My adventure with Kombucha Scoby Tea

I know, I know, enough with the tea already! Well, the tea I am talking about here is nothing like the good ol’ sweet iced tea your thinking of! The last month now I have embarked on a “Healthful Living” journey and was introduced to this crazy named tea by my friend Jessica from Ecofriendlyfreckles on Etsy
ecofriendlyfreckles
You can purchase your own Kombucha Scoby at Ecofriendlyfreckles on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/listing/73932864/healthy-living-organic-kombucha-scoby?ref=pr_shop
There are many of us who are waiting a return to healing measures that are close to nature; also remedies and foods of unnatural origin and away from industrial packaged and so called “Healthful” products. This may be one of the reasons for the great attractiveness and fascination of the healthful beverage called Kombucha. Communalities of yeasts and bacteria have been used by people, and applied for their well-being, since ancient times in all the world for the creation of health-promoting fermented drinks and foodstuffs.

Something interesting I have read is in the Bible Ruth 2:14, it reads: that the land-owner Boas invited the Moabite Ruth, who later became his wife, during her gleaning of grains: Come over here and eat some bread and dip your morsel into the vinegar-drink! And she sat down beside the reapers; and he reached her parched corn and she ate and was sufficed and left.”
This biblical report from around 1000 B.C. not only gives us a hint of their exemplary nutritional habits, although they were modest by our perspective, we see from it also that, even at that time, people prepared beverages with microorganisms of lactic acid and how they served the people for strength and refreshment during the hard work of harvesting.

I have to admit, when my Kombucha arrived in the mail, I was a bit amazed and bewildered with what this actually is and what it looks like! But, having already been drinking Kefir Grains which is fermented milk I thought “What the heck” and gave this a shot. I took the Kombucha out of the plastic bag…. it looked like a wet, slimy mushroom and followed the directions on how to create my tea. 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 a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.

As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.

After a few days when the “TEA” was ready I poured a small glass and studied it very carefully. The color was beautiful, it smelled like tea but maybe a bit stronger and cleaner to me. I took a small sip….. it was actually very delightful! I was surprised by this to say the least, how could anything so crazy looking taste good??? But then look at cheese, if you think about it cheese goes through some not so lovely stages before it becomes a delicious and gooey pizza topping!!!

You might wonder if fermenting tea with yeasts would produce an alcoholic beverage. It’s a good question. The yeasts do produce alcohol but the bacteria in the culture turn the alcohol to organic acids. Only minute quantities of alcohol, typically 1% by volume remains in the kombucha brew.

With every brew you make the kombucha forms a new layer or scoby on the surface of the liquid. These can be left to thicken the scoby or can be divided, giving you spare cultures that you can store in some sweet tea in the fridge in case something should happen to your active culture. Or you might want to pass on spare Kombucha cultures to friends or use a new scoby to start another batch of kombucha.

So what exactly is Kombucha? Kombucha Tea is a biological active product fermented with a living culture to become a natural living food high in enzymes. Scientific research shows the benefits of Kombucha, whose high concentration of probiotic-rich acids can provide a powerful energy boost, as well as detoxify and cleanse the blood of disease-causing toxins, allowing the body to alleviate a wide spectrum of ailments and conditions; from the mildest indisposition to the most serious diseases.

You make Kombucha by fermenting tea and sugar with the kombucha culture. The result can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use. It’s not what you’d imagine fermented tea to taste like.

The origins of Kombucha have become lost in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in the Far East, probably China, and has been consumed there for at least two thousand years. The first recorded use of kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as “The Tea of Immortality”.
A Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, “Kombu” and “cha” meaning tea. Russia has a long tradition of using a healing drink called “Tea Kvass” made from a “Japanese Mushroom”. It was also used in Japan and Russia. From Russia it spread to Prussia, Poland, Germany and Denmark but it seems to have died out during World War Two. 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.

How is Kombucha good for your health? Many health claims are made for kombucha but there is less research on the benefits of kombucha than there is on fermented milk products. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests. In rats it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. There is a lot of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things. Scientific research shows that drinking Kombucha tea regularly has been shown to benefit the human body by:

* balancing the metabolism
* cleansing the blood and regulating pH levels
* improving liver, gall bladder, and digestive function
* detoxifying the body and enhancing the immune system
* raising overall energy level

So what exactly does Kombucha have in it?

Lets start with the Organic Acids:
Glucuronic acid
The body’s most important detoxifier. When toxins enter the liver this acid binds them to it and flushes them out through the kidneys. Once bound by glucuronic acid toxins cannot escape. A product of the oxidation process of glucose, glucuronic acid is one of the more significant constituents of Kombucha. As a detoxifying agent it’s one of the few agents that can cope with pollution from the products of the petroleum industry, including all the plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. It kidnaps the phenols in the liver, which are then eliminated easily by the kidneys. Kombucha can be very helpful for allergy sufferers. Another by-product of glucuronic acid are the glucosamines, the structures associated with cartilage, collagen and the fluids which lubricate the joints. It is this function that makes Kombucha so effective against arthritis.

Lactic Acid
Essential for the digestive system. Assist blood circulation, helps prevent bowel decay and constipation. Aids in balancing acids and alkaline in the body and believed to help in the prevention of cancer by helping to regulate blood pH levels.

Acetic Acid
A powerful preservative and it inhibits harmful bacteria.

Usnic Acid
A natural antibiotic that can be effective against many viruses.

Oxalic Acid
An effective preservative and encourages the intercellular production of energy.

Malic acid
Helps detoxify the liver.

Gluconic Acid
Produced by the bacteria, it can break down to caprylic acid is of great benefit to sufferers of candidiasis and other yeast infections such as thrush.

Butyric acid
Produced by the yeast, protects human cellular membranes and combined with Gluconic acid strengthens the walls of the gut to combat yeast infections like candida.

Types of Tea for Kombucha
Kombucha requires tea for its fermentation (Camellia Sinensis). That’s real tea not herbal tea. It can be also be sensitive to strong aromatic oils. A tea like Earl Grey that contains Bergamot oil, can sometimes kill or badly affect the culture. There are several different kinds of tea that give different results from lighter tastes to stronger more cider like tastes.

Black Tea
Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully fermented. The leaf is spread out and left to wilt naturally, before being fired, producing a deep, rich flavour and an amber brew.

Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is half way between green tea and black tea. It’s gently rolled after picking and allowed to partially ferment until the edges of the leaves start to turn brown. Oolong combines the taste and colour of black and green tea.

Green Tea
Green tea is withered then steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It is characterized by a delicate taste, light green colour. The Japanese tea Sencha makes an especially fine kombucha.

White Tea
White Tea is the rarest and most delicate of tea. Plucked forty-eight hours or less between the time the first buds become fully mature and the time they open. Unlike black and green teas, white tea isn’t rolled or steamed, but simply aired dried in the sun, this preserves more of its antioxidant properties. White tea has about three times as many antioxidant polyphenols as green. White tea represents the least processed form of tea.

Kombucha will reproduce itself with every batch

Once you have one culture going to work on about three quarts of sweetened tea, you will double the number of cultures in your possession with every batch. That’s right. You are dealing with a living process that reproduces itself. Once a robust culture has made a batch of beverage, which takes between 8 and 14 days depending on several factors, including personal taste and potential therapeutic value, the culture will have duplicated itself in the process. Now you have two cultures. Two more weeks and you have four, and on it goes.
Before long you can be almost overrun with Kombucha cultures-you may even run out of friends and relatives to give them to! This is why the old babushka called the healthy drink “free.”

Ordinary Lipton’s tea bags will do, although we prefer organic Oolong tea and organic green tea. You can make the beverage with Green tea and herb teas as well. However the Kombucha culture does not do well with fruit teas or in teas that have essential oils.
Green tea and to a lesser extent, black tea, provides all the components and growth factors required by the Kombucha culture additional to sugar, including the important stimulant components, caffeine and theophylline, which belong to the purine groups required by the micro-organisms as a source of nitrogen for building nucleic acids, and which green tea reportedly provides more than twice that of black tea, and which phenomenon explains the 25% diminishing caffeine levels in Kombucha as fermentation proceeds, rendering it more suitable than tea in pregnancy. Green tea also contains vitamin-C, whereas black tea does not. In symbiotic exchange, Kombucha produces B-spectrum vitamins and additional vitamin-C, just a few reasons why green tea is superior to black for Kombucha production. Kombucha symbiont requires the purin from the tea for its metabolism, during which uric acid, which is generally difficult to dissolve and which leads to gout, is turned into an aqueous solution, more easily discharged from the body via the bladder.

PROCEDURE FOR THE PREPARATION of Kombucha

It’s best if you begin first with two litres (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 in the ordinary way. Per litre (quart ) of water, infuse 2 teaspoonfuls (about 5 g = 0.2 oz) of black or green tea in freshly boiled water. You may also use tea bags. Let the tea leaves “soak” for 15 minutes. Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea and is distinguished from it principally by the way it is processed: it is not fermented. Japanese doctors found out that green tea prevents cancer growth. I would suggest to use green tea for the Kombucha beverage. If you don’t want to use black or green tea you can also use herbal teas.

2 – Strain off the tea leaves through a sieve, or remove the tea bags from the water, as the case may be.

3 – Add about 70 – 100 g (2+ – 3 oz) of white sugar per litre (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).

4 – Let the sugared tea cool down to a temperature not higher than 20 – 25 degrees Centigrade = about 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 of other types than stainless steel are unsatisfactory and should never be used because the acids formed may react with the metal. You could also use a high-grade synthetic material of the polylefine group, e.g. polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene. Wine or cider is also kept in containers made of this food-grade material. However, you should avoid containers made of polyvinylchloride (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 about one tenth (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 ensure that 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.

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. Respect the right temperature of the tea. 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 find ultimate satisfaction in this drink it 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 – The drink has an agreeable taste. It is sparkling, slightly sour and refreshing. One normally drinks three glasses a day, one glass (4 to 6 ounces or more) on an empty stomach in the morning, the second glass after a meal in the course of the day, and the last glass a short time before going to bed.

13 – When you start a new fermentation process, never forget to add to the new tea at least 10 % of the liquid from a cultivation which has already fermented.

IMPORTANT POINT TO BE NOTED

Sometimes the culture floats on the surface, sometimes it sinks to the bottom of the liquid. Both is OK. When the culture sinks to the bottom a new culture (a baby-culture) will begin to grow on the surface of the tea. For more details see page 33 of this book. The Kombucha culture needs some time to reproduce itself. It begins with a thin and filmy layer. The longer you leave it in peace, the thicker the new culture will grow. Because the growing of a new culture needs more time you should separate it from the preparation of the beverage that you want to drink. Please allow the new culture on the surface of the liquid 3 to 5 weeks to grow.

The Kombucha culture grows and covers the surface of the tea completely. While growing on the surface of the tea the culture thickens considerably. The thickened culture will be composed of easily separable superimposed layers. The layers can be peeled off one from another and each can be used as independent units for the production of Kombucha beverage.

If the culture should sink to the bottom of the vessel, a new culture will form on the surface of the tea. In this way each culture will continue to propagate itself until it gradually begins to turn a dark brown color. When it is dark and dirty brown discard it and replace it with one of its offspring. Thus this unique culture can provide you and your family with an ongoing supply of Kombucha tea at very low cost.

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5 thoughts on “My adventure with Kombucha Scoby Tea

  1. I’m excited to try out Kombucha sold by Eco-Friendly Freckles one of these days after my little one isn’t keeping me occupied every minute. >;o)~ Don’t get me wrong, I love my little baby boy (who is now 9 months old); however, I am also very intrigued to try out this new healthy and tasty beverage treat. So far I am good to keep my kefir grains happy and healthy; getting a kombucha scoby is certainly next on my to-do list. Is it weird to think of these living cultures as pets, or members of the family? ;o)~

    _Andrea
    http://www.storybookartifact.blogspot.com

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