by Traci Knight
By now most people have probably heard of Kombucha Tea. The history of Kombucha still remains shrouded in mystery, but we do know that Kombucha has been around for thousands of years in countries like China, Tibet, Siberia, and Russia. Kombucha has experienced a growth in popularity in the United States since the 1990’s, mainly due to it’s health benefits – the same ones that gave it it’s ancient Chinese name “Immortal Health Elixir.”
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Commercially bottled Kombucha can be extremely expensive, up to $8.00 for an 8oz bottle. It’s purported health benefits include a long list of attributes, including preventing and treating cancer, detoxification, arthritis, and treatment for a host of other autoimmune and degenerative illnesses. Many of these claims have not been substantiated through national research, most likely because Kombucha can be brewed easily and inexpensively at home, thus alleviating the need for a multitude of pharcaceutical treatments. Evidence is mounting however, that the probiotic bacteria in Kombucha drinks aid in digestion and immune system function.
The Kombucha Story
Soviet Scientist in the 1950’s were initially interested in Kombucha based on the number of residents in the Perm region of Russia, near the Kama River of the Ural mountains, who were living cancer free. Despite the the fact that the area was highly contaminated by lead, asbestos, and mercury, these people had little illness in their midst, unlike other regions in Russia. Upon investigation it was found that nearly every household was consuming Kombucha tea on a regular basis.
German scientists began researching Kombucha shortly thereafter, when the drink became popular in that country. It gained popularity in the United States during the ’90′s with AIDS patients who began drinking Kombucha to strengthen their immune systems. Today Kombucha can be found in many major grocery stores and even in convenience markets.
Brewing Your First Batch
Kombucha Tea is made used a Scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Scobys do not occur in nature and must be obtained via a “mother” culture. Each batch of Kombucha grows a new Scoby and in this way, new cultures can be obtained from friends, or online. There also methods available for growing your own Scoby from the strands that remain in store bottled varieties. Unfortunately, these methods are not as reliable since many Kombucha recipes have been remanufactured so that they do not contain live bacteria. This is to control the continual fermentation that happens, causing low level alcohol contents.
Once the Scoby has been obtained, be sure to keep it away from metal or ceramic which can kill the Scoby and/or cause a bad reaction. Porcelain and glass are ideal vessels for your tea. Using a small amount of the mother tea for it’s acid content, submerge the scobie in freshly brewed, lightly sweetened green or black tea. The tea needs to cool completely before adding the Scoby. Make sure to include the sugar as it is necessary for the fermentation process. Cover with cheesecloth or a paper towel rubber banded around the lid to keep out contaminants.
Let the tea ferment for 7 to 10 days before drinking. Although unlikely, it is important to watch your Scoby for signs of fuzzy mold at which point you must throw out the entire batch. If this does occur it should be obvious. A second fermentation can be done during the bottling process (if you wish to bottle it) at which time secondary flavors and ingredients can be introduced. There are many step by step instructions online for making a batch of Komucha tea.
Enjoying your Kombucha Tea
One thing is certain, there is a reason that people have been drinking Kombucha throughout the centuries. Kombucha has been brewed in many different environments and continues to provide health benefits. Making your own is far superior to the store bought varieties, although these are certainly enjoyable as well. Kombucha tea is truly an ancient elixir.
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