What is that fizzy brown drink the guy across the café is so smugly sipping? It’s not coffee (so boring) it’s not a Chai Latte (so passé) it’s Kombucha and it’s the latest miracle drink to achieve platinum status in the (big money) beverage market. Celebrities are gushing over it; Talk show hosts are featuring it on their shows and the community is literally abuzz with it. Read on and find out why Kefir Grains.
Kombucha may sound like a dance, but it’s actually a sweetened tea (typically black tea) that has been fermented by a mass of microorganisms consisting primarily of bacterium xylinum and yeast cultures called a Kombucha colony. Although it is new to the west the drink actually dates back to the Quin Dynasty in China where it was poetically referred to as the immortal- health elixir because it was believed to balance the spleen and stomach and aid in digestion. Eventually news of this drink reached Russia and then Eastern Europe sometime around the early modern age when tea became an affordable drink accessible to all and not just the elite.
Kombucha is actually a Japanese word that refers to a different tea- like beverage made from powdered or finely cut brown kelp, not the fermented tea beverage so popular in the west. It is similar to a thin soup and typically consumed by ailing individuals to help them convalesce. The Japanese name for the drink mad from the tea plant is Kocha -Kinoko which means black tea mushroom.
The Russians also have a version of the tea which is referred to as Grib (mushroom) or tea Kvass, and it has been wildly popular since its introduction in the early 1990s. The Kombucha culture looks similar to a mushroom, hence the term, but many others refer to it as SCOBY, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
The popularity of Kombucha is due in part to the many medicinal properties it is believed to possess. There are anecdotal reports of it being effective against cancer and various other ailments and many advocates believe it aids in detoxifying and cleansing the liver, but no clinical studies have been performed to verify or debunk these claims.
Whether or not Kombucha can help cure cancer or help an ailing liver remains to be seen, but it does contain many pro-biotic cultures which are believed to aid in digestion, active enzymes, and anti-oxidants which are believed to be anti cancer agents. Unfortunately if a person is home brewing the drink there is no way to find out the quantity of these unless a sample is sent to a lab, so there is no way of knowing if the proper dose is being consumed.
Kombucha can be brewed at home and there are several ways to do it, although the preferred method is with sugar and tea. Almost any beverage containing caffeine and sugar will allow the culture to grow, although the taste could be less than delicious, and possibly unpalatable.
One popular method is placing the existing Kombucha culture in a jar, preferably a three liter glass container then pouring cold black tea with sugar over it. In a week to twelve days the first portion of the tea is poured off to be consumed and more tea and sugar is added to the jar to continue the fermentation process. A mature Kombucha is almost a half inch thick and will produce a portion of tea daily. As the culture grows slices can be removed and used to start another jar.