What is Kombucha?
The Kombucha is a symbiosis of yeast and bacteria. They need each other, they benefit from each other and they protect each other. We don't know where to classify the Kombucha, since it isn't really a fungus, nor a seaweed nor a mushroom. It looks like some sort of fungus or mushroom but it isn't. For convenience it is generally called a fungus as this has been customary over the years.
The Kombucha is a tough, smooth slippery, glassy mass which forms lamellae. These lamellae are composed of translucent, very tough tissue with a series of brown spots at the bottom. These turn out to be a concentration of yeast cells.
The Kombucha needs tea and sugar to get the nutrients for it's survival. The sweet tea becomes sour due to it being metabolised by the micro-organism in the fungus and the fermentation process. This "tea", after fermentation, is rich in enzymes and other substances, which help to maintain health in human beings.
In China, the Kombucha has been used for centuries. From there it was introduced into Korea, Japan, India and Russia, and later to other European countries. During World War II the use of Kombucha disappeared due to the shortage of tea and sugar. However, the Kombucha was "rediscovered" during the sixties, when people gained more and more interest in natural healing. Its population grew steadily and once again it has earned the special place it deserves.
Russia is probably the cradle of the Kombucha. Only the Russians carried on using it right up till now. They have never had problems in accepting this "tea fungus", since it is part of their daily fluid intake. Scientists noticed that in those regions where the Kombucha-tea was a common drink, the environmental pollution had less influence on the health of the population. This was particularly obvious in the industrialised Ural region. Fish and trees were dying in large numbers, yet cancer amongst the population was a rare occurrence, in spite of people's extreme living conditions. Being heavy smokers, drinking vast amounts of alcohol and working in the unhealthy mercury-, lead-, and asbestos industry they survived this onslaught by consuming Kombucha-tea on a daily basis. This was the only difference compared with their counterparts in similar circumstances.
How to make the tea
The Kombucha and the tea are put in large glass bowls where the average fermentation process will take about two weeks. The quality of the water you use to make the tea, is very important, since you do not want anything added to the soft pure water. (Chloride is an antiseptic, which kills micro-organism.) You can use purified water. As far as the tea is concerned, use unperfumed black or green tea because this contains all the nutrients the Kombucha needs. Preference goes to Chinese black tea. The English teas all have their own aroma that mixes with the Kombucha liquid and the result is not so pleasant. Herbal teas as age, peppermint and camomile, which have an antibacterial effect and could kill the Kombucha.
The Kombucha uses sugar as a source of energy. We use refined white sugar because it is the most effective in the fermentation process. The aim is to use up ALL sugar in this process, so that there won't be any extra calories left in the now sour tea. If we add glucose (30% to 70%), we can even increase the fermentation process. Brown sugar contains molasses, which is of no use to the Kombucha. Cane sugar contains a lot of impurities and at the end of the fermentation there is still a lot of unused sugar left in the liquid. Adding honey to the Kombucha liquid will clear the fluid quicker and will increase the fermentation. However, add too much and the tea becomes very acidic and almost impossible to consume. Artificial sweeteners can not ferment.
For the preparation of 3 litres, which fits right into a 5 litre bowl, you boil 3 litres of water in a cooking pot, put 15 gram (6 teabags) of tea into the water. Boil for three to five minutes and leave the tea to draw for at least 15 minutes. Remove the tealeaves or sieve the tea into the fermentation bowl. Put 150 gram of white sugar and 100 gram honey in and stir till it is dissolved properly. Leave the liquid to cool down to 30C. Put in 200 ml of previous Kombucha tea, or 10 tablespoons of vinegar. Put in the Kombucha culture, smooth side up.
The best environment for the fermentation process is a hygienic, closed area at room temperature. Below 18C the fermentation process will slow down and above 30C the Kombucha becomes slimy. We need a constant supply of air whilst at the same time preventing insects and dust to enter the liquid. So, putting a tea towel or linen cloth over the bowl is essential. The Kombucha does not need sunlight — direct sunlight will kill it — but it does need peace. Place the bowl on a steady non-vibrating surface in a smoke and smell free environment, and now all you have to do is to talk to the Kombucha every day. You need to check that all is well, that the Kombucha remains in contact with the liquid and that no infection is destroying it. About two weeks later your "life" health drink is ready.
If you find the Kombucha drink too sour, you can add some fresh honey to it at the time of consumption.
Kombucha can aid in several conditions like:
DIGESTION : Kombucha contains many ferments and right-turning lactic acids and is consequently a healthy option for many intestine disturbances.
LIVER/GALLBLADDER : The extra glucuronacid in the Kombucha helps to simplify the detoxification function of these organs.
RHEUMATISM, GOUT, ARTHRITIS : Kombucha helps with detoxifying the body, which allows the secretion of toxins that otherwise settle in the joints.
KIDNEYS : Kombucha is a natural and harmless diuretic. More waste products will be eliminated in the urine, which will be a great help in slimming programs.
HYPERTENSION/CHOLESTEROL : Kombucha lowers cholesterol and lipid content in the blood.
SKIN : Because of the improved metabolism and intestinal function all skin problems are helped by Kombucha.
ASTHMA/ALLERGIES : All allergies are improved by Kombucha taking, mainly as a result of the detoxification process.
CANCER : Very recently scientists have observed very positive influences from Kombucha in cancer patients, due to an enhanced immune system.
DIABETES : Kombucha helps to lower the blood sugar. It does not contain any sugar itself and the alcohol content is less than 1%, identical to alcohol free lagers.
Because of the detoxification, the immune enhancement and the metabolism balancing, the Kombucha will positively influence all immune and auto-immune diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
Acharya Mo Quanten
Patrick Quanten MD