There are several “enhanced” tea beverages that are said to have even more health benefits than regular tea. These include pu-erh tea, GABA tea, and kombucha tea. Although GABA tea is a modern type of tea, both pu-erh tea and kombucha tea have a lengthy pedigree.
Kombucha tea is made from a yeast culture that is often referred to as the “kombucha mushroom,” although it is not a true mushroom. The culture is a symbiosis of several yeast species and acetic acid bacteria and is mixed with black tea and sugar to make kombucha tea.
History of Kombucha Tea
The first recorded mention of Kombucha tea dates from the Qin Dynasty of China (221 BC – 206 BC). It is supposed to have been named after the Korean physician Kom-bu who was physician to the Japanese emperor Ingyo around 414 AD. Kom-bu presented kombucha as a health-promoting drink, and it came to be known as Kombu’s tea (kombu cha).
Kombucha tea has been used in Russia for several centuries. The modern form of Russian kombucha tea is widely popular and is known as “tea kvass” or simply “kvass.”
Making Kombucha Tea
Kombucha culture can be bought from a commercial source or acquired through an acquaintance. The culture is placed in a large jar along with cold tea and sugar. The mixture is left to sit for about 8 to 12 days, after which the liquid is poured off and fresh tea and sugar are added to the jar.
The kombucha “mushroom” continues to grow with each subsequent batch, and mature kombucha cultures can be several centimeters thick. As it grows sections of the culture can be sliced off and used to start new kombucha cultures in other jars.
Approximately every two months the kombucha culture can be washed. In the event that the kombucha tea is sour, the culture can be removed from the jar and soaked overnight in clear water. The next day a new batch of kombucha can be started.
Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea
Drinkers of kombucha tea claim almost miraculous health benefits for it. Scientific evidence is scarce, but kombucha tea is believed to aid in digestive problems, hypertension, chronic fatigue and arthritis. Recent evidence shows that kombucha tea is rich in glucaric acid, a compound which inhibits certain enzymes which are responsible for increased exposure to bodily waste. Glucaric acid prevents these enzymes from functioning and thereby allows the body to hasten the removal of waste material.
This finding is in keeping with the traditional view that kombucha tea is good for liver detoxification. Glucaric acid has the ultimate effect of aiding the liver to function more efficiently and detoxify the body more quickly.
Dangers of Kombucha Tea
There has been at least one death attributed to the consumption of kombucha tea, and since the kombucha culture is rich in microorganisms there remains the possibility that a particular culture can become contaminated with harmful bacteria.
It is advised to treat kombucha culture with the same care as other foods by using clean utensils and being alert for the formation of mold.