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Kombucha is a fermented beverage made of tea and bacteria cultures. For the last 2,000 years in Asia, families drank it for its purported medicinal qualities. The special yeast and bacteria cultures are usually circulated person-to-person, although now mixtures can be purchased online. This homeopathic drink tastes tart but full-flavored, like carbonated apple cider. Recipes for this beverage have traveled to Korea and Japan, from there to Russia, and finally reached Europe after WWI.
You must have a "mother brew" to cultivate kombucha, which is why originally it was handed down through generations of a family. Much like yogurt, a cup of kombucha can be reserved to make the next batch. This is because it is a living brew, with microorganisms that are beneficial to our digestive tract and others claim help other internal systems. The culture is not a fungus, as some report, but a mixture of bacteria and yeast that forms a gelatinous, yellowish substance.
Brewing and cultivating kombucha is a highly personalized process with lots of room for experimentation, rather than a recipe with exact amounts. You infuse a green or black tea, such as Sencha or Darjeeling, in a glass or ceramic container of boiling water. Add some granulated cane sugar to the hot water so it completely dissolves. When this mixture has cooled a bit, stir in the mother brew, and a piece of the kombucha jelly. Only use plastic or wooden spoons, as metal will kill bacteria. Now the liquid is ready to ferment for a little more than a week in a warm area, but not in direct sunlight, with a cover of muslin. This way, you encourage a clean growth of bacteria and allow oxygen to circulate. The bacteria turns sugar into carbon dioxide causing slight carbonation. After fermentation, the brew can be strained and stored in the refrigerator to drink.
While the health benefits of this drink have not been officially evaluated as a medicine, many people have experienced positive effects from 1/2-2 cups (120-470 ml) a day. It's said to be calming, aid in digestion as the bacteria stays in our intestinal tract, ease the pain of arthritis, improve immunity, and lower cholesterol. A poultice of kombucha can be applied topically to sores as an antiseptic. Some people even drink it to detoxify, as a part of an overall health strategy such as a vegan diet, a juice fast, or only eating raw food.