Kombucha tea is a living drink that is made by fermenting tea with sugar and bacteria and yeast, referred to as a kombucha culture and sometimes called the “yeast mother.” The culture looks a bit like a large pancake and it’s often called a mushroom, although it is not an actual mushroom as in the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. The acronym for the culture is SCOBY, which stands for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.”
Kombucha tea is made by taking the SCOBY and adding it to sugar and black or green tea and then allowing the mix to ferment. The liquid that results contains B vitamins, vinegar and a number of other chemical compounds.
The resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds, and the taste is difficult to describe but is similar to sweetened tea with a splash of vinegar thrown in or perhaps something that falls between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on the tea that is used. Some people love it, while others find it to be an acquired taste. Either way, it’s probably not what you’d imagine fermented tea to taste like.
While they process of making kombucha tea sounds similar to the way alcohol beverages are produced, the end product contains only minute quantities of alcohol, typically just 1% by volume. If you feel a little ”buzzed,” as some have professed, it may just be because of the enzymes that naturally boost your energy. They can make you feel happy, rejuvenated and restored.
The kombucha mushroom, or SCOBY, is said to have originated somewhere in Asia during the Chinese Tsin dynasty approximately two centuries BC. It was originally referred to as the “Remedy for Immorality,” or the “Tea of Immorality.” It reportedly spread through trade routes to India and Russia, and resurfaced in Japan, although it seems no one knows for sure exactly where and when it originated. There is no question that it’s been around for a number of centuries and likely at least several millennia.
In another story of its originations, it was said that a Korean doctor it to Japanese Emperor Inyoko in 414 AD, and that the Samurai, or ancient Japanese warriors carried it inside their wine skins to give them energy during battle. While this makes for a great legend, the link to China seems a bit more likely.
There have also been a number of stories purporting kombucha to be a miracle tea, and it’s also been called the “miracle fungus,” and “magical fungus.” Some of the miracles it’s said to have performed includes fighting cancer, warding off infections, treating arthritis and even weight loss through increased metabolism.
Some experts have claimed that it’s the high number of bacteria that provides a boost to the immune system that can help the body get rid of dangerous toxins. Regular drinkers have claimed cures of arthritis, indigestion, kidney stones, eczema and insomnia and some have even credited kombuca with treating high blood pressure, improving failing eyesight and even serious illness like cancer.
Perhaps the best name for kombucha tea, is the living drink as it seems to give us more energy to get through the day and can possibly renew a life that might have ended too soon.