What is Kombucha? A fermented tea drink rich in probiotics, made with a SCOBY, tea, sugar and water.
What is a SCOBY? Also known as a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, or (SCOBY). Sometimes referred to as the mother, because of its ability to reproduce, growing layer, upon layer; it has a mushroom like appearance (or ‘alien’ to some).
This living organism ferments sweetened tea (by eating sugar) to become the Kombucha beverage. The amount of living yeast it contains gives the Kombucha beverage an active life which continues after decanting it into bottles.
How do you say it? Most people say “com-booch-ah”
Why is it good for you?
- Has anti-cancer properties. Kombucha is very high in Glucaric acid, and recent studies have shown that glucaric acid helps prevent cancer.
- Increases energy: rich in vitamin B1, 2, 6 and 12 to increase energy and relieve stress.
- Kombucha contains glucosamines, a strong preventive and treatment for all forms of arthritis.
- Immune booster: high in antioxidants, kombucha will strengthen your body’s immune system.
- With a significant amount of probiotics, kombucha can repair gut damage and improve digestion.
- Kombucha is a good source of vitamin C.
- Helps the body to detox. Kombucha helps the body to flush out toxic deposits (such as excess cholesterol and uric acid)
- Kombucha is rich in a large variety or organic acids, enzymes and vitamins.
- Contains more beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals than yoghurt.
Colours and varieties: The colour of standard kombucha tea is a light brown colour, similar to plain ‘black’ tea. Colour can change however, with the addition of fruit, herbs, juices or other ingredients.
Texture: The end result of fermented tea is like a lightly effervescent, carbonated drink.
Taste: Plain kombucha is slightly tangy, and should not be overly sweet (as this indicates that the sugar has not been properly consumed by the SCOBY, and the fermentation hasn’t fully occured). The smell can be off-putting for some, and is often quite earthy and pungent, as most fermented things are. The taste though, is really quite pleasant. However, kombucha flavour is versatile and fruit/juice or herbs can be added to personalise your brew.
The taste is entirely dependent on a variety of factors, such as temperature, the type of tea used, sweetener, length of fermentation time and if the tea has gone through a ‘second ferment’ where extra flavours can be added.
Preparation: Preparation is simple. Bring filtered water and tea to the boil, add sugar and let it cool to room temperature. Using a sterilized jar, place SCOBY in the jar (make sure the jar is at room temperature), with some ‘starter tea’ and pour in sweet tea mix. Cover with a tea towel and make sure it is out of direct sunlight, and away from direct heat sources. Fermentation can take anywhere from 3-10 days (this is mainly dependent on temperature- the hotter the weather the faster the fermenting process). The more experienced you are at fermenting, the more aware you are of changes at each stage of fermentation, and can tailor the process to suit your tastes. It takes practice 🙂 Read here for my step by step instructions for brewing kombucha at home.
Uses: Kombucha is most commonly drunk as a probiotic health drink. However, it can be substituted in many cases for apple cider vinegar, used in cleaning products or in salad dressings. Cultures for Health outlines a few more uses here.
Brief History: Kombucha has been drunk in Russia and China for over a centrury (different sources say it was as early as 415AD, some say it was only 100 years ago). It was referred to as the ‘tea of immortality’. The samurai drank it as a staple part of their diet. Kombucha Cultures website also describes Chaga (a birch-tree mushroom) used for hundreds of years as a tea made by the Russian peasants, near Moscow to cure cancer. There is speculation that the Kombucha mushroom is related to the Birch-tree mushroom. Read more here.
Where can I get it?
It can be bought in health food shops, and sometimes in alternative cafes or restaurants. They will normally stock flavoured kombucha, and prices range from $5-$12 per liter (that I have seen). However, because the tea is rich in living probiotics and enzymes, it is best drunk when it is fresh. Often, during the bottling process many of the living benefits can be destroyed. Kombucha is easy, cheap and fun to make, so I would recommend doing it at home!
Kombucha helps the body to self heal and regulate by:
1. Aiding your liver in removing harmful substances,
2. Promoting balance in your digestive system, and
3. Being rich in health-promoting vitamins, enzymes, and acids.
The health benefits of drinking kombucha are astounding. I noticed a difference in my skin, metabolism and energy levels a few days after drinking (on a daily basis). It is cheap and easy to make, and is an interesting hobby that will educate you about living organisms and probiotic-bacteria. It is an awesome project for kids, to watch the SCOBY grow, too.
Here are some recipes for Kombucha: