Kombucha culture, often referred to as a kombucha mushroom, is the basis of kombucha tea. The product is fermented when added to brewed tea and sugar, creating a tea drink that many claim has not only nutritional benefits, but healing properties as well. The culture itself has been used for centuries all over the world.
Kombucha Culture Basics
Kombucha culture is a combination of bacteria and yeast, which, when fermented, regenerates itself and grows to form a solid mass. In addition to being known as kombucha mushroom, the culture is also called SCOBY, which stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." Layers of this kombucha culture are shared between families and friends, and even available for sale to consumers. Once you have a piece of the culture, you can grow your own kombucha at home.
If you don't know anyone with an existing kombucha culture, you can purchase them at a variety of outlets both in person or online. Since kombucha is made free of animal products, it can be a great addition to any vegetarian or vegan diet.
How Kombucha Culture is Grown
To start the growing process, the culture is most commonly placed into a mixture of brewed black tea and sweeteners and allowed to sit. Other teas, such as green or red teas, may be used for this purpose, although herbal teas tend not to work well. Refined or organic cane sugar is normally used as a sweetener. This mixture also requires an acidic element, which comes in the form of brewed kombucha tea, or white vinegar.
Over time, the kombucha culture grows and becomes a flat mass that resembles a large mushroom top. New kombucha layers grow on the bottom each time the culture is fermented for a new batch of tea, and these layers can be separated for sharing.
Health Properties of Kombucha Tea
Kombucha tea is the liquid that remains when you remove the solid culture. It is usually served chilled over ice. This tea can be purchased at health food stores, natural healing establishments, or online, and is often flavored with herbs or herbal teas. It is sometimes called mushroom tea or Manchurian tea.
Kombucha culture and the resulting tea have been called a "health tonic" and an "elixir for life." The tea is detoxifying, and aids in digestion. The bacteria from the culture is a probiotic, and works in much the same way as the active bacterial cultures in yogurt. In addition to these benefits, many others have been claimed, although not all of them are proven. Some people claim that kombucha can help with:
- Clearing the skin of acne, age spots, and other conditions
- Regulating bowel movements
- Relieving pain from muscle aches
- Stabilizing blood pressure
- Limiting the growth and appearance of gray hair
- Diminishing arthritis pain
- Improving eyesight
- Healing bladder infections
There have been very few clinical studies on the healing properties of kombucha, so it's impossible to say with any authority which of these claims are true. Another thing to consider is that the kombucha culture itself can vary from batch to batch, depending on a number of factors, including:
- The type of water used
- The type of tea used for fermenting
- The type of sugar or sweetener used
- How long the tea was fermented
- The age of the kombucha culture
History of Kombucha
Kombucha culture is not a new product. Its origins can be traced back more than 2,000 years to China, from which it spread to Russia and Eastern Europe. It has always been used as a stomach aid, and the Chinese believed that this "tonic" healed the digestive system, allowing the body to regulate itself.
Where to Purchase Kombucha Culture
You can find kombucha culture for sale online, as well as kombucha tea, starter kits, and instructions for brewing your teas at home. Here are some good places to start your search:
Always make sure that your brewing environment is clean, your equipment is clean and sterile, and that your kombucha culture is fresh and free of mold before you begin brewing tea.