kombucha, linda villano, serendipitea
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KOMBUCHA KRAZE– Part I - What is this mysterious libation? by Linda Villano

Monday, July 27th 2015 @ 11:24 AM

It’s not a new thing but it has become THE thing of late and has certainly come a long way since its underground hippie days.  Now health and gourmet food stores showcase Kombucha brands by the dozens.  And much like artisan-made Iced Tea and Craft Beer there are bottled versions as well as homemade options.

DIY ~ this millennia’s buzz word ~ kits are readily available as are countless websites, blogs and meet-ups all in the name of Kombucha.  Friends of yore would pass “mother” around in a sort of communal health circle; production was done in a mad professor corner of the kitchen; and storage was in the dark recesses of the pantry or in the shadows of a cob-webbed basement.  A curious beverage accompanied by curious behavior. 

So, what exactly is Kombucha ~ the fizzy, tangy powerhouse of probiotics that is believed to cleanse, heal, detox, energize, stimulate metabolism and boost the immune system. Is it a mushroom?  Is it yeast? Is it a type of tea? Why all the fuss? And should we in the tea biz be interested?

Commercial Kombucha
Photo Credit: www.mendaily.com

Yes! The ingredients for Kombucha are: Water, SCOBY, TEA and Sugar.  SCOBY = Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  Yup, it’s ALIIIIVE and if cared for properly can be with you your entire life. The tea and sugar are steeped in boiled water for the appropriate amount of time. The SCOBY is introduced to the cooled, sweetened tea then with time and the inevitable chemistry Kombucha is created. 

The SCOBY or Mother or Mushroom (just a few names for the starter) can best be described as a flat, rubbery, jelly-fish like disc. 

For years the term fermentation was a misnomer used in the tea industry to describe oxidization. In Kombucha, however, fermentation does occur; the longer the fermentation period the higher the alcohol content. The SCOBY feeds on the sugar and transforms the liquid into a hotbed of organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols, minerals, nutrients and vitamins.  During the fermentation process Mother produces an offspring….this baby is used to start the next generation.

Like tea, Kombucha has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal components. It is claimed that the caffeine content in the tea is transformed during the fermentation process…so caffeine-sensitive consumers need not be concerned.

Unlike tea, I encountered numerous WARNINGS about consuming Kombucha (reminded me of unpasteurized milk). Following are a few:

Do not drink if you are pregnant or nursing.

Should not be consumed by children 4 years or younger.

Consult your health provider practitioner or doctor before consuming any Kombucha products.

Educate yourself before using any Kombucha products.

Part II will cover the science and the home brewing process.  Until then, try a bottle from the local market but do remember Grandma’s advice: All in Moderation! Too much of any good thing could be a bad thing.  Recommended portions vary so to be safe, why not start small?  Sip 4 oz. each day, then when acclimated sip 4 oz. before each meal, and in time increase to 1 cup per serving or to your liking. 


Continued - click for Part II

~ Linda Villano, SerendipiTea

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© All content and images are copyright of author.
LINDA VILLANO co-founded SerendipiTea.com in 1995 with Tomislav Podreka. With a passion for all things Tea, she oversees all aspects of the business; including client consulting, concept and design, staff training, sourcing and product development (recipe creations). Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs, she considers her role as a purveyor of premium teas & tisanes a natural continuation of her family’s culinary tradition.   Linda is a published illustrator and writer. Her illustrations appear in Tomislav Podreka’s book, SerendipiTea: a guide to the varieties, origins and rituals of tea, and she writes articles about tea for trade publications.

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