About Kombucha (kom-boo-cha):
This article's content has been inspired by various interviews conducted at Ethos, one my favorite health food restaurants located in Thailand. I'm sure many of you have heard of Kombucha before, but if not Kombucha is a fermented tea. It has various names in other countries such as Tea Kvass (meaning tea wine), Manchurian Mushroom Tea, The Divine Tsche, Russian Mother, or my personal favorite "Hongo Chino" in Spanish. Kombucha is a powerful detoxifier and a probiotic health tonic. It is made from sweet tea which is fermented with a special symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (a SCOBY). The metabolic by-products of the fermentation process, via tea and sugar, include gluconic and glucuronic acids, L-lactic acid, acetic acid, carbonic acid, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, and various enzymes.
Kombucha helps the body detoxify itself and helps prevent toxic overload in at least 2 ways:
- Kombucha contains substantial quantities of glucuronic acid. This gives the body extra glucuronidation (detoxification) capacities which takes the load off the liver. It's important to note that glucuronic acid, apart from its detoxifying abilities, build important polysaccharides such as: Hyaluronic Acid (needed for connective , used in maintaining good skin health and joint), Chondroitin Sulfate (the basic substanance in cartilage, also good for skin health), and Mukoitin Sulfate (for the vitreous of the eye).
- Kombucha contains good bacteria and yeasts which regulate gut flora. This in turn reduces beta glucuronidase production which helps the toxins move through the intestines without being reabsorbed.
The Fungus or SCOBY:
The SCOBY fungus is a jelly-like membrane formed through a symbiosis of yeasts and bacterias. The principal yeast is Schizosaccharomyces pombe. The other common probiotics include: Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. Gluconacetobacter kombuchae and Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis are yeast strains that are unique to Kombucha.
A Brief Kombucha History:
The first recorded use of fermented yeast enzyme tea was during the Chinese Tsin dynasty in 212 BC. From there it is said that Dr. Kombu from Korea brought the tea to Japan to treat the ailing Emperor named Inkyo. The success of the treatment led to a surge in popularity throughout China, Japan, and Korea. It later spread to India and Russia and is now known throughout the world. It has been noted that Kombucha resurfaced in Japan after a Japanese tourist visited Kargasok Russia where she found many to be not only unusually healthy, but also over a hundred years old. The women there were virtually unwrinkled, with very few signs of aging. This Japanese woman was told that the Kargasok, young and old, drank a yeast enzyme tea daily and had done so for generations. It was claimed that this tea was responsible for their health and longevity (along with their stress free livers).
Kombucha, while not a panacea is said to help with:
- Increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune system
- Kidney, liver and gallbladder health
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Nervous stomach and digestion problems
- Chemical sensitivity
- Improving circulation
- Menstrual and menopausal problems
- Multiple sclerosis, arthritis and rheumatic pain
- Normalizing blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Moderation of fluctuating glucose levels
- Weight loss, by stimulating the metabolism
- Anxiety and stress
- Softening wrinkles and scarring, increasing skin elasticity
- Better skin tone and color, fading of brown spots on hands, sunspot removal
- Bronchitis, coughs, asthma, and sinusitis
- Inflamed large and small intestines
- Exposure to radiation
- Preventing and alleviating cancer
- General muscular aches and pains
- Skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, topical ulcers, rashes, boils, warts and fungal infections such as athletes foot
When people claim something can remedy a plethora of illnesses it's easy to become suspicious. It just sounds too good to be true! However, the fact that Kombucha contains glucuronic acid, acts as a general detoxifier, has powerful probiotics which can restore gut health, and also contains a range of important nutrients makes it worthy of serious consideration as a general health tonic.
Curious to know what it takes to make your own Kombucha?
The process is actually quite simple. Step one is to track down your own Kombucha scoby. Ask around at your local health food store or health restaurant. It's even possible that your neighborhood yoga studio could have some good leads. Surely someone will either be brewing their own, or be able to direct you to someone who is. However, if your efforts are not paying off no worries because there's this groovy site called Kombucha Kamp that has everything you'll ever need to know in regards to this subject. Another option of course is to just google "Organic Kombucha Scoby" and you'll get many hits. *Please note that if you find a friend to give you a scoby you'll also need about 2/3 of a cup of "starter liquid" from their previous brew. You can also just buy a bottle of store bought Kombucha and use this as well.
After you've found your scoby you'll need to locate 2 glass jugs (half gallon or gallon sized). Keep in mind that a wide-mouth glass jar will work best (wide mouth so that the scoby can breath and grow). Some people use large canning jars and/or large pyrex bowls (I've read that plastic, wood, or stainless steel can either leach toxins and/or create mold so therefore glass is ideal). Never clean your Kombucha jars with soap as the residue can linger and kill your scoby. Also, it is advised to never refrigerate your scoby, put a lid on your jar, or touch the scoby with dirty hands as all of this can lead to mold growth. Like making beer or wine a sterile environment is required, but the process is not an exact science. It is actually quite difficult to kill your scoby or botch your brew as long as you keep your scoby away from outside bacteria, food, and cold temperatures. Oh, and don't forget to let it breath! A cotton t-shirt or hanky rubber-banded to the top can act as your lid.
Alright so you've tracked down your scoby and your brewing vessels. Next, you'll need some organic raw or white sugar and some organic green or black tea. Yerba mate works too. You can use tea bags or loose-leaf:
The ratio of sugar and tea depends on the size of your container. My container is about 1 gallon so here's my process:
- Pour about 1/2 gallon boiling water into one of my glass vessels.
- Add about 5-7 tsp of loose-leaf tea and 3/4 cup of sugar to the boiling water. *Some recipe call for 1 cup of sugar per gallon, but for me this combo works well.
- Stir this mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved.
- Fill up the rest of the jar will pure water.
- Put a tight lid on this sugar/tea water and let it steep and cool over night. *Try to avoid letting your tea steep for longer than this. If the tea does steep for too long it can become too acidic and therefore affect the color of your scobies, turning them brown in color.
6. In the morning your sugar/tea water will be room-temp.
7. Strain the sugar/tea water and slowly add it to your other glass vessel. This vessel contains your Kombucha starter-liquid plus scoby.
8. Place your brew in an undisturbed area away from food or open windows (I find that the top of my refridgerator is a great place as the fridge's heat gently warms the liquid). Remember it needs room to breath so do not place it inside a closed cupboard. Also beware of an ant or fruit-fly infestation. It's good to secure the breathable fabric with a fitted rubber-band and check often. *If ants starts to creep place a few drops of peppermint essential oil around the base of your jar (those little buggers hate peppermint oil for some reason!).
9. I've found that the brewing process can take anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks depending on the climate that you live in and the temperature of your home. There have been times that I've forgotten about my brew and 3 weeks will pass by! This has greatly increased the health and size of my scobies and the flavor has been fantastic. You just need to keep an eye on it and taste it as you go. If it's too sweet and tastes like tea and sugar you need to go longer. If it's too vinegary you've gone too long. You'll know by the flavor and smell. When you start to see the formation of bubbles you'll know that the fermentation process is underway!
10. Does your Kombucha brew have a slightly effervescent fizz to it?! If so, it may be time to bottle your batch. Use a funnel and pour your finished brew into glass bottles. *Note that you always need to leave some of your finished brew in with your scoby (aka "starter brew). I leave about 1-2 cups as a general rule of thumb, but it depends on the size of your brewing vessel. The amount doesn't really matter, as long as you continue to leave some you'll be alright. So, pour your brew into bottles and seal them shut (a friend of mine uses empty wine bottles with corks - such a good idea!). You can either keep these bottles out in room temp (which can increase the effervescence) or place them inside the fridge. If you are finding that your finished brew is not as fizzy as you'd like don't despair. It takes time and practice to reach your desired flavor and "zing", but the more you brew the healthier your scobies will become which greatly affects the flavor. *My final tip is that the less you handle your Kombucha scobies the better. You don't even need to clean the jar that holds your scobies in between brewing processes (unless absolutely necessary). If you do find that your jar needs a rinse avoid using soap. Remove the scobies by placing them in a clean glass container and simply rinse your vessel with hot filtered water. Then when the jar cools you may return your scobies to their vessel and start brewing!
There also many ways to add flavor and/or spices to your finished Kombucha brew and this process takes place after you've separated the finished brew from your scoby. You can experiment with different flavors such as ginger, masala-chai, jasmine, hibiscus, fresh strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and more!
Have questions or want to learn more do check out Kombucha Kamp's FAQ page.
And I'd LOVE to here about your Kombucha process! Please comment below and tell me how it's going. Let me know if you have any questions or tips & tricks of your own!