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Introduction to Kombucha Tea - What is it?

With the assistance of a friend, I’ve begun brewing Kombucha Tea, a fermented tea with many perceived health benefits. It has been consumed for centuries across China, Russia and the surrounding areas. While I’ve now read much on Kombucha, I’ve yet to prepare my own. Hence, I won’t be talking about the brewing process until I’ve done it myself. I will soon begin bottling, where the tea goes through a second fermentation and becomes carbonated within the bottle. Bottling isn't necessary, but seems like it will be a fun thing to do. All of this may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but because of the continuous nature of Kombucha, there is reason to go this route. Nevertheless, as I learn more, I will continue to write more.

The distinguishing factor in brewing Kombucha is the mother, which is required, as is the case with vinegar. More accurately, the mother may be referred to as a SCOBY, meaning Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. And that’s exactly what it is.

Very generally, Kombucha tea is brewed by combining black or green tea with sugar and adding the mother. The mother feeds off of the sugar, turning it into helpful acids and enzymes. It’s VERY simple to make once you have a mother.

This is not entirely foreign to me, as I already consume apple cider vinegar on a daily basis. (I am right now.) This may seem counter-intuitive, but your body processes acid, such as that in cider vinegar and Kombucha, into a basic substance, alkalizing your body. I’ve found on Denice Moffat’s web site, a naturopath from Moscow, Idaho, that the ideal bloodstream pH is 7.2, or slightly alkalized. A healthy body will work to regulate itself to this pH. Unfortunately, many of the foods common in an American diet, such as breads, meat, sugar, tobacco, even beans, rice and oatmeal, all make your body more acidic. An acidic body is highly prone to illness, if it is not already ill. Conversely, diseases do not thrive in an alkaline body. Hence, at minimum, it’s helpful to watch the foods you eat.

You can find all of this information here, as well as foods which help alkalize the body: http://www.naturalhealthtechniques.com/BasicsofHealth/alkalize_your...

Now… for a description of the many helpful acids found in Kombucha.

LACTIC ACID: Found in Kombucha in its most potent form, L-(+)-lactic. Lactic acid is essential for the digestive system.

ACETIC ACID: Its main function is to inhibit harmful bacteria. Acetic acid is used as a preservative because of this action. It is also what gives Kombucha that 'kick' to its smell and taste.

MALIC ACID: Is also used in the body's detoxification process.

OXALIC ACID: Encourages the cellular production of energy and is a natural preservative.

GLUCONIC ACID: Is effective against many yeast infections such as Candida and thrush.

BUTYRIC ACID: Is produced by the yeasts and when working with gluconic acid, might help combat yeast infections such as Candida.

NUCLEIC ACID: Works with the body aiding healthy cell regeneration.

AMINO ACID: A group of acids which are the building blocks of protein. Your muscular system is made of proteins.

ENZYMES: Proteins that act as catalysts, speeding the rate at which biochemical reactions proceed.

Kombucha also contains vitamin groups B and C, beneficial yeasts and living bacteria.

As it is made with tea, Kombucha is slightly caffeinated, but the fermentation process destroys much of it. A cup of Kombucha generally yields 20mg of caffeine, or about half as much as in black tea.

Kombucha is slightly alcoholic, typically in the range of .5% to 1% ABV. In other words, you’d need to drink about five to ten bottles of tea to equal a single beer. This small amount of alcohol aids in circulation and the lymphatic system. It also acts as a preservative for the tea, allowing for continual Kombucha brewing and storage without refrigeration.

There are many perceived benefits to drinking Kombucha, (and raw apple cider vinegar), but I will leave you to search that out if you truly want to know. All benefits are very subjective, however, and obviously vary from person to person. I prefer to convey the understanding that Kombucha helps the body regulate and heal itself. It’s not the magic potion; your body is! However, you must supply your body with what it needs to make that happen.

This having been said, if you are interested in Kombucha, as part of the brewing process, mothers form daughters, who, yes, grow up to be mothers! So I'm going to have lots and lots of mothers to share, if you're ever interested. :)


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Comment by Michael Levin on December 30, 2009 at 9:54am

I tried some commercial Kombucha yesterday at the Drunken Monkey in Orlando. It was good. Cost about $2.50. There was another brand for around $3. in several flavors. So, let's hear more about it!
Comment by Michael Levin on September 22, 2009 at 10:43am
Zach - I thought of you this morning because I read something on a Twitter account profile, Gwen Bell mentioned "explosive Kombucha". http://twitter.com/gwenbell. I did a little Google search for Kombucha and learned a bit more about it. So, how is the brewing going?

I visited the Samovar Tea Lounge in Yerba Buena Gardens of San Francisco recently and had the best tea ever. Their menu reads like a tea encyclopedia.
Comment by Zach Lutz on January 23, 2009 at 8:31am
hey mike, what you are seeing is the mother being removed from the brewing container. it's incredibly hardy. once dried out, the mother takes on the appearance and feel of leather, and can be used in many of the same ways as leather. it's only constrained in growth by the size of the container. for the time being, though, that's not my intended use. i'm just looking to brew tea and share my scoby's with others, so they may begin brewing as well. :) should start two new brews next week. i'll post info and pics at that time!
Comment by Michael Levin on January 22, 2009 at 9:06am
Zach, what is the folding I see in the photo?


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