Monday, 6 June 2016


Kombucha is a home fermented probiotic drink. It tastes quite like a nice fizzy lemonade. I am enjoying it from the fridge in these summer days. You make Kombucha from a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) which is like a flat mushroom which grows on top of the fermentation.

The culture, also sometimes referred to as the "mother," resembles a light brown, tough, gelatinous disk, which is a living, growing organism. With each batch of the tea, the organism can regenerate and create a new culture called the "baby," which can be shared with a friend much like the sharing of a sour dough starter.

It may have been introduced to Japan by a Korean physician by the name of Kombu around 415 AD. Today the tea - once routinely used by Samurai - is widely used again in Japan. Kombucha appeared in Germany about the turn of the century from Russia. This fermented tea drink became quite popular across Europe until World War II with the shortage of tea and sugar.

For hundreds of years a tea has been made from Chaga (a birch-tree mushroom) by the Russian peasants of the Alexandrove district near Moscow to cure cancer. There is speculation that the Kombucha mushroom is related to the Birch-tree mushroom.
Visitors to Russia can observe the following typical sight on Moscow street corners: a large metal drum, larger than a beer keg, turned sideways and mounted on wheels. A spigot on one end releases a brown bubbly liquid into a glass. Customers line up to pay for a draught, down it in several gulps and return the glass to the vendor who wipes it clean for the next customer.

The beverage enjoyed by Muscovites, other city dwellers and villagers throughout Russia is kvass, a lacto-fermented beverage made from stale rye bread. It tastes like beer but is not alcoholic. Kvass is considered a tonic for digestion, an excellent thirst quencher and, consumed after vodka, an antidote to a hangover.

It is also recognized that kvass is safer to drink than water. Tolstoy describes how Russian soldiers took a ladle full of kvass before venturing from their barracks onto the Moscow streets during a cholera epidemic. Because kvass protects against infectious disease, there is no worry about sharing the glass.

Russians have been enjoying kvass for at least one thousand years. Wrote Pushkin: “Their kvass they needed like fresh air. . . ” Lomonosov, a prominent scientist of peasant origins lived in “unspeakable poverty” as a student. “With a daily allowance of three kopecks, all I could have by way of food was half a kopeck’s worth of bread and half a kopeck’s worth of kvass. . . I lived like this for five years, yet did not forsake study.”

Sometimes called "mushroom tea," kombucha has been associated with a long list of health benefits.  It's helpful bacteria that support digestion and the immune system. It also contains enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. But relatively little scientific evidence has confirmed the health claims of traditional cultures drinking the tea.  Recently, researchers from the University of Latvia gathered 75 studies attesting to the proven health properties of kombucha.[1]

For each litre of Kombucha you make, the recipe is:
1 litre water
1 green tea bag
1 black tea bag
4 Tablespoons Sugar (80-100g)

Be careful not to use hot tea near the SCOBY & allow I to cool.
Sterilise thoroughly, unless you are using a batch process.
Initial fermentation: 7-14 days. Secondary fermentation can be more than a month (I’ve never reached a limit where it becomes unpalatable).

[1] Ilmara Vina et al, "Current Evidence on Physiological Activity and Expected Health Effects of Kombucha Fermented Beverage." J Med Food 17 (2) 2014, 179–188 DOI: 10.1089/jmf.2013.0031

North Utsire

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