Anita-Clare has become a fermentation enthusiast. She loves the health benefits and I am happy to say I am a willing guinea- pig and a happy recipient! We’ve already written about Kimchi and Sauerkraut, today it is the turn of Kombucha.
Kombucha (Russian: chaynyy grib Chinese: chájūn , Korean: hongchabeoseotcha, Japanese: kōcha-kinoko , is a slightly bubbly, fermented drink of sweetened black and/or green tea. It is made by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or “SCOBY”. Kombucha probably originally came from Northeast China or Manchuria, then travelled to east Russia around 1910 and from there, came to Europe. In Russian, kombucha is called chainyy grib (чайный гриб, literally “tea fungus/mushroom”), and the fermented drink is called chainyy grib, grib (“fungus; mushroom”), or chainyy kvas чайный квас (“tea kvass”).
Kombucha was highly popular and seen as a health food in China in the 1950s and 1960s so lots of families grew kombucha at home. There is nothing to suggest historically that it was used in ancient China or Japan. A kombucha culture is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), containing Acetobacter (a genus of acetic acid bacteria) and one or more yeasts. In Chinese, the microbial culture is called haomo in Cantonese, or jiaomu in Mandarin, (Chinese: 酵母; literally: “fermentation mother”). It is also known as Manchurian Mushroom.
The bacterial component of a kombucha culture almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus (formerly Acetobacter xylinum), which ferments the alcohol(s) produced by the yeast(s) into acetic acid, increasing the acidity whilst limiting the kombucha’s alcohol. The number of bacteria and yeasts that produce acetic acid increases for the first four days of fermentation, decreasing thereafter. Sucrose gets broken down into fructose and glucose, and the bacteria and yeast convert the glucose and fructose into gluconic acid and acetic acid, respectively. G. xylinum is responsible for most or all the physical structure of a kombucha mother, and has been shown to produce microbial cellulose, probably due to experiment and selection over time for stronger cultures by brewers.
The acidity and mild alcoholic element of kombucha resists contamination by most airborne moulds or bacterial spores and inhibits the growth of harmful microorganisms such as E. Coli. As a result, kombucha is relatively easy to maintain as a culture without needing to have sterile conditions. There are no clinical study supports claims that Kombucha can cure disease but the American Cancer Society States that “Kombucha tea has been promoted as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer. Supporters say that Kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process.” However it goes on to say that “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Kombucha tea promotes good health, prevents any ailments, or works to treat cancer or any other disease.
Kombucha couldn’t be easier to make. It can be infused with fruits and spices and once bottled it will only improve in your fridge. For our first batch I decided to get a ‘kit’ but you really need not so long as you have:
- Tea bags ( black tea is best, we’ve used Ooolong which is blue, since when did I ever conform?)
- Scoby ( we had to buy ours initially but each batch will yield one scoby. If you live near we’ll have some soon)
- A large glass jar ( a pickle jar/mason or kilner)
- A piece of cloth and an elastic band to secure it
- Water ( enough to fill the jar 3/4 full)
- Sugar ( 1 cup/ 240g we used white sugar )
Sterilise your glass jar. Place eight teabags and in the bottom and pour in the hot water. Allow to brew for an hour and the liquid cool enough for you to dip a finger in comfortably. Remove the teabags and place the scoby in the infusion. Place the cloth over top of the jar and secure with the elastic band. keep the jar at room temperature and brew for 7-10 days, periodically checking the scoby and the brew. Once the brew is finished bottle it and drink at your leisure. We’ll be back once our brew is ready and infusing it with fruits and spices. The key here is to experiment and we look forward to seeing your results.