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Monday, January 2, 2012

Make Probiotic Kombucha at Home

Several years ago, I was introduced to an interesting beverage a friend had made from a crazy looking piece of leathery growth in a jar of sweet tea.  This drink is called kombucha.  Now you might ask why I'd be tempted to drink old tea with an obvious fungal problem and in reality, it's not a practice I'd adopt about just anything.  What caught my attention was the story they told me about kombucha tea.
It's documented use dates back to about 212 BC but this story is a 19th century tale.  In the after math of WWII and the increase in the industrial age, incidences of cancer in Russia increased dramatically...except for two regions that had equally high rates of industrial waste but nearly zero cases of cancer.  Curious minds wanted to know how this was achieved so teams of scientific investigators went to check it out.   They didn't find any better environmental conditions than other fact, one of the regions had more heavy metal contamination than most. The folks there drank as heavily but drunkenness didn't seem to be a problem.  Nor did they have the associated work problems that go along with drunkenness.  It wasn't until one of the scientists visited a family home and was offered a drink of this mystery beverage that they began to find answers.
They found that every home in the village had a form of this drink fermenting on the counter and the other village with low cancer rates was brewing kvass...a similar concoction made from beet juice.  Further study revealed that the cases of cancer that were present in these villages were limited to folks who had recently moved to the area.  Amazing!

So, I drank...the drink was refreshing and delicious and I was hooked.  More importantly, Wally loved it! As you may know if you've been reading here for a while, he's not always on the herbal/food remedy bandwagon with me.
Encouraged by his interest, I started making my own kombucha at home.
My first batch was made with a scoby from my friend.  And while I continued to brew the kombucha weekly, my culture multiplied and I had some to share.  But as with all things, once you become comfortable with something, it's easy to go crazy, and then, let it slide.  I gave away all my extras and forgot about making fresh kombucha weekly because I'd bottled up the proceeds of my generous 3 gallons/week until I ran out of places to store it!  By the time I'd used all my stores, my culture was too weak to use.  I couldn't find anyone with cultures to spare so I started looking online.

I found Kombucha America!  This fascinating site answers all your kombucha questions with tons of information from scientific research, kombucha composition, health benefits, how-tos, history, testimonials and more.
So I bought a new kombucha culture from their site.  I was pleased to see that unlike some powdered options that are out there, Kombucha America! offers fresh, live cultures that come in their own little test tube filled with liquid culture and a mini scoby all ready to go!

What is a scoby?  Besides being a word that is fun to say, it's an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  It's often referred to as the "mother" (like in raw vinegar) or a mushroom, which it's not.  Still sounding a little scary, right?  Well, here's another fun word that I've learned a lot about...Synergy.

Synergy comes from the Greek word synergia which means "working together."  The result of the combined effort or effect of two or more things which is greater than the sum of the contributing parts and could not be achieved individually.

So, yeah...the bacteria, yeast, sugar and tea work together to make a tart drink that is full of benefits that none of them possess alone.  Let's see how that works.

All you need is your SCOBY, a large glass container, 1 cup of sugar
and 8 green tea bags or equivalent loose tea. 
First and foremost, the process of making kombucha is fermentation.  The sweet tea is fermented by the yeast part of the SCOBY which causes alcohol to form.  But the Bacteria uses the alcohol to increase the acetic acid  in the brew which makes an acidic liquid that is much more safe to maintain outside a sterile environment. That's why it safe and easy to make kombucha at home.  In the end, less than 1% of the volume is alcohol and of course, most of the sugar is used up in the fermentation.

Organic acids produced by this synergy:
Acetic acid - a powerful preservative (also found in ACV) mixes with toxins and helps flush them out of the body.
Glucuronic acid - the body's most important detoxifier. May be linked to kombucha's cancer benefits.
Lactic acid - essential for the digestive system.
Usnic acid - a natrual antibiotic.
Oxalic acid - also a preservative that encourages intercellular production of energy.
Malic acid - helps detox the liver.
Gluconic acid - produced by the bacterial part of the culture.  It can metabolize into caprylic acid which is helpful is treating candidasis and other yeast infections like thrush.
Butyric acid - produced by the yeast, it protects human cellular membranes and combined with gluconic acid, it strengthens the intestinal walls - also helpful for candida sufferers.
Carbonic acid - in the blood, it aids in CO2 release and regulation of blood pH.
Amino acids - anti-aging.
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, and C 

Whoa!  That's a powerhouse of helpful nutrients and enzymes!

The reported benefits of kombucha are many and they are touted all over the internet so I won't make any claims here.  But I can't encourage you enough to look past the SCOBY and try it.  Even if you don't notice any other benefits, it's alkalizing and detoxifying.

Kombucha America! also sends a great little instruction pamphlet with your culture to get you started.  Here's what the process looked like for us at the end of 7 days.
We've found that bottling the kombucha for 3 days
after brewing increases the effervescence.
When made with green tea,
the results are almost like champagne!
Okay, see the bottle at the right?  In the course of 3 days, a new SCOBY had begun to form on top of the kombucha.  My oldest daughter was fascinated by the tough, leathery texture of the SCOBY and the wheels began to turn.  She likes to tan hides!  Could she actually grow a culture large enough to make something?  Like clothing or moccasins?

So she made a batch of kombucha in a large bowl and let it grow in her room.  

Here's what it looked like after 2 weeks.
She's decided to let it thicken a bit.
So, yeah...I'll keep you posted on that!
Proof that homeschoolers like to think outside the box!

UPDATE ~ Here's the link to the follow-up.

After reading this post, Scott @ Kombucha America! shared this bit of information:

~ Here's an historical note on kombucha...It is alleged that in Europe, during the 1st World War, after the majority of horses and cattle had been killed, there was a shortage of leather.  Folks who drank kombucha would grow larger kombucha "skins" and dry them out to make gloves.  When dried, kombucha has the texture of turns brownish in color.  It can easily be cut and it does not burn but smolders when exposed to flames.  If you dry a kombucha SCOBY and try to pull it apart it is unlikely that you will be able to tear it because of its high tensile strength.~

Much herbal love,
I'm sharing this post with
Living Well Blog Hop @

Hearth and Soul Hop @
Hearth & Soul Hop


  1. I once heard of a story where a woman used bathtubs and similar sized containers to grow SCOBYs on her roof. She cured them then used it to make clothing and other items. So hopefully your daughter's project will work!

  2. This is weird but fascinating. I am going to the link you provided and read further. Thanks!Ames

  3. I found this fascinating! I have seen recipes for kombucha before, but there is so much to it that I didn't realize to reading your post. Thanks for sharing this tutorial with the HnS Hop.

  4. I never heard of kombucha and it does not really look nice to me. Great K word tho.

  5. So interesting! Thanks! Some of the best things we have came from old time recipes!

  6. well that does sound very weird ... but interesting ... so i will do some googling ... it sounds like it might be worth the effort!

  7. Fascinating it certainly is!! Show us the kombucha skin item! We'll be waiting!!

  8. Fascinating! I've never heard of this, but I'm certainly going to have to check out the site you linked to. Don't suppose you know where to find a vinegar "mother". I'd love to make my own.

  9. This is so interesting, a new word for me but worth checking out.
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. That was quite fascinating... I've been curious about it since I first saw it several years ago but never enough to try it. I'd be interested to know if you can make it with herbal tea like rooibos...

  11. I had never heard of these until today. Very interesting post.

  12. It sounds like this makes a big difference.

  13. This was very informative and had a lot of history in it...

    Your daughter is very creative and made such a cool drawstring bag... Kudos

    Great post for the letter "K"...


  14. A dear friend at my church has been making this for years and shares it with my family occasionally. His family has experienced better health and has had fewer illnesses. I encourage everyone to try it!


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