It's Alive!!! The Truth about Kombucha
You’ve seen it in Whole Foods or other natural food stores; the blends of mysterious Kombucha “tea” as it is usually called. Sometimes it’s mixed with other flavors, similar to juice or apple cider, with slight carbonation from its fermentation process. But what is it? Is it really alive? Should I drink the slimey stuff? Is it safe to make it at home?
Kombucha tea is made from the fermentation of a scobie and it is believed to have curative properties, especially in regards to improving the digestive system, boosting the immune system and increasing energy levels. It is also known for helping the skin, promoting well being, and detoxifying. Kombucha has been referred to as a mushroom or Manuchurian mushroom. For centuries it has reputedly been used in Asian and Russian countries. The scobie, also called the mushroom, is not eaten. A tea is made from fermenting the mushroom in water, sugar, and tea (green and / or black) for a week to a month. Sometimes apple cider vinegar or original “culture” is added, meaning tea from the last batch (similar to making buttermilk – using previous cultures to culture the next batch). Baby scobies (“daughter mushrooms”) are produced during this process and can be used to create more and exponentially more kombucha teas.
What is a scobie (a.k.a. kombucha mushroom)? It’s lichen, bacteria, yeast, nutrients, and health-promoting substances. It is a combination of bacteria and fungal yeast cells, which live symbiotically.
Why is it so good? It boosts energy naturally, detoxifies, may slow or reverse the aging process, and fights diseases like AIDS, MS (multiple sclerosis), and cancer.
Rules to Live By
- Clean, clean, clean – because you’re fermenting this liquid, you’re growing a culture, and then you’re consuming it, cleanliness is of the utmost importance! Wash your hands. Have a clean empty sink to work in.
ONLY use stainless steel, glass, or clean wooden utensils. Invest in a clean, stainless steel pot. Use a glass dish to store the scobie in while you make a new batch of tea. Remove all jewelry off your fingers. Other metals can kill a scobie.
Room termperature everything, all the time. Extreme temperatures can kill a scobie. In warm, humid environments, people leave their kombucha teas on the counter. Here, in Northern California, I place mine in the back of my pantry on the floor.
Dark and quiet. It’s a living organism and it’s growing. Have you ever made bread? Have you ever watched it fall when a door was slammed? Store your scobie in a safe, quiet, dark place so it can do it’s thing. This way you avoid many mishaps, dirt, spillage, disruption…
And no, you don't have to drink the slimey part! It's part of the culture. The benefits come from the liquid.
How Do I Make It?
- Start with a scobie: You can buy the drink for $2-5 per 16 oz. bottle, but why? Kombucha scobies (or mushrooms) can be found: (1) through friends or random strangers met at health food stores, (2) on Craigslist or other networking boards (like at your local health food store), and (3) on the internet. Obviously, it seems safest to obtain a scobie from a person deemed trustworthy because you’re going to make a concentrated tea from this stuff that you’re going to proceed to drink! If you’re desperate to make it and can’t find flesh and blood to give it to you, turn to the internet, and search wisely. 2. Take a glass jar – as big as the amount of liquid you want to make!3. In a stainless steel pot, boil water. Turn off heat. Add 5-7 green and / or black tea bags (I use organic. Ask the previous owner what they were using and transition slowly, so as not to disrupt the scobie, possibly killing it). And add 1 to 2 cups of sugar (if you have a smaller jar, use one; if it’s extra-large, use two). 4. When the liquid is room temperature (neither hot, nor cold), remove the tea bags with a wooden or stainless steel spoon and pour the liquid into your glass jar. 5. Add in the scobie with the reserve liquid it came with.6. Cover with a piece of cloth (I cut up an old T-shirt). Secure it with a rubber band. 7. Wait. Some say a week. I aim for 28 days. I’ve fermented for as long as three (3) months, but don’t recommend it.
Safe, Fun, & Easy!
Have fun! Ask me if you have questions! Check out the following links if you want more information:
Balch, P.A., (2000). Prescription for nutritional healing. Avery Books: New York.
Haas, E.M. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The Complete guide to diet & nutritional medicine. Celestial Arts: Berkeley, CA.
Kirschmann, J.D. (2007). Nutrition almanac – 6th ed. McGraw Hill: NY.