Monday, December 12, 2005


I may have been one of the last in L.A. to hear about Kombucha, but there you have it, my first encounter was at a party last night. Instead of a keg of beer, there was an equally large bottle of the golden brown drink sitting on the table next to the vegetarian spread. I was prodded to try this Kombucha by the very enthusiastic brother of the proprietor of the (as it turns out) new Venice Kombucha business.

So here’s the scoop. Kombucha is a fermented drink made by placing a “tea mushroom” in a container of sweet black or green tea. As the tea ferments, the tea mushroom grows, eventually covering the whole top of the liquid, and gradually becoming thicker. Give it 8-12 days, and the Kombucha will be ready to drink. The tea mushroom can then be used for your next batch of Kombucha. The tea mushroom is actually a symbiotic combination of bacteria and yeast. In case you really want to know, the bacteria is Bacterium xylinum, and the yeast is a combination of Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii. But as my daughter would say, this is probably TMI (too much information).

My Kombucha pusher gushed over the detoxifying, immune system boosting, cancer preventing aspects of this ancient Asian health drink. Not to mention its extraordinarily positive effects on one’s digestive system, and the very excellent effect on one’s chi.

What does it taste like? Well, first he let me try it raw – it’s not bad, tastes a bit like alcoholic apple cider, the kind they have in Ireland. Apparently it’s only about 1% alcohol, but it does have that nice warm-your-tummy feel to it. Then he added some apple juice to my drink, which made it even better and even more cidery.

I went home with a bottle of the stuff (a party favor) thinking I had discovered something new and fascinating and perhaps the cure to any illness I may ever develop. Then I looked it up on the internet and found out that a) it isn’t a new fad – the FDA issued a statement about it already back in 1995, and b) none of the people writing about it on the internet – even the diehard make-your-own, drink-it-every-day types – really believe it has any significant medicinal effects, at least not anything beyond drinking some apple vinegar every morning, which my mother has been doing for awhile. So… not too much to report I guess, but who knows, I may even get my own tea mushroom and whip up some Kombucha in my kitchen, just for the thrill of it.


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