Kombucha (Fungus japonicus) though often reported to be a mushroom, is actually a colony of yeast and bacteria producing a jelly-like skin on a favored growth media. Mostly anecdotal reports have suggested that Kombucha tea has helped with a variety of acute and chronic conditions. Some of the most enthusiastic responses have come from people with difficult long-term illnesses such as arthritis, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, poor circulation, high cholesterol and cancer, and from older people, many of whom conventional doctors have had difficulty helping. Despite the testimonials and guarded endorsements by health professionals, claims for kombucha's beneficial health effects are unsubstantiated by science.
When Kombucha tea is made correctly, all the sugars are fully converted into organic acids during fermentation, enabling Kombucha tea to be is safely drunk by diabetics and candida sufferers. Some candida sufferers have found considerable relief in taking Kombucha.
Kombucha has a home-brewing safety track record of centuries. Contamination of the culture by moulds is not a problem if normal standards of kitchen hygiene are observed and if the ambient temperature of the fermentation is adequate. If contamination occurs, the culture and brew are thrown out, and you start with a fresh preparation.
Independent medical research has been conducted principally in Russia and in Germany. Reports most commonly list improvement for stomach, digestive and intestinal disorders.
How to Make Kombucha Tea
1. Make tea in the ordinary way using 2 teaspoons (5gm = 0.2 ounce) of black or green tea in one liter (one quart) freshly boiled water. You may also use tea bags. Let the tea leaves "soak" for 15 minutes. Strain off the tea leaves through a sieve, or remove the tea bags from the water, as the case may be. Green tea will contain less caffeine than black tea.
2. Add about 70-100gm (2-3 ounce) of white sugar per liter (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 20gm (0.7 ounce).
3. Let the sugared tea cool down to a temperature not higher than 20-25°C (68-77°F) which is lukewarm. Your culture will die in a much hotter solution. Pour the solution into a glass, china, glazed earthenware or stainless steel container. Glass is best. The shape of the container is unimportant but larger diameter containers work better because this allows more oxygen to get to the tea.
4. For your first batch, now add the starter culture. Cover the mouth of the fermentation container with a tightly woven fabric, multiple layers of cheese cloth or a paper towel to keep out fruit flies, dust, plant spores, etc. and secure it with a rubber band. The cloth should be porous enough to allow air to circulate so the culture can breathe, but not so porous that contamination can occur from tiny fruit flies.
5. Let the fermentation proceed for 7-12 days, depending on the room temperature. The higher the room temperature, the faster the fermentation and the shorter the fermentation period will need to be. The Kombucha culture should not be moved during this period. The temperature of the tea should not fall below 20°C (68°F) and not rise above 30°C (86°F). The culture may be destroyed if placed in direct sunlight.
6. When the tea has attained the right degree of acidity (pH 2.7-3.2), it is ready for use. You will not need pH paper to test the acidity. If the drink is still sweet, it may need a couple more days to become more "tart" tasting. If you are going to use bare hands when handling the starter, be sure to scrub with a nail brush and remove your rings, or use latex gloves. Lift your Kombucha start carefully from the container or bowl with your hands or a wooden/plastic spatula. Place it on a non-metal dinner plate and separate the baby start away. The baby will be just as big as the mother start and may be on the top or the bottom. Use either the mother or baby as a start to make new fermented beverage or use both of them together in your next batch, or, save your start in a Ziploc bag with 1/2 cup of tea to keep it moist. Using fresh tea will extend the shelf life of the starter in the refrigerator. The starter will keep very safely there for at least 2 weeks. If it is kept for a month, it is probably still viable. If it is kept for more than a month, you are taking a chance, but it will probably continue to grow when added to its nutrient tea. Sometimes the first new tea batch made from an older starter will not be usable. However, a second batch made from the starter of the failed batch will be fine. Either the baby or the mother can be used as a start to make another batch of Kombucha beverage, or you can leave the mother and baby attached together and transfer them into the new tea as a unit.
7. Pour the beverage into bottles, which should be filled to the brim, leaving no air in the container. You can strain the tea if you like, but it is not necessary, using a plastic or nylon strainer, a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth. A certain amount of sediment is expected and normal. Once the bottles are sealed, bacterial activity stops. Fermentation, however, continues over several days producing an effervescent drink. This beverage will now keep well for months, and is best kept refrigerated.
Sometimes the culture floats on the surface, sometimes it sinks to the bottom of the liquid. When the culture sinks to the bottom a new culture (a baby-culture) will begin to grow on the surface of the tea. 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.
The Kombucha culture usually 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 from tannin absorption. The more times a culture is used, the darker it slowly becomes. When it is dark and dirty brown discard it and replace it with one of its offspring. Thus this unique culture can provide you, your family and your friends with an ongoing supply of Kombucha tea at very low cost.