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Kombucha colonies and Tea

Hello fellow leaf enthusiasts! I just recently joined the community and I’ve already learned a great deal from everyones posts, and contributions in these discussions.
So, I recently steeped a kombucha pear green tea and my friend and I were curious as to the state of the colonys. While steeping there appeared to be white specks ascending to the top of the pot. Does anyone know if the kombucha colonies are alive before the infusion? Or are they resessitated upon adding the boiling water? Or were they always alive? It’s strange to speak in these terms haha.
I have had bottled kombucha before and I was informed that the vinagery taste is a by product of the colonies. This taste however is not present within the dried infusion. So I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the composition of the kombucha in loose form. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Cheers,

Wiseman Tea

5 Replies
Carolyn said

Hi!

Yes, kombucha is alive. What you actually have is the “mother” colony. From Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (an excellent book, btw):

“Kombucha is sweetened black tea, cultured with a “mother,” also known as “the tea beast,” a gelatinous colony of bacteria and yeast. The mother ferments the sweet tea and reproduces itself, like kefir grains."

It sounds like you have created a new “mother” colony. Kombucha colonies actually prefer cooler water, rather than boiling. But, yes, the little white specks are the culture and it needs water to begin to grow again. Katz calls for water warmed to body temperature before adding the liquid kombucha.

What happens when the water gets too hot, too cold, or dries up is that the yeast cells turn into little spores waiting for conditions to improve so that they can spring back into life. They’re amazingly resiliant little beasties. Here’s a story of a scientist who managed to extract a 45 million year old yeast cell from a piece of amber and then managed to get it to grow in his lab. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/17-08/ff_primordial_yeast

BTW, the sour taste is the result of the fermentation. It is the same process that produces bread, beer, and wine. The outgassing of the yeast (and probably the bacteria as well, in this case) turns the liquid sour. The longer you let the kombucha work its yeasty magic, the more sour your drink will be. If you plunge your kombucha into the cold, the reaction will slow way down. It can also create bubbling beverages, sort of a natural soda pop.

Interesting.

teaplz said

Love that Wired article, Carolyn! I read it in one of the issues a while back and it was fascinating.

This is all completely bizarre and curious. I’ve never heard of it. Thanks, the two of you, for the tea education!

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Fascinating! Thanks for your insightful response. I am amazed at how they are able to adapt regardless of conditions. I’m considering carrying a kombucha pear green tea. Would you be interested in something like this?

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Carolyn said

I love pretty much any fermented food and adore molds, yeasts, and fungi in general. I’ve cultured several items of my own, as well. (My husband refuses to get me an incubator for proper tempeh culturing and this is a great disappointment to me since our house is always too cold for proper mold growth and if the tempeh culture does not have the right temperature kept constant over a long period of time it produces a crumbly tempeh.)

One of the best things I’ve learned on Steepster was from Leafbox Tea when he casually mentioned in a tea review that puerhs get their unique flavor from specific molds and fungi. I’ve looked at my puerh with new respect ever since. It also causes me to wonder whether the wet processed puerhs are less tasty because they alter the balance of various fungi, bacteria, and molds in the puerh.

But enough about my fascination with molds, fungi, bacteria and yeasts. Back to the kombucha: I do not know how well kombucha tea would ship. My guess is that it would require a fairly constant low temperature to maintain just the right level of sweet/sour taste. If it gets too hot at any point it is likely to become too sour. Also, there is always the chance of bottles exploding if they continue to ferment and produce gas bubbles.

If you’re asking whether other people would like it, my guess is that they would. It’s undergone a renaissance in interest and is credited with being very healthy. So there is a lot of interest. The kombucha seems to do very well at our local Whole Foods.

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