Kombucha Tea

Kombucha began in the late 19th century in Russia, with the Kombucha culture
called cajnyj grib (meaning “tea mushroom”).  In Russia the drink is called simply
grib (meaning “mushroom”), tea kvass, or just kvass, not to be confused with
regular kvass, traditionally made from water and stale rye bread.
English Kombucha (or Kom-
bocha, “yeast tea”) is often confused with
Japanese Kombucha (meaning “kelp tea”)
which is a dry, powdered drink mix used to
make a kelp based beverage.  In 
Japan the
fermented 
black tea based drink called
Kombucha in the West, is called Kocha
Kinoko, meaning “red tea mushroom.”
In China Kombucha goes by several different
names, among them, jiaomucha meaning
“yeast tea,” hongchajun meaning “red tea
fungus-mushroom,” hongchagu meaning “red
tea mushroom,” and chameijun meaning “tea
mold.”

Kombucha is available

commercially as a ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage, or can be made at home
by creating your own culture to ferment the tea.  The culture consists of
several different 
bacteria and yeasts and looks like a large pancake.  It’s
often called a “mushroom,” a “mother of vinegar,” or a SCOBY, an acronym
for Syymbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, and is scientifically classified
as a zoogleal mat.
The Kombucha culture consists of several different

bacterial species which
ferment the alcohol produced by the yeasts into acetic acid, which increas-
es the acidity, and limits the alcohol content.
The acidity and low alcohol content in Kombucha helps resist con-
taminants from airborne molds and

bacterial spores, making the
Kombucha culture fairly easy to maintain in areas inside the
home that aren’t perfectly sterile.  Although cleanliness is import
ant, the bacteria and yeasts in the Kombucha culture can also
produce antimicrobial defense molecules, preventing the growth
of unwanted contaminants.
Although it’s impossible to gauge precise quantities outside of a
lab analysis, finished Kombucha can contain the following:  mildly
antibacterial acetic acid, alcohol (usually less than 0.05%), B-vitamins, butyric acid, gluconic acid,
lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, and usnic acid.

There are plenty of

health claims surround-
ing Kombucha, some of which are that it
“detoxifys the body and energizes the mind,”
aids in cancer recovery, 
increases energy,
improves eyesight, aids in digestion,
and helps to swallow sticky or starchy
foods like rice and pasta, along with
overall detoxifying properties, helping
the body’s system work properly and
more efficiently. Most claims have not
been verified by research or the med-
ical community, so some may be true,
while others may not.  We won’t know
for sure until more research is done to
verify them.  For now, unfortunately,
you have to proceed with caution and
at your own risk.
To brew your own Kombucha, place a culture in sweetened tea, as it’s the sugar that
creates the fermentation.  Black tea is the usual choice, but white, geen, or a

blend of
teas can be used, although 
herbal teas or scented-flavored teas should be avoided as
the oils may harm the Kombucha culture over time.
To make a standard Kombucha recipe add one cup of sugar per
gallon of tea/water.  Various types of sugar can be used to ferment
the Kombucha, including refined white sugar, evaporated cane
sugar, brown sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, molasses, or pasteur-
rized honey.  Never use raw honey, stevia, xylitol, lactose, or any
type of artificial sweeteners.

The

container should be covered with a muslin or loosely woven
cloth to allow for “breathing” and transfer of gas and to keep out
contaminants such as dust, mold, or other bacteria.  During each
fermentation a baby SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and
Yeast) is produced on the liquid/gas interface.
The surface area is the best location for both aerobic bacteria to form on top of the new
“pancake,” and anaerobic bacteria to form on the bottom The surface area also provides
the right concentration of oxygen for the yeast in the mixture to readily grow.

After the liquid has fermented for about a week or two it should be tapped, reserving
some for the next batch to keep the pH low to prevent contamination.  This process can
then be repeated over and over. In each new batch the “mother” culture will create a
“baby” with the two cultures easily separated like two pancakes, and moved to a new
container, while the yeast in the tapped liquid continues to survive.

A second fermentation can be done by moving the liquid to a covered glass jar for approximately
one week to create more carbonation.  Care should be taken, however, as increased carbon
dioxide can cause bottles to explode.
Many home brewers worry about keeping their Kombucha brew safe and free of contaminants.
When

brewing Kombucha it’s important to have a clean area, the right temperature, and a low pH.
If a culture becomes contaminated it will most likely be from common mold which is often green,
blue, or black.  If mold does start growing on the surface of a Kombucha culture or “mushroom,”
it’s best to dispose of both tea and culture and start over with a new fresh Kombucha culture.
Enjoy.

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