fermentation is not a new trend — societies around the globe have been using the technique to preserve foods for centuries. And while the same tradition was never as prevalent in in the West, more and more North Americans are discovering the many health benefits associated with fermentation.

"The reason why people eat fermented foods is because of all of the probiotic microbiome activity within the food," explained Nicolette Richer, nutritionist and co-owner of organic juice and live food bar The Green Moustache. "So what they do is stimulate your digestive tract by providing it with tons of beneficial bacteria that we just can't get from other foods."

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as beverages like kefir and kombucha have found favour with a broader audience for their proven track record in preventing illness, depression and fighting chronic diseases. But one barrier that has kept many in the West from incorporating these foods into their diets has been taste, with many put off by the sourness of most typical fermented products.

With the explosion in popularity of kombucha, a naturally carbonated, fermented tea, and cultured sodas, a fizzy, fermented fruit concoction, people are discovering that there's no need to sacrifice flavour.

"Not everyone likes the textures and flavours of common fermented products, but the one good thing about cultured sodas, kombucha, water kefir or anything along those lines is you drink it, so it doesn't feel like work," said Ellen We, founder of Spark Kombucha and Craft Soda, the first Sea to Sky company certified by Vancouver Coastal Health to brew kombucha. "If you like cranberry soda, you'll like kombucha," We added.

According to Richer, who calls We Whistler's "Queen of Kombucha," she's a prime example of someone making "the most divine fermented products" that are still bursting with flavour.

Evidently consumers agree, with We saying that her products were "exceptionally well received" at last month's Refresh Market in Squamish, the first-time Spark beverages were available to the public.

We has also inked a deal to offer her kombucha and cultured sodas at the Whistler Farmers' Market this summer, where thirsty patrons will get to sample a variety of flavours on tap from her custom-built refrigerated mobile cart.

So far, Spark kombucha, which is made from fermented Namaste Tea and organic cane sugar, is available in raspberry, blueberry ginger and mint lime mojito. The flavours for her "cocktail-inspired" sodas include lemon drop, ginger brew, mojito mint and blueberry smash.

And if you're still feeling hesitant, We has some simple yet sound advice: listen to your gut. "The main benefit of kombucha is feeding your gut the proper bacteria. More and more research is indicating that things like chronic diseases and depression all come from poor gut maintenance," she said. "It's interesting how people say 'go with your gut; it's your second brain.' It's really quite true in that it monitors the rest of your body and helps it do what it needs to do to detox, maintain a balance and digest your foods properly."

You can try Spark kombucha and sodas at the Whistler Farmers' Market Street Party on May 17 as part of the Great Outdoors Festival, and at the market every Sunday this summer starting June 21.

Visit www.sparkkombucha.com for more information.

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