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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

MOMBUCHA Description

by Rich Awn


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

bottleKombucha is a fermented tea that is imbibed for medicinal purposes. Although there is limited specific scientific information supporting any purported benefits due to a lack of studies being conducted, there does exist much anecdotal information purporting its historical medicinal value.[1]. Kombucha is available commercially, but can be made at home by fermenting tea using a visible solid mass of microorganisms called a kombucha culture or mushroom.

Biology of kombucha

The culture contains a symbiosis of Acetobacter (acetic acid bacteria) and yeast, mostly Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii and Zygosaccharomyces bailii.

The culture itself looks somewhat like a large pancake, and though often called a mushroom, a mother of vinegar or by the acronym SCOBY (for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast”), it is scientifically classified as a zoogleal mat.

History and names

The recorded history of kombucha began in Ukraine and Russia during the late 19th century. In Russian, the kombucha culture is called čajnyj grib чайный гриб (lit. “tea mushroom”), and the drink itself is called grib гриб (”mushroom”), “tea kvass” квас, or simply kvass, which differs from regular kvass traditionally made from water and stale rye bread.

rackIn Chinese, kombucha is called hongchajun 红茶菌 (lit. “black tea fungus/mushroom”), hongchagu 红茶菇 (”black tea mushroom”), or chameijun 茶霉菌 (”tea mold”).

In Japanese, the kombucha drink is known as “kōcha kinoko” 紅茶キノコ (lit. “black tea mushroom”). Both the Chinese and Japanese names use hongcha or kōcha “black tea” rather than cha 茶 tea or lü cha 綠茶 “green tea”.

Japanese kombu 昆布 “a Laminaria kelp; sea tangle” is dried and powdered to produce a beverage called kombucha (lit. “kelp tea”). The English kombucha fermented tea name is pronounced like, and confused with, the Japanese kombucha seaweed tea name.[2]

Some promotional kombucha sources propagate falsehoods that the history of this tea-based beverage originated in ancient China or Japan, but in both cases centuries prior to knowledge of tea (see history of tea in China and history of tea in Japan). One author claims kombucha, famously known as the “Godly Tsche [i.e., tea]” during the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE), was “a beverage with magical powers enabling people to live forever”.[3] There are no recorded references to either tea or “godly tea” during the Qin dynasty. Another author claims an etymology from “a Korean doctor named Kombu treated the Japanese Emperor Ingyō in 415 A.D.”[4] The early Japanese history Kojiki does mention an envoy from the ancient Korean state Silla who was “deeply versed in the medical art” and cured the Emperor’s sickness – but his name was 金武, which is pronounced Korean Kim/Gim Mu or Japanese Kin/Kon Mu.[5]


cultureKombucha contains many different cultures along with several organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols. [6] For the home brewer, there is no way to know the amounts of the components unless a sample is sent to a laboratory. Kombucha, has been safety-checked by The US Food and Drug Administration . Final kombucha may contain some of the following components depending on the source of the culture: Acetic acid, which provides much anti-microbial activity; butyric acid, gluconic acid, glucuronic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, usnic acid, as well as some B-vitamins.[7]

Due to the acidic fermentation process used in its brewing, Kombucha contains ethyl alcohol in amounts that vary from 0.5% to 1.5%[8], depending on anaerobic brewing time and proportions of microbe. Commercial preparations are typically 0.5% for distribution and safety reasons.

culture_2Additionally, some tea makers offer a dried version of kombucha, mixed with the tea leaves, that dissolves in hot water.[9]

Health Claims

Kombucha proponents[10] claim many advantages such as increased energy, sharper eyesight, better skin condition, and better experience with foods that ’stick’ going down such as rice or pasta.

A review of the published literature on the safety of kombucha suggests no specific oral toxicity in rats,[11] although it has also been shown to increase the size of both the liver and spleen in mice.[12] While no randomized case-controlled studies have been published in humans, several unsubstantiated reports have suspected liver damage, metabolic acidosis and life-threatening toxicity.[13][14] Other reports suggest that care should be taken when taking medical drugs or hormone replacement therapy while regularly drinking kombucha.[15] It may also cause allergic reactions. [16]

glassOther health claims may be due to the simple acidity of the drink, possibly influencing the production of stomach acids or modifying the communities of microorganisms in the GI tract.[citation needed]

Scientific Claims

Health claims for kombucha focus on a chemical called glucuronic acetate, a compound that is used by the liver for detoxification. The idea that glucuronic acid is present in kombucha is based on the observation that glucuronic acid conjugates (glucuronic acid + waste chemicals) are increased in the urine after consumption of kombucha.

Early chemical analysis of kombucha brew suggested that glucuronic acid was the key component, and researchers hypothesized that the extra glucuronic acid would assist the liver by supplying more of the substance during detoxification. These analyses were done using gas chromatography to identify the different chemical constituents, but this method relies on having proper chemical standards to match to the unknown chemicals.

A more recent and thorough analysis, outlined in the book in Analysis of Kombucha Ferments by Michael Roussin.[17] suggests a different explanation. Roussin reports on an extensive chemical analysis of a variety of commercial and homebrew versions of kombucha, and finds no evidence of glucuronic acid at all. These scientific measurements contradict the earlier studies and conflict with the original hypothesis.

Instead, Roussin discovered that the active component in kombucha is most likely glucaric acid. This compound, also known as D – glucaro -1,4 lactone, helps in the elimination of glucuronic acid conjugates that are produced by the liver. When glucuronic acid conjugates are disposed in the bowel during the elimination process, normal gut bacteria can break up these conjugates using an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Glucaric acid is an inhibitor of this bacterial enzyme, so the end result is that the glucuronic acid + waste is properly eliminated the first time, rather than being reabsorbed and detoxified over and over. Thus, glucaric acid probably makes the liver more efficient.

jar2Interestingly, glucaric acid is commonly found in fruits and vegetables, and is being explored independently as a cancer preventive agent.[18] It has also been discovered that the bacterial beta-glucuronidase enzyme can interfere with proper disposal of a chemotherapeutic agent, and that antibiotics against the gut microbiota can prevent toxicity of some chemotherapy drugs.[19]

Reports of adverse reactions may be related to unsanitary fermentation conditions, leaching of compounds from the fermentation vessels,[20] or “sickly” kombucha cultures that cannot acidify the brew. Cleanliness is important during preparation, and in most cases, the acidity of the fermented drink prevents growth of unwanted contaminants. If a culture becomes contaminated, it will most likely be seen as common mold which is often green, blue or black in color. Often novice brewers will mistake the brownish root filaments on the underside of the culture as a mold contamination when it is seen through the surface of a thinly formed culture.

Safety and contamination

As with all foods, care must be taken during preparation and storage to prevent contamination. Keeping the kombucha brew safe and contamination-free is a concern to many home brewers. Key components of food safety when brewing kombucha include clean environment, proper temperature, and low pH.

There is a low rate of homebrew contamination which might be explained by protective mechanisms, such as formation of organic acids and antibiotic substances. Thus, subjects with a healthy metabolism do not need to be advised against cultivating Kombucha. However, those suffering from immunosuppression should preferably consume controlled commercial Kombucha beverages.[21]

moldIn every step of the preparation process, it is important that hands and utensils (anything that is going to come into contact with the culture) be dish soap clean so as not to contaminate the kombucha. Kombucha becomes very acidic (in the neighborhood of pH 3.0 when finished) and so can leach unwanted and potentially toxic material from the container in which it is fermenting. Food-grade glass is very safe. Gunther Frank says on his website [22] that besides glass, acceptable containers include china, glazed (without lead) earthenware, stainless steel and food-grade high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Keeping cultures covered and in a clean environment also reduces the risk of introducing contaminants and insects.
Mold contamination on the culture surface.

Maintaining a correct pH is an important factor in a home-brew. Acidic conditions are favorable for the growth of the kombucha culture, and inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria. The pH of the kombucha batch should be between 2.5 and 4.6. [23] A pH of less than 2.5 makes the drink too acidic for normal human consumption, while a pH greater than 4.6 increases the risk of contamination. Use of fresh “starter tea” and/or distilled vinegar can be used to control pH. Some brewers test the pH at the beginning and the end of the brewing cycle to ensure that the correct pH is achieved and that the brewing cycle is complete.

If mold does grow on the surface of the kombucha culture, or “mushroom,” it is best to throw out both culture and tea and start again with a fresh kombucha culture.

Kombucha mother and the symbiotes

The Kombucha Mother, shown in a square shape, is not unlike the thickness of a well risen pancake, and takes the shape of its container. It is a rapidly multiplying bacterial mass floating atop a yeast filled fluid. The bacteria are of the genus Mycoderma (Greek for fungus skin). The yeast below are involved in fermenting and receive oxygen for this process, passed by the bacteria. Acetic acid is created by the yeast, hence the second, title word Aceti (Latin for of the acid). Kombucha is “Mycoderma Aceti”. Kombucha is “mother of acid”. [24]

“Kombucha tea” is a homemade drink of the living medium of Kombucha. Kombucha contains both bacteria and yeasts. Normally these two microorganisms are at odds with one another, but in this case there is a symbiosis. It is able to repel other organisms such as molds and bacteria that would normally contaminate such a long-standing culture. It keeps its liquid’s pH low to accomplish this.

The lake of black tea has been highly sweetened with sugar.


brewTea is the medium of the mother. Kombucha tea is a tea flavored to the tastes of the consumer and to the general gustatory sense of a flavor profile that is inevitably, to some degree, pungent and acidic. Black tea is a popular choice but green tea may also be used as well as any other flavor. The resultant flavor profile should take into account the tendency for a slightly acidic and pungent background. Sugars assist fermentation. The sweet brew is added to the container with the mother, and the container covered with a porous cloth to deter dust and organisms while allowing fresh oxygen into the container.

During a week or two of fermentation, frequent samples are taken to taste for some desired balance between sweet and sour. Eventually the liquid is tapped. Some liquid is retained to keep the pH low to deter contaminant microorganisms. The process repeats itself indefinitely. The mother will eventually produce a “daughter”, which can easily be directly handled, separated like two pancakes, and moved to another container. The yeast in the tapped liquid will then continue to live. A second wait time for about a week produces more carbonation.

Left entirely alone the Kombucha settles into months of production time (producing daughters perhaps), creating an ever more acidic and vinegar-dominated cider. At any point the Kombucha can be checked for daughter or tapped or have tea added. An amount of liquid from the previous batch will preserve some yeast.


1. ^ Kombucha / Manchurian Tea / Mo-Gu / Fungo Japon
2. ^ Crystal Wong, U.S. ‘kombucha’: smelly and no kelp, The Japan Times July 12, 2007
3. ^ Harald W. Tietze, 1995, Kombucha” The Miracle Fungus, Tietze Publications, p. 7.
4. ^ Siobhan Roth, Kombucha fermenting a revolution in health drinks, Pittsburg Post-Gazette June 07, 2007.
5. ^ Basil Hall Chamberlain, 1919, The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Mattters, The Asiatic Society of Japan, p. 367. Chamberlain transcribes the doctor’s full name as “Komu-ha-chimu-kamu-ki-mu” 金波鎮漢紀武, and notes “that 金 is the surname, 波鎮 an official title, 漢紀 an official designation of the kinsmen of the Korean King, and 武 the personal name.”
6. ^ >{{cite news | first=Brad | last=Stone | coauthors= | title=FDA CAUTIONS CONSUMERS ON “KOMBUCHA MUSHROOM TEA” | date=1995-03-23 | publisher=Food and Drug Administration |
7. ^ Aleksandra, Velicanski (2007). “Antimicrobial And Antioxidant Activity Of Lemon Balm Kombucha“. Acta periodica technologica: 165. doi:10.2298/APT0738165V.
8. ^ Acute effects of alcohol administration on regional cerebral blood flow: the role of acetate. Alcohol, Clinical Experimental Research. 1993. pp. 1119–23.. PMID 8116820. “These findings suggest that both acetate and alcohol contribute to the changes in CBF seen in the intoxication syndrome and that their relative influence is age-dependent.”.
9. ^ Subacute(90Days) Oral Toxicity Studies of Kombucha Tea 生物医学与环境科学:英文版-作者:R.VIJAYARAGHAVAN MANINDERSINGH 等
10. ^ Kombucha – Healthy Elixer Or Not?
11. ^ Kombucha: a systematic review of the clinical evidence
12. ^ Sunghee Kole, A; HD Jones, R Christensen, et al. (May-June 2009). “A case of Kombucha tea toxicity“. Journal of Intensive Care Medicine 24 (3): 205-207.
13. ^ Srinivasan MD, Radhika; Susan Smolinske, PharmD & David Greenbaum MD (October 1997). “Probable Gastrointestinal Toxicity of Kombucha Tea Is This Beverage Healthy or Harmful?“. Journal of General Internal Medicine 12 (10): 643–645. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.07127.x.
14. ^ Kombucha “Mushroom” Hepatotoxicity
15. ^ Roussin, Michael R.. “About the Kombucha Consumer Research Group“.
16. ^ Walaszek, Z. (1990-10-08). “Potential use of D-glucaric acid derivatives in cancer prevention“. Cancer Letters (Elsevier Science Ireland) 54 (1-2): 1–8. doi:10.1016/0304-3835(90)90083-A. PMID 2208084.
17. ^ Involvement of ß-Glucuronidase in Intestinal Microflora in the Intestinal Toxicity of the Antitumor Camptothecin Derivative Irinotecan Hydrochloride (CPT-11) in Rats
18. ^ Phan, Tri Giang; Jane Estell, Geoffrey Duggin, Ian Beer, Diane Smith and Mark J Ferson (1998). “Lead poisoning from drinking Kombucha tea brewed in a ceramic pot“. The Medical Journal of Australia (Australasian Medical Publishing Company) (169): 644–646.
19. ^ MAYSER P. (1) ; FROMME S. ; LEITZMANN C. ; GRÜNDER K. (1998). “The yeast spectrum of Kombucha“. Blackwell, Berlin, ALLEMAGNE.
20. ^ How to make your own Kombucha Tea
21. ^ Nirinjan Singh (2005). “Ph Levels For Kombucha Tea Beverage“.
22. ^ a convenience link to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

* Tietze, Harald W.: Kombucha – The Miracle Fungus. Gateway Books. ISBN 1-85860-029-4.
* Dipti, et al. Lead induced oxidative stress: beneficial effects of Kombucha tea. Biomed Environ Sci. 2003 Sep;16(3):276-82.
* Ernst, et al. Kombucha: a systematic review of the clinical evidence. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd / Research in Complementary and Classical Natural Medicine 2003;10:85-87.
* Pauline, et al. Studies on toxicity, anti-stress and hepato-protective properties of Kombucha tea. Biomed Environ Sci. 2001 Sep;14(3):207-13.
* Teoh, et al. Yeast ecology of Kombucha fermentation. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Sep 1;95(2):119-26.
* Frank, Günther W.: Kombucha – Healthy beverage and natural remedy from the Far East. Its correct preparation and use, Ennsthaler Gesellschaft GmbH & Co KG: 1995, ISBN 978-3850683371
* System of A Down: Sugar

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ReWINEd: Wine bottle upcycling

by Shireen Qudosi

Editor’s Note: The Green A-Team continues to expand like a hyper-adept extremophile over the turbulent digital seas with our newest addition, Shireen Qudosi.  Enjoy her delicious post!

As the saying has it, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  Yet with a little bit of creative thought, you can turn your trash into your treasure.


That’s exactly what has inspired a new wave of sustainability that goes beyond practicality and into decadence.

The idea of artistic living is a growing trend in an eco-friendly culture, which has already witnessed a significant growth in consumer interest when it comes to modular living and organic decor.  Even non-greenies are getting interested now that being green has brought with it a new level of stylish eccentricity.

And what comes more easily in this economy than an assortment of empty wine bottles after you’ve just thrown a smashing get-together?  With the preference being on sourcing cheap entertaining ideas, most people now see staying at home with a good meal and great wine as a viable alternative to spending money on restaurants and clubs.

If your home is the newest place to be seen, then ice maker machines are indispensable for cocktails while compact wine refrigerators are an inexpensive alternative to costly built-in wine cellars.

Wine Bottle Ideas:

There are a number of ways to reuse wine bottles. Among the more common ideas are reusing them as water pitchers, votive vases, torches, and flower bed liners. However, there are dozens of other smart options that are rarely explored.

meltedWine Bottle Cheese Boards – What could be quainter than using a cheese board made out of wine at you next cocktail.  Apparently that’s exactly what Vineyard Designs thought when they started offering their custom recycled wine glass boards.

planterWater Feeders – On a very hot day or when you’re away, fill the bottles of water and stick them into the pot or soil near your plant.  The water will slowly percolate from the bottle and into the soil.

chandalierWine Bottle Chandeliers – In addition to the popular row lighting and pendant lighting, Changedminer (pictured) put together an interesting chandelier with wine bottles strung around it.   It’s a unique sustainable element in your home and it catches the light beautifully during the day and especially at sunset.

glassesRewined Recycled Glassware – Get uniquely hued wine bottle glassware made from orphaned bottles left behind at local restaurants and bars.

windowWine Bottle Building Blocks – Rather than just one element, your entire home or venue can serve as a creatively designed showcase – a testimony of your creativity and commitment to sustainability.

Wine bottles can be used to create an interesting mosaic-styled wall piece.  The most gorgeous of these displays is just outside of Montreal at a place called Bottle Houses, Prince Edward Island.

PEI is known for its lush landscapes and pastoral living, which makes the wine bottle homes stand out that much more, offering a mixture of ingenious modern design paired with an idyllic setting; and the combination works brilliantly.

This theme of bottle wall art has been running strong from coast to coast. Javier’s, an upscale restaurant in Crystal Cove, features bottle-inspired wall art as a key feature in their eclectic setting.

Using wine bottles as building blocks shows creativity and ingenuity that can be carried to stylishly eccentric levels when used in restaurants. Morimoto’s Japanese Restaurant in New York has an entire wall created out of bottles.  The result is a dazzling spectacle that has the potential to launch a restaurant.  An alternative design is found at the Boa Steakhouse in Hollywood, where rows of bottles are lined along a clear wall.

Wine bottles go beyond just building blocks and have also become integral parts of a building’s thermal dynamics, providing a unit that’s not only appealing to the eye, but also meets our duty to our environment.  But if you’re not a wine drinker, you can ask local pubs and restaurants for their bottles, who I’m sure will be more than happy to give you their rubbish to turn into your own treasures.  The same ideas can also be achieved with beer, liquor, Pellegrino or other glass water bottles.

For more on wine bottle upcycling, check out some of the following links:

Wine bottle recycling is low – but some bottles getting lighter (Dr. Vino)

A trial project that uses recycled wine bottles filled with water to regulate a building’s internal temperatures (Media-Newswire)

Sleep it off inside a wine cask (Green Upgrader)

Wine Ideas brought to you by Air & Water, Inc.

Photos by Keith Watson, graciella06, aarn!, *~Dharmainfrisco~*, West County Camerachangedminder.

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Word of the Day: Permaculture

by The Green A-Team

Word of the day – permaculture.

What does it mean for the future of farming and the survival of humanity?

It’s best understood through its roots, permanent and agriculture:  Something permanent exists perpetually without significant change and agriculture is the science and art of cultivating land, livestock, and crops.  The combination forms the basis of permaculture, where we give back to the land as much as we take.

Developed in the 1970s by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, this natural systems design model was born in response to the mistreatment of billions of acres of farmland jeopardized by overuse of chemical fertilizers and genetic mutation of crops.

Permaculture provides us with a toolkit for how we can inhabit our world through integration instead of domination.  By careful attention to life’s full spectrum from mammals to microbes, permaculture can sustain huge populations without disrupting nature’s delicate balance.

To find out where you can visit, volunteer, apprentice, and enjoy permaculture sites in your area, the links below should help get you started:

Midwest Permaculture

Northeastern Permaculture

Permaculture Research Institute, USA

Planetary Permaculture Directory

Illustration is the cover of Permaculture: A Designers Manual by Bill Mollison.

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