Monday, October 6, 2008

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a living health drink which has been used for thousands of years to help stimulate the metabolism and maintain a healthy immune system. Recently, Kombucha has become even more well-known for its ability to increase the effectiveness of natural detoxification processes and replenish vital organic acids and enzymes required by the body for optimal health.

The Kombucha culture looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake. It's often called a “SCOBY” which stands for ' symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.' The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns the tea into a sea of health giving organic acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and nutrients. The Kombucha culture feeds on the sugar and, in exchange, produces other valuable substances such as: glucuronic acid, glucon acid, lactic acid, vitamins, and amino acids.

The history of Kombucha

The first recorded use of kombucha was in 221 B.C. during the Chinese empire of the Tsin-Dynasty. They called it “The remedy for immortality” or the “divine tische”.

In 414 A.D. Dr. Kombu from Korea brought kombucha to Japan to treat the Japanese emperor Inkyo. From Japan, this incredible tonic spread to Russia, Europe, and India. -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->

In the early 1950's, Soviet scientists were researching the large increase in cancer that had occurred after World War II. They sent two teams of researchers to two districts in the region of Perm on the Kama river of the Ural mountains where there were hardly any incidences of cancer occurring. They discovered that despite living in an area highly contaminated by lead, asbestos, and mercury, these people were experiencing to illness. Investigating further, they found that almost all the households were drinking “tea kvass” the Russian word for kombucha.

After the war Dr. Rudolph Skelnar created renewed interest in kombucha in Germany when he used it in his practice to treat cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Today, Kombucha is becoming increasingly recognized as a delicious beverage that has many health benefits. Kombucha seems to be everywhere now. Bartenders are pouring kombucha martinis, they line the shelves at most health food stores, and Walking Man Brewery of Stevenson, WA, won a gold medal at the 2006 World Beer Cup for its Blootsvoetse Bruin, a kombucha-enhanced sour brown ale.

Why the sudden surge of interest in this tonic that has been used for hundreds of years?
Perhaps it is something to do with the litany of health benefits that tens of thousands of people have experienced due to their consumption of kombucha.

The health benefits of Kombucha:

Kombucha has been known to have the following effects:

Boosts Energy
Improves Digestion
Strengthens at a Cellular level
Prevents Acid Reflux
Assists With Weight Loss
Improves Sleep
Relieves Constipation
Strengthens and restores hair
Beautifies the skin
Improves Circulation
Removes toxicity from the body
Improves eyesight
Eases the pain of arthritis

Kombucha: The Digestive Aid -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->
The human gut is home to around 400 different species of healthy and unhealthy bacteria. The healthy bacteria is forced to share their environment with unhealthy bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli and Clostridium. The way to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria is to maintain good digestive health by creating stable "microflora".

Kombucha contains beneficial bacteria in the form of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, as well as dozens of other probiotic strains. By ingesting Kombucha, we can increase the amounts of good bacteria to maintain a healthy digestive tract. Kombucha has been known to possess anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal components which make it an powerful addition to the health conscious individual.
When Kombucha first enters the digestive system it coats the stomach with digestive enzymes and live probiotic organisms. These healing elements of the live Kombucha culture immediately begin breaking down undigested foods, toxicity, and wastes produced by pathogenic bacteria that often interferes with our normal digestive processes. Kombucha breaks down these harmful substances before they are able to enter the blood stream, and converts them into a form which can easily be disposed of by the body.

The live, active cultures present in Kombucha remain dormant until they come into contact with the sugars in the digestive system. Kombucha thrives on these excess sugars and binds to toxins commonly found in the diet, clearing the way for the body to absorb the full nutrient content of the foods we eat. While the probiotics in Kombucha are detoxifying the digestive system, they are also producing organic acids and B Vitamins which speed the cleansing process, creating a wealth of rejuvenating effects throughout the body.

The boost of probiotic strains provided by Kombucha helps to flush out harmful bacteria and pathogens by regulating the level of acidity in the digestive tract. By regularly consuming Kombucha, we can attain all our longevity goals, transform our health and beauty from the inside out, and have the best day ever!

The Extraordinary Components of Kombucha:

Enzymes contained in Kombucha:


Organic Acids contained in Kombucha:

Glucuronic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid
Lactic Acid
Malic Acid
Chondroitin sulfate
Tannic Acid
Usnic Acid

B Vitamins found in Kombucha:

B1 - Thiamine
B2 - Riboflavin
B3 - Niacin
B6 – Pyridoxine
B9 - Folic Acid
B12 – Cobalmin
How to make Kombucha: AT A GLANCE

Kombucha Tea is made by combining the culture with a mixture of tea and sugar. The ingredients are allowed to "ferment", usually from 7-10 days. The resulting beverage contains dozens of valuable nutrients which have been known to promote healing for a variety of conditions.

Kombucha can be made safely and easily at your house for mere pennies. The preparation is simple if you follow the instructions. Please read the tips below to ensure that the kombucha you make is safe, healthy, and effective.

The three main ingredients:


Kombucha requires tea for its fermentation. Use organic black, oolong, green or white tea. I do not recommend using commercial brand teas or herbal teas. These are inferior ingredients and can affect the culture. Herbal teas contain volatile oils that can damage the Kombucha and kill helpful bacteria. A tea like Earl Grey that contains Bergamot oil, can sometimes kill or badly affect the culture. So avoid these types of flavored tea.

I also do not recommend using decaffeinated teas. Teas are often decaffeinated by a chemical process that is more harmful than the caffeine itself.
I recommend using naturally caffeinated black tea. This is because it has the highest content of Lactic Acid and Gluconic Acid. It also makes the fermentation process easier because black tea has already been fermented. If you use green tea, green tea is not fermented. This slows the fermentation process down and thus you will end up with a tea that is both higher in sugar and lower in healing properties. For those of you concerned about caffeine, don't worry. The caffeine is transformed by the fermentation process and contributes to the amazing effects of this ancient elixir. -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->

If you can, please use light brown, brown, raw and 100% whole cane sugar. Sugar is used by the yeasts during fermentation, and is broken down and transformed into acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and carbon dioxide. Sugar is also used to build the SCOBY. At the end of the fermentation period, if you have made your kombucha correctly, the sugar will have all been converted and there should be little or no sugar left in the kombucha.


Use the best source of water available to you when making your kombucha. Do NOT use tap water. There are over 75,000 chemicals that we have created and dumped into the environment including our water sources. Tap water was recently shown to contain the residues of many pharmaceutical medications. In fact, reverse osmosis filtration is not capable of removing some of these pharmaceuticals from the municipal water systems of many of the cities and towns throughout North America.

General Warning:

Please consult with your health practitioner or doctor before consuming any kombucha products.
Do not drink kombucha tea if you are pregnant, nursing, or for children 4 years or younger.
Please educate yourself before using any kombucha products.

Making Kombucha Safe
Cleanliness is critical during the preparation of kombucha. In most cases, the acidity of the fermented drink prevents the growth of unwanted contaminants. However, if not bottled and stored properly, the culture can become contaminated. If this occurs, it will have a common mold, green or brown in color on it.

If mold does grow on the surface of the kombucha or "mushroom," throw out the whole culture and all the liquids and start over. Stories of toxic Aspergillus molds growing on kombucha culture are common. Use common sense and good hygiene when brewing your own tea. If you think the tea has gone off or is moldy- don't take any chances. When in doubt-throw it out! -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->

Three Quick Tips on how to make a safe, delicious Kombucha tea:

1. Clean Environment
It is critical that your hands and anything that is going to come into contact with the culture are clean so the kombucha is not contaminated. For safety reasons, Kombucha should be brewed in food-grade glass containers only. Kombucha should not be brewed in lead crystal, ceramic, plastic, painted, or metallic containers including stainless steel, as the acidic solution can leach by-products into the finished product.
Keeping cultures covered and in a clean environment also reduces the risk of bacteria and other contaminants corrupting them.
2. Proper Temperature
Temperature plays an important role in the balance, taste, and health of the fermentation process of kombucha. The ideal temperature is 74F-84F (23-29C). Temperatures under 60F (16C) are not recommended and usually lead to contamination of the culture.

3. Low pH
Maintaining a correct pH is an important factor when home brewing kombucha. Acidic conditions are favorable for the growth of the kombucha culture, and inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria. The pH of the kombucha batch should be between 2.5 and 4.5. A pH of less than 2.5 makes the drink too acidic for human consumption, while a pH greater than 4.5 increases the risk of contamination. By using a fresh "starter tea" and/or vinegar you can control the pH level. You can test the pH at the beginning and the end of the brewing cycle to make sure that the correct pH is achieved.

The mushroom itself is protected against impurities and contaminants thanks to all its inherent healing properties which include: the organic acids, the low alcoholic content, carbonic acid, and the antibiotic products. However, please make sure you take the necessary steps to create the best conditions for the mushroom to thrive.

How to get started:
Kombucha culture
70 - 100 g (2 1/2 - 3 oz ) of sugar per liter (about one quart) of water
2 teaspoons black tea per liter (about one quart) of water
One 2 - 4 liters (2 - 4 quarts) pot to boil water
One 2 - 4 liters (2 - 4 quarts) glass or porcelain jar
A linen/cotton handkerchief or a paper tissue
How to make Kombucha:
I recommend starting off by making a batch that is two liters (2 quarts). When your Kombucha culture has grown big enough and has reproduced itself, you can produce larger quantities of the beverage.

1. Make tea as usual by adding black or green tea in freshly boiled water. You can use tea bags, or loose leaf tea. Let the tea leaves "soak" for 15 minutes.

2. Strain off the tea leaves through a sieve, or remove the tea bags from the water.

3. Add about 70 - 100 g (2+ - 3 oz) of sugar per liter (quart) of water into the filtered infusion before it has cooled. Stir the tea so that the sugar dissolves totally. 1 tablespoon of sugar is about 20 g (0.7 oz). -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->

4. Allow the sugared tea to cool down to a temperature no higher than 68 - 77 degrees Fahrenheit (lukewarm). The culture dies when it has been placed in a hot nutrient solution.

5. When the tea has cooled to room temperature, pour the solution into a glass, china, glazed earthenware or stainless steel container. Glass is best. Metal containers should never be used because the acids formed may react with the metal. Avoid containers made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polystyrene.

6. If you prepare your first Kombucha drink, add the liquid that you got with the culture. On all later batches, always keep enough Kombucha drink to add 10% of the quantity to your new batch as a "starter liquid".

7. Place the live Kombucha culture in the liquid.

8. Cover the mouth of the fermentation container with a cheesecloth, a tea towel, paper towel or similar light cloth to keep out fruit flies, dust, plant spores and other pollutants. Tie it down with a large rubber band to make sure fruit flies can't get in. The cloth must be porous enough to allow air to circulate so the culture can breathe, but not so porous that tiny fruit flies can get in to lay their eggs.

9. The fermentation should proceed for 8 - 12 days, depending on the temperature. The higher the room temperature, the faster the fermentation. The period of 8 - 12 days is given merely as a guide. The Kombucha culture needs a warm and quiet place and should on no account be moved. The temperature of the tea should not fall below 68 degrees F (= 20 degrees Centigrade) and not rise above 86 degrees F (=30 degrees Centigrade). The ideal temperature is about 74 to - 80 degrees F (=23 - 27 degrees C). Light is not necessary. The culture also works in darkness. The culture may be damaged by exposure to bright sunlight. Half shade is better. During the process of fermentation the sugar is broken down by the yeast and converted into a gas (CO2) and various organic acids and other compounds. It is the combination of these processes which gives the Kombucha beverage its characteristic flavor. The infusion is at first sweet but this sweetness disappears as the sugar is broken down. At the same time an acid flavor begins to develop as a result of the activities of the bacterium, so there is a transition from sweetness to sourness. If a slightly sweet drink is preferred, the fermentation has to be stopped earlier. For a dry or slightly acid flavor it has to be continued longer. -- @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } -->

10. When the tea has attained the right acid degree (pH 2,7 - 3,2), depending on individual taste, remove the culture with clean hands. Clean the culture under cold or lukewarm water. Fill new tea into the jar and add the culture immediately. Pour the beverage into bottles, which should be filled to the brim. Keep about one tenth (10%) as starter for the next batch. Stopper the bottles securely. I don't think it necessary to strain the fermented beverage through a cloth. A certain amount of sediment is normal. It is due to the growth of yeasts, which produced the gas which aerates the beverage. The yeasts are said to have some desirable positive effects on the human organism.

11. To get the best results, the drink should be allowed to mature for a few days (at least 5 days), after having been bottled. The activity of the bacterium is stopped because the bottling excludes the air, while the yeast continues to work. If the bottles are securely stoppered, the gas produced by the yeast's activities, is unable to escape. Thus an effervescent drink is produced. For this a few days in the bottles is usually sufficient; the Kombucha beverage, however, will keep well for months. Do not worry: The yeast will stop the gas production at a certain point. It is advisable to keep the beverage in a cool place.

12. When you start a new fermentation process, always add at least 10 % of the liquid from a cultivation which has already fermented to a new tea.

Enjoy your Kombucha! For more information on the healing properties of Kombucha and delicious recipes, please see David Wolfe's Kombucha program. COMING SOON!