The history of Japanese green tea is rich in facts, stories, and intriguing developments. Some of you may be familiar with the introduction of green tea in Japan, while others may be familiar with the development of Japanese green tea culture. The history of Japanese green tea reveals itself in the way we consume tea or in the recipes we try. It helps shape our perception and overall experience of tea. In part, this article is a challenge with respect to your knowledge of tea. In another part, this article is a discussion of kombucha: Can I make kombucha from Japanese green tea? If so, how? But before we begin to outline the how-tos of kombucha, I want to review kombucha itself.
What is Kombucha? The Short Answer.
There is a short and long answer to this question. In short, it is a slightly alcoholic, fermented, and sweetened drink infused with black or green tea. You may also find various Kombucha drinks that include juices, spices, or added fruit.
What is Kombucha? The Long Answer.
The long answer has two parts: the historical and chemical parts. Kombucha tea is an incredibly old tea that includes a complex arrangement of flavor profiles and notable health benefits. Let’s start with the history of this unique drink: There is research to suggest that people in China drank kombucha tea in 221 BC and that a doctor from Korea named Kombu in 414 BC brought the drink, or as the Koreans described it, "The Divine Tsche," to Japan to cure the then Emperor. There is some debate as to where exactly it originated, but the first clear reports come from Russia and Ukraine in the late 1800s, eventually moving into Germany in the early 20th century. Its popularity grew throughout Europe until the outbreak of World War II, which brought about various shortages. The drink began growing in popularity once again in the 1950s. Nowadays, you can find kombucha worldwide, and it is relatively common in many parts of the world. Homebrewing is supported by online and local recipes. On the commercial side, various companies offer not only the drink but the critical starting components, including the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), etc. If you’re interested in making your own kombucha, there’s more than enough support available to ensure you’re doing it right.
But what of its chemical makeup? Yes, it includes tea, but there is much more detail about kombucha. Kombucha is produced from the symbiotic growth of specific bacteria and yeast, which are cultured in sugared tea. The symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) is unscientifically described or referred to as a "mushroom" or "mother" It is tough to give an exact description of the bacteria-yeast combination because it varies widely, but it remains the critical element in creating kombucha. This element in kombucha turns your sweet tea into the tangy and distinct taste of kombucha. It looks somewhat odd, if not distasteful, yet the SCOBY helps maintain a healthy kombucha drink by protecting it from outside bacteria.
Wait, isn’t Kombucha actually spelled Konbucha?
No. Kombucha is not konbucha (昆布茶). I’ve spent some time reviewing kombucha but let’s take a few minutes to understand konbucha. Konbu is referred to as a type of seaweed in Japanese with the added “cha” referring to tea. In many circles, you may also see it referred to as kocha kinoko or black tea mushroom. The idea behind konbucha is seaweed with hot water. You can find konbu online and cut up pieces to create the base of konbucha. Foodshark reviewed the 6 Best Kombucha Brands on this article, which means that you can easily buy the drink from many brands in the market today.
This is a package of Konbucha (昆布茶) sold in Japan, which is different from Kombucha
Is Kombucha Good for Me?
Let us quickly review some of the nutrients found in a common kombucha drink: organic acids, sugars such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose, vitamins such as B1, B2, and B6, and others including vitamin C. It also includes proteins, and the living bacteria are said to be probiotic. If you have tried kombucha, you’ll likely guess that it includes alcohol that has been produced from the fermentation process, which will be discussed below.
Aside from being a staple in Japanese culture, kombucha is slowly gaining popularity in all parts of the globe because of its health benefits. If you’re having second thoughts about adding kombucha to your diet, its health benefits might help you come to a sound decision.
Kombucha is definitely good for you because it provides the following health benefits:
- There are varying health benefits, including antimicrobial support against various pathogens. This is largely due to the presence of organic acids and catechins. The antimicrobial support you can get from kombucha can keep your immune system strong, making you less susceptible to common illnesses and diseases.
- Kombucha may also support the liver as a means of preventing hepatotoxicity induced by outside pollutants. The condition of your kidney can affect your overall health and wellness because your kidney works by removing waste and extra fluid from your body. Your kidney is also responsible for creating a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your body.
When your kidneys aren’t working properly, you can develop uremia, which is a health condition characterized by excessive swelling of the hands and feet and extreme fatigue.
- Kombucha is also known as an antioxidant drink. In fact, it has been observed to have higher antioxidant activity than standard green teas. This is likely due to the fermentation process.
Having a sufficient amount of antioxidants in the body is crucial because it protects your cells from free radicals and may decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants can also minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on your skin, making you look younger.
- Animal studies have shown that kombucha may help reduce heart disease risk and may also help manage type 2 diabetes. The results of these studies can be a godsend for people who have been suffering from the symptoms of the mentioned health problems. Human trials have not been reproduced, but there is research to help piece together the long-held beliefs in the health benefits of kombucha.
The key to making healthy kombucha is to ensure that it's properly prepared. There are reports of toxic kombucha, and it is possible to create something that is ultimately more harmful to your system than otherwise.
If you’re looking forward to experiencing the health benefits of kombucha, make sure to consult your doctor about it first. This is especially important if you have underlying health conditions or have been diagnosed with illness in the past.
I Want to Make Kombucha from Japanese Green Tea? How Can I?
If you do not have a SCOBY, you can make your own: first purchase a bottle of raw kombucha, then make 1 cup of Japanese green tea. Let the tea cool to room temperature. Then pour the raw kombucha and the cooled tea into a larger glass jar. Cover the jar and secure it, perhaps with a rubber band. Keeping the tea out of sunlight, keep the jar in a relatively warm spot (68–85 degrees) for about a week or so. You should start to see a clear film on top of the liquid. Do not worry; this is a smaller SCOBY that is forming. Essentially, the SCOBY should get thicker and whiter as time goes on. Many recipes note that the SCOBY should be at least ¼ inch thick or thicker before it is ready for brewing purposes. It may take several more weeks for this growth potential to be attained. If your SCOBY is not becoming thicker, then you will have to start over. Once the SCOBY is at the right thickness, you can keep the kombucha tea in the jar and transfer the SCOBY to a new batch of kombucha.
Is raw Kombucha Safe to Drink?
Raw kombucha is not pasteurized and contains at least part of the culture you need to create your SCOBY. It is in fact safe to drink; however, doctors continue to recommend that pregnant patients avoid unpasteurized products, including kombucha. Yes, the labels on whether the kombucha is raw or not vary, but a little bit of digging when reviewing the product should provide an answer.
I have a SCOBY; how do I make kombucha?
For a half-gallon batch of kombucha, you will need:
- 1 tablespoon of loose tea or 4 tea bags
- ½ cup of sugar
- 6-7 cups of water
- 1 cup of starter tea or vinegar
Bring hot water and sugar together in a large enough glass jar. Stir the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.
Put the tea or tea bags in the stirred water and sugar. Cool the mixture to 68–85 degrees. The longer the tea is left in the liquid, the stronger the tea flavors will be. If you want your tea to taste sweeter, cool it for only a few hours and then consume it immediately.
Proceed to remove the tea bags or strain the loose tea leaves.
From the starter tea that you’ve either purchased or created above, you will need to add this element at this point. If you have neither, please add distilled white vinegar as a substitute.
Now add the SCOBY.
Close the lid of the jar and ensure it is secured.
You will now need to hide it from the sun, undisturbed, for a week or more until you’ve reached the desired taste. The longer it sits and ferments, the more alcohol is produced and the less sweet it becomes.
Next, pour the kombucha off the top of the jar for drinking. You will want to keep the SCOBY and at least some tea for an additional batch.
Lastly, enjoy your kombucha!
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- Kei and Team at Japanese Green Tea Co.