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Health, Home, and Happiness: Fermented Sweet Tea- Kombucha!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fermented Sweet Tea- Kombucha!

Kombucha- also known as SCOBY, Mother, Baby, Mushroom, Tea Beast- it all is on the weird side of traditional foods, but is interesting nonetheless! I finally made my first kombucha last month.  I followed Briana's directions of making a strong tea, adding sugar (yes, refined sugar is called for in this Nourishing Traditions recipe!), the mushroom, and letting it ferment at room temperature for a week.  I got my mushroom from a friend, but they are available to buy from Cultures for Health.

Picture is my first batch of kombucha ready to go in the fridge, and the mother (mushroom) still in the glass jar waiting to be re-filled with sweet tea to ferment again.

My first batch didn't produce a baby, but I asked about it on Facebook and it's most likely because I had the mother refrigerated prior to use. Now if I need to set the mushroom aside between uses I cover with some kombucha and keep in a mason jar covered with a cloth napkin on my counter.

While it was fermenting, I looked for more information on this little concoction.  Interesting stuff!

What is it?
The Kombucha mushroom is not really a mushroom,  or even related to mushrooms, in reality it is a symbiotic relationship between a number of bacteria (beneficial) and special yeast cultures. The symbiotic nature of the bacteria and yeast ferments sweetened tea to become kombucha tea, a refreshing, naturally carbonated beverage used for over two thousand years as a refreshing beverage as well as a beneficial tonic.
Source: FreeWebs/Kombucha

Potential Health Benefits:

Kombucha is a culture, so it's full of probiotics like lactofermented veggies and yogurt.  It's a little bit of an acquired taste, but once you are hooked it's a wonderful natural substitute for soda.  The culturing process brings out more nutrients from the tea.  Kombucha is said to help CFS and EBV, detoxify the liver, prevent acid reflux, be helpful to reduce alcohol cravings for recovering alcoholics (see below for precautions with that), provide B vitamins, and more (you can read a lot of incidental findings on Earth Clinic).


What to watch for when making kombucha: Watch for fuzzy mold to develop- if it does, throw it out. I seem to have really good results with my ferments/cultures and have never had to throw anything out, so I think this would be pretty rare.

Potential Side Effects: Kombucha can be detoxifying, and just like strong probiotics, coconut oil, or epsom salts, it's best to start slow to see how you react to the detoxifying properties.  I tried just half a glass at first, and it didn't bother me.  If you have liver issues/hepatitis, do your own research, there is some controversy with whether kombucha helps or harms in regards to hepatitis.

Alcohol content: It has a low alcohol content. This seems to be controversial, but I feel like I've had a bit of alcohol it when I drink a large glass.  I normally don't drink, so I'm more sensitive than most people would be.  Personally, I avoid alcohol because I have no desire to experience it's affects, and I think I can avoid that by drinking (ahem) less than a quart of kombucha at a time. For children it's recommended to water it down. Kombucha is sold in health food stores, and doesn't require you be over 21 or older to buy (I think here you have to be 21 to buy nonalcoholic beer even!) so it must be pretty low content.  It's good to keep in mind anyway.

More Kombucha on other blogs:
Food Renegade tells how to make a scoby from store bought kombucha.
Hartke Is Online has a post about making kombucha from apple juice rather than tea.
GNOWFGLINS uses honey or unrefined sugar in hers, and answers a lot of questions in her post.

Is Kombucha something you're already doing? Something you'd like to try? 

(part of fight back fridays!)

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Blogger Natural5 said...

We drink 12 oz daily here, 2 of my sons & myself.
I have gotten fuzzy scoby's when I have given up on a gallon & left it there for many months, but usually, when I leave one too long, it turns to vinegar, which I use for hair washing & cleaning in place of apple cider vinegar.
I've recently started using green tea - not sure it works (fizzes) quite as well as black. Previous attempts with rooibos (read online that it would work) were not very successful.
After reading about adding fruit when decanting, tried blueberries, cranberries & various jams - worked well. Recently read about adding clear juice, so tried w/ apple & white grape, but they seemed to add a funky taste.
There are several Yahoo groups about Kombucha...

June 3, 2010 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Evelyn in Canada said...

My daughter and I have been drinking kombucha (we call it "Scooby Juice") for months now. I always have it sit for a few weeks before bottling because I find it fizzes more, or maybe that has more to do with how long it has been bottled. Anyway, I use black tea and regular sugar, but sometimes add dried orange peel and ginger to it, or we water it down with fruit juice when we serve it. I like it best that way.

June 3, 2010 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Farmgirl Cyn said...

I've made a few batches so far, and since I'm the only one that drinks it, it goes a long way. I think the alcohol, if any, is negligible, and nothing to be concerned about. I drink about 12-16 per day, and even drinking it in the evening doesn't seem to bother me. I was concerned because of the caffeine in the black tea, but so far I haven't noticed it affecting me. For my 2nd ferment, in the bottles, I add 2-3 pieces of ginger. Leave it on the counter for a couple of days, then refrigerate. Lately I have been adding some concentrated cherry juice to my glass for a fruity change. LOVE the ginger tho, and won't make it without it.

June 3, 2010 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger anadelle said...

Kombucha Mimosa = kombucha and fresh squeezed OJ. So good!

June 3, 2010 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Natural5 said...

Raw ginger or crystallized?

June 3, 2010 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Farmgirl Cyn said...

Raw ginger. I take a chunk, peel it, slice it in matchstick size, and put about 3 pieces per 16 oz bottle.

June 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Cara @ Health Home and Happiness said...

Such good ideas! I can't wait to spice up my kombucha routine :)

June 3, 2010 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I drink it when I can afford it. Last time I tried it I think I forgot & left it on top of the fridge too long! Must try it again beacuse we all love it and I know it's easy to make. My farmer friend is always adding things to make different flavors - leftover apple cidar w/mulling spices was my fave! My friends think the 'mushroom' is gross though - lol!
Do you think it's ok for pregnancy - we are just expecting again but I'm used to drinking it so I assume the detox affect wouldn't be high?

June 3, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Cara @ Health Home and Happiness said...

Personally I'd stop for the first trimester, but I'd be fine with 4 ounces or so the rest of pregnancy :) I think everyone's different with what they're comfortable with- I drink raw milk during any part of pregnancy, but avoid herbs and alcohol (even the little bit in this) and caffeine for the first 12 weeks or so.

June 3, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Natural5 said...

I kept drinking my regular 12oz a day during mt recent pregnancy & now have a happy, healthy & very alert 15 lb 2 mo old baby boy!

June 3, 2010 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Melodie said...

Mm. I haven't had kombucha tea for years. My roommate and her partner used to forage for it and make it for us. It was amazing. I wish she had taken me along on those adventures. This would be a great addition to my Vegetarian Foodie Fridays linky if you are so inclined to link up.

June 3, 2010 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

I love it too! I've tried grean tea, ginger tea, and black tea. I prefer black tea. I've added fruit juice at the end which is good. But I prefer it straight - fresh and fizzy.

June 3, 2010 at 11:36 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Our family of six has five gallons of Kombucha "brewing" right now on top of the fridge and a gallon and half in our fridge ready to drink. It is our morning breakfast drink. Ours sits for two weeks. We like fizzy with a slight bit to it. It is better then pop anyday!


Oh, I never drink alcohol beverages. If I do, then I get "loopy" quickly. I have never experienced this with Kombucha. But then we only drink a glass every morning!

June 4, 2010 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger the clark clan said...

Hey Cara, Great article! As a long time Kombucha maker and teacher I can appreciate your endeavor! I gave you some link love on my Thoughts on friday here: If you need anymore information about Kombucha, let me know!!!

June 4, 2010 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Deb the Turtle (slow and steady ya know?!?) said...

I haven't had kombucha in months! Thanks for reminding me - think I'll get some on hand for next week's gluten purge :)

June 4, 2010 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Glad to have found you! I love your site and great advice. Raising a healthy family is such a wonderful passion to share.


June 5, 2010 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger EllaJac said...

I've made kombucha in the past, and have started again lately. I did recently google for some more info on it, and ran across a site with a lot of information that didn't seem the usual claims. I forget where/who it was, but some guy had (apparently) tested several strains of kombucha for a bunch of stuff.. Stuff related to many of the health claims. B vitamins, for instance, and the "glucaronic" acid that is oft-hailed. His results were less than stellar, I do remember. Have you run across anything like this, or have any thoughts on it? It kinda took the wind out of my sails a bit (I don't remember what else it said, if there was anything outright negative/risky), and had me re-thinking taking it much, or serving it to the kids...

June 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Natural5 said...

I recently saw that too, but decided to ignore it as a one-off. I've read so much that's positive that I'm reluctant to give one person's results too much weight.

June 7, 2010 at 12:01 AM  

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