Teh Kesihatan
Teh Kambucha

(Cendawan Mekah)

Theraphy Drink

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Getting Started

Q Does it matter which way up the culture is when it goes into the sweetened tea, and what is the smooth side up?
A At the beginning your culture will work equally well either way up, but after the first fermentation the under-side will gradually develop a dull brown film and it is important to keep this as the underside in further brews. The upper side, which remains the same colour and doesn't have the brown film, is the smooth side.

Q What happens if my culture sinks to the bottom of the bowl when I put it in, and it stays there?
A It doesn't matter if it floats or sinks in the liquid. Given the right conditions and ingredients a new 'offspring' will always form on the surface of the liquid. You will find, probably within 2-3 brews when it is fully active, your 'mother' culture will be more likely to float.

The Brewing Process

Q What should the Kombucha tea taste like?
A Each person has their own idea as to when their Kombucha tea is ready, depending on personal taste. Try to stay 'in tune' with your fermenting Kombucha so that you learn to make it well and achieve the flavour you prefer. Do not be put off because you have so far only been able to produce a sour-tasting drink. When brewed correctly, Kombucha tea can be absolutely delicious. But to achieve this, you need to understand what is happening in the whole process, and how and what you are doing to affect the taste.

Some people enjoy and make their Kombucha to taste like a sharp cider compared to others who achieve a more delicate, light Mosel wine flavour. We prefer the special combination of using Japanese green tea with dried elderflowers to produce a fresh, light taste, but with the familiar 'zing' to it at full fermentation time.

Though each batch is different, Kombucha usually has little bubbles of carbonic acid in it and can be slightly effervescent. It is all a question of personal choice, but being better informed will enable you to make that choice rather than turning your Kombucha tea brewing into a hit-or-miss affair.

The taste and quality of Kombucha tea is affected in a number of ways:
  • the type of tea used
  • adding herbs, fruit teas, ginger etc.
  • the quality and type of water used
  • the health of the 'mother' culture
  • the 'starter' Kombucha tea and its quality
  • temperature and method of fermentation
  • the type and size of container used
  • the length of fermentation time
  • and of course the amount of TLC (tender loving care) that was put into it too
Kombucha tea making can become a fine art like wine-making, and people have been known to organise parties and have great fun tasting each other's and swapping tips. We even have a friend who decided to do something a bit different at her local church and organized a Kombucha tea party to bring interested people together for a tasting and information. Some parishioners had experienced great relief from their arthritic knees and the rest of the congregation wanted to know what the magic formula was! Kombucha is a great community builder.

QWhat should I do to test when the brew is ready?
A A day or two before you think your Kombucha tea may be ready, remove the cover from your brewing container. You will see that a new 'offspring' culture, like a cream or whitish thick gelatinous skin, has begun to form over the surface of the liquid (or on top of your 'mother' culture if she is 'floating'). The new culture never forms underneath the 'mother' culture. Ease the 'mother' culture and 'offspring' aside and remove a little of the liquid to taste, with either a spoon or a small glass. If the Kombucha tea still tastes sweet, cover and leave it for another day or so and then re-taste. When all the sweet taste has gone, then it is ready. If the beverage tastes too sharp or slightly vinegary, then it has been left too long, and you will make a note to taste and stop the fermentation sooner next time. (The Kombucha tea will still be all right to drink at this stage and you can always add some water or fruit juice if you want to make it more palatable.)

Q Why does Kombucha need to be in the dark?
A Sunlight and ultra-violet light are harmful to certain micro-organisms and will inhibit Kombucha's vital processes. It is therefore important to keep your fermen-ting beverage and culture in the dark or shade. If you have your container on a kitchen surface your Kombucha may be exposed to too much light. To shade it, fold a tea-cloth in half and place over the secured muslin cover, creating a small peep-hole at the front to allow air in. If you are using a glass container then place it inside a box or with something suitable to shade the sides of the bowl as well.

The Dosage

Here are some guidelines for the recommended daily amount of Kombucha tea for older children with starting amounts in brackets. This can be reduced to as little as 1 teaspoon if there is extreme weakness or illness. (See - "Contra-indications" below for infants and babies)
  • a child of 6-8 years 5-10 mls (1-2 teaspoons) three times a day
  • a child of 8-10 years 10 mls (1 dessert spoon) three times a day
  • a child of 10-14 years 15 mls (1 tablespoon) three times a day
For All
Water, fruit juice or cordial may be added to make the drink more acceptable for a younger (or older) palate. These amounts have been suggested through research and investigation and have proven to be ideal for the body to use for optimum benefits without overloading the system. There are times, however, when you might need some extra help such as in cases of cancer. The well-respected German specialist, Dr. Rudolph Sklenar, recommended that the daily amount could be increased (to about 1/2 -litre) for the treatment of pre-cancer (the preliminary stage) and increased further in cases of established cancer to 1-litre per day (spread over a 24-hour period).

The above increases are to be regarded only as a recommendation for life-threat-ening illnesses and not as 'the norm'. In fact it can be harmful for those people in reasonable health to take too much Kombucha. Some people, in their desire to get well, may be tempted to take the view about certain beneficial substances: "If a little does me good a lot will make me even better".

Even though Kombucha has been sensationalised over the years with names to tempt over-consumption, such as Miracle Cure, Tea of Long Life, Wonder Tea, Gift of Life, to name but a few, it is important to resist the urge to overindulge in Kombucha tea in the hope of feeling better faster. However good a food, drink or health supplement may be for you, you should never risk taking it to excess. In extreme - and, thankfully, rare - cases, carrot juice and even water have proved fatal when consumed in huge quantities. And the same applies to Kombucha. Overdosing on it could lead to your body becoming overloaded with the very substance that you took to do it good in the first place.

Q Can I take Kombucha continuously or do I need to take an occasional break?
A It is wise, as with all kinds of medication and supplements, to take a break from Kombucha periodically. Otherwise the body can become too dependent on it and may begin to lose its effectiveness. We recommend that you leave off taking Kombucha for a week at least every 2-3 months. Some people decide to take one week off every month or one month off in every six. Choose whatever feels right for you - but remember it is important to take a break.

One word of caution: If you are ill, or there is an imbalance, you may want to take a break 6-9 months after starting to take Kombucha. If you take a break too soon, you may experience a return of your symptoms. If you notice only a slight setback when you stop taking Kombucha tea, you will probably decide to continue with the break, but make it shorter at the beginning and build up on this over a period of time. So, be guided by your overall health and stability, and use your intuition and commonsense to decide how and when to take your breaks.

Q Should I take Kombucha before or after meals?
A Dr. Sklenar, a Kombucha pioneer from Germany, suggests that the first glass should be taken before breakfast on an empty stomach and the rest during the day after meals. The reasons are that he probably wanted to cover the broadest range of effectiveness possible where Kombucha will work on an empty or full stomach.

Q Should I continue to drink Kombucha if I don't feel any benefit?
A It may be that you need to give Kombucha more time. After all, some of us have given our bodies many years of gradual abuse, through second-rate nutrition and poor lifestyle, so it may take time before we notice any real improvement and there is always room for some more improvement! Many people use natural medicine to prevent them from becoming ill.

Health Questions

Q Why is Kombucha claimed to be a cure-all?
A Articles in popular journals are frequently sensational and often claim this, but we certainly don't. What happens is simply explained - when the body is out of balance it complains and can throw up a whole host of symptoms which manifest in different ways to different people. Each person has their own areas of weakness, e.g. the skin, stomach, liver, kidneys, joints etc. Kombucha sets to work cleansing, strengthening and balancing the body, helping it to work better and bringing it into a state of better health. In so doing, each person can experience their own individual symptoms subsiding or disappearing. This explains the long list of symptoms that Kombucha has supposedly 'cured' when they are in fact the ever-growing range of symptoms that many, many people have all been helped with.

QIf it is so wonderful, why don't physicians recommend it?
A We have found that a growing number of doctors who have read up on Kombucha or have used it with their patients encourage its use, such as Dr Campbell-Brown of the Kombucha Tea Network uk. Unfortunately some doctors may be concerned about disapproval by other doctors, and fearful of speaking openly about it. From the constant feedback we receive, we have learned of doctors who, on seeing improvements in chronic and stubborn conditions, have told their patients to continue taking Kombucha. Some doctors have even asked their patients for more information and a piece of culture so that they too can start brewing and drinking it themselves. We hope that this book will encourage and stimulate more interest among doctors.

QIs there danger from contamination in making Kombucha tea, this seems to be put forward as a potential risk?
A Kombucha has a great capacity for regeneration. If it did not have this high biological energy, it would not have survived its long time span from the Chinese Empire more than 2,000 years ago. Warnings of it being dangerous to make Kombucha at home are mischievous and come from a perspective of ignorance, economic interest or a cynical medical profession. Follow the normal, sensible hygiene rules we suggest and you will come to no harm whatsoever.

QAre there any side-effects?
A Yes - good health! Kombucha is a product of nature, and as such doesn't have the side-effects you might get with chemical drugs. The main effects to be aware of at the beginning may be those of detoxification which can be eased in more gently.

QWill Kombucha throw up a lot of symptoms together when I first start to drink it?
A A few people have reported a 'healing crisis' when first using Kombucha. This can be scary if you don't know what's happening. The best way to avoid this is to drink only small amounts of Kombucha to start with and to gradually build it up.

QCan I become dependent on or addicted to Kombucha?
A Not addicted, but it is always wise to give the body a break when using any kind of health supplements, so that it doesn't get used to them or they lose their effectiveness.


Muscle Testing

This is a very simple technique that anyone can do at home if we have some uncertainty about a particular food or drink. We can then find out whether or not it is beneficial to us. A food which is good for one person is not necessarily good for another, and within a diet some foods are better for us than others and also at different times in our lives. Our bodies are constantly shifting and changing through our various ages, and the daily stresses and strains we put onto it. These can make us more susceptible to allergies or passions for certain foods.To maintain a balance in health we would be wise to eat or abstain for a while from certain foods in order to heal. It is very important to listen to our bodies needs, and muscle-testing is one way to help us do this.
How to Muscle Test
Based on the understanding and belief that the body has an intelligence and does not lie, you can communicate with it by asking questions with a 'Yes' and a 'No' answer.
The person being tested holds a sample of food or drink - in this case Kombucha tea, in their right hand close to the chest and extends their left arm out to the side. (See Fig.22) The tester places their left hand on the persons right shoulder and places their right hand onto the person's left wrist.

A tension needs to be set up here where the person being tested resists pressure from the tester who is trying to push the arm down at the wrist - don't be too strong though, a medium pressure and resistance is all that is needed.

Muscle Testing

The person being tested asks: "Is this Kombucha tea good for me?" If the answer is "Yes", meaning that it is beneficial, there will be a good resistance, but if the answer is "

Before starting, try experimenting first with some obvious foods or substances that you know will be harmful to you, such as furniture polish or a bottle of turpentine. You only need a small sample of food e.g.; butter in a dish, a piece of fruit or use it whole, like an apple. With some fresh foods you may need to peel it first e.g. a banana where the fruit inside may be beneficial to you but the skin will be harmful. So be precise with the food and questions you are asking, and you will receive the correct answer.


Which Tea to use - Green or Black?

Q What are black and green teas - and which is best to use?
A Both come from the same tea bush, Camellia sinesis (remember that tea is indeed a herb). Ordinary black tea of the kind commonly used in the West - such as Ceylon, Lipton's, English Breakfast, Typhoo etc - is fermented. Green tea (Japanese or Chinese) is unfermented and has many health-giving properties.

Black Tea is often referred to in Eastern literature and was used for medicinal purposes. It was only later that it became a luxury, then a household item. Black tea is fermented before drying, which darkens the leaves and results in a brown-coloured beverage.

Green Tea is not fermented, instead, as soon as the leaves are picked, they are lightly steamed, during which oxidation occurs and the tannins and chlorophyll are preserved. Leaves are then rolled and dried. You can also buy semi-fermented teas such as Oolong (Formosa). In China and Japan, people are still known to eat the leaves after drinking green tea, because of their high mineral and vitamin C content.

Being British we enjoy a good quality cup of tea and have always thought that it made good sense to use a good quality tea for our Kombucha tea making. During the years we have been making Kombucha we have enjoyed a wide variety of flavours from using different teas. Black tea tends to produce a a stronger, fuller-bodied flavour, while green tea's taste tends to be lighter and fresher. Green and black tea can be mixed too.

Most historical scientific publications discuss the use only of black tea (compared to other herbs) in making Kombucha. They point to its benefits as the best medium in which to brew the Kombucha culture because it:
  • is rich in minerals and nutrients
  • has a high purine content, which the bacteria and yeasts need for metabolism
  • produces the highest concentrations of lactic and glucuronic acid.
However, since studying the latest research on the healing properties of green tea, we now use it mainly for our Kombucha tea, thereby producing an even more potent and remarkable health drink. Here is what we have found:-

Despite living in one of the most high-pressured and polluted urban environments on earth, according to a recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, Japanese women (who traditionally drink green tea) enjoy the lowest rate of cancer (especially breast cancer), heart disease and have the greatest longevity of all industrialised nations.

According to a 1995 British Medical Journal report: "Japanese green tea has been found to reduce incidence of heart disease". The effect of green tea drinking was analysed in a study of 1371 men in Yoshimi, Japan whose most common beverage was green tea. The results showed that: "The tea reduced the incidence of coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular diseases in general". It was also shown to "improve liver function, therefore providing some protection against liver, colon and lung cancer".


Green Tea as an Anti-Oxidant

One reason why green tea helps prevent cancer and other diseases is because of the polyphenols it contains. These are powerful anti-oxidants, the most potent of which is EGCg. (During fermentation black tea loses certain amounts of beneficial polyphenols including EGCg). The polyphenols fight damage from free radicals responsible for cellular damage caused by toxic chemicals and air pollution implicated in a host of diseases. Victims of the atom bomb were known to have drunk green tea to help remove radiation effects from their bodies.


Why White Sugar?

Q I am very health-conscious - do I have to use white sugar?
A Many health-conscious people are surprised to be told to use refined white sugar in making Kombucha tea and ask whether there is an alternative.
Kombucha needs Sugar

Just as we need various sugars in order to survive, the Kombucha culture requires sugar and energy, in addition to the minerals and nitrogen it gets from tea, in order for the process of metabolism to take place. The culture cannot provide its own, therefore you have to provide sugar for it. Sugar is used in assimilation and respiration for most of the fermentation, and during its course is broken down and transformed into acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and carbon dioxide. Sugar is also involved in the propagation of the Kombucha culture. At the end of the fermentation period, if done correctly, the sugar will have been virtually all converted and will therefore have been rendered harmless.

Various sugars need to be looked at in order to establish which is better to use for the Kombucha fermentation:
  • Household Sugar (granulated) - is refined white sugar and is called sucrose.
  • Brown Sugar - most brown sugars, generally considered a more healthy choice than white, are only refined white sugar which has got its colour from a small amount of caramel or molasses added to it.
  • Unrefined Brown Sugar - this is raw sugar and has a very strong flavour.
  • Raw Cane Sugar - is made mostly into refined white sugar with the remainder steam-heated and sold as pure cane sugar.
  • Pure Cane Sugar - is a healthier alternative to granulated white sugar and contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements etc.
  • In tests using both unrefined brown sugar and raw cane sugar in the Kombucha fermentation the following results were found:
  • The solution was dark and cloudy
  • The taste was quite unpleasant
  • A poorly-formed culture had formed
  • There was more yeast sediment
  • It contained fewer health-giving organic acids
We decided from this, and from other research and information, that unrefined or raw brown sugar was not suitable for the Kombucha fermentation. Refined white sugar - either granulated or pure cane sugar - is preferable because:
  • It is transformed during the fermentation process
  • It provides a good nutrient solution for the metabolism of the Kombucha tea
  • A healthy culture forms on which to propagate further
  • It produces a beverage high in organic acids
  • It makes a good and palatable drink

Water - Why Chemical-Free?

Q Why is there so much emphasis placed on using filtered water in making Kombucha tea?
A Water is fundamental to life itself; after all the human body is composed of as much as 70% water and cannot sustain life long without it. Our veins and arteries are like natural rivers coursing through our bodies taking nutrients wherever they are needed. It is obvious then, that pure, sparkling, 'live' highland spring water will do you much more good than the adulterated, chemically treated water that comes out of most of our taps.

You have to ask yourself - why are more and more people getting ill with cancer, Alzheimer's disease, immune deficiency diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, allergies, eczema and asthma? And why are some of these affecting our children at a younger age than ever before? Our whole body's system is becoming weakened and more toxic due to the pollutants and chemicals that we absorb over a long period of time, some of which comes from the chemically treated water that we drink.
The Chemical Cocktails added to our Water Supply

Water that comes out of our taps is sometimes cloudy, and can have the familiar smell of the chlorine which is added to kill bacteria, in addition to other chemicals. Some authorities also add aluminium sulphate and fluorides, the long term effects of which are causing controversy which has not yet been resolved. Chemicals such as nitrates, pesticides and herbicides which are poured onto our farmland in huge amounts, leach into the underground water table, as do the chemical effluent toxic substances and industrial wastes which also pollute rivers. These, in combination with chemicals used in filtration plants to recycle water, the heavy metals in old lead pipes and the toxic substances released from new plastic replacement ones make an unpleasant cocktail for our precious bodies to cope with. It must be said that some water authorities are trying harder than others to reduce some of these problems. Veins and arteries, which carry nutrients, will also carry the chemicals that we absorb into our bloodstream affecting all areas of the body. Our immune systems become weakened, we may develop allergies, function less well and can become ill. You have a right to know what is in your water, so some judicious enquiries would be a good idea!
Bottled Water - Is it an Alternative?

Bottled water is often recommended for Kombucha tea making. However, recent research has shown that most bottled waters are not safe. Bottled water companies do not have to meet the same safety standards as the major water authorities. No information is usually required on the presence of pesticides and herbicides, and they need to test fewer than 25% of the substances that are required of the water authorities. For example, excessive mineral contamination is usually not monitored.

The other factor is that bottled water, which is usually sold in plastic bottles, sits in warehouses and on supermarket shelves, developing bacteria. This, and the toxicity of the plastic, do not make it a good alternative source for Kombucha tea.
The Need to Filter our Water

Chlorine which is added to water supplies to kill harmful bacteria will, unfortunately, also affect the millions of friendly bacteria in Kombucha. That is why the water you use for brewing your Kombucha tea should be filtered. This can be done by using a cartridge and jug, or a system plumbed in under the sink. Jug filters will remove chlorine from water and make it taste better. However, only the best quality water filters will remove aluminium, bacteria and heavy metals, like lead, along with organic polluants such as herbicides and pesticides. Water filtering systems do vary, so we would advise you to do your own research and always to buy the best you can afford.
The use of Vinegar as the first "Starter"

Q What is the purpose of using vinegar in the beginning with my first batch of Kombucha?
A The addition of an acid 'starter' at the beginning of the fermentation process is to increase acidity and activate bacteria in the medium and also to act as protection against unfavourable micro-organisms.

Q Does vinegar have to be used with every batch?
A No, cider or wine vinegar is only used in the first batch you make if no 'mother' starter brew (the actual Kombucha tea) is available. After this the 'mother' Kombucha tea only is used as a starter. If vinegar was used on its own every time or

in addition to the 'mother' starter, it would make the Kombucha tea too acidic and vinegary. You can however use 1-2 tablespoons/15-30mls of cider or wine vinegar in the 2nd and 3rd batches you make until the Kombucha tea becomes fully active. It can also be used a 'kick-start' (as we call it) if the ferment seems to need a boost and the beverage has become, or is still, a bit flat with resulting thin cultures. Other causes should be looked at also e.g. insufficient heat etc.

Q Can malt or distilled vinegar be used as a starter, or do I have to use cider or wine vinegar and why?
A Always use organic cider or wine vinegar. In the USA (though not in Europe) the FDA permits distilled vinegar to be made from petroleum rather than food-grade products! So keep those vinegars for washing windows only.

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Brewing Containers - What is the right Type?

Q I have a big glass jar, will this be OK to use for Kombucha brewing?
A The container needs to have a wide opening at the top as the fermenting Kombucha brew needs a good supply of oxygen to work effectively. A bowl is much better than a long tall jar with a small opening.

Q What type of container is best for my Kombucha brewing, and can I use plastic?
A Your container needs to be made of a material that is non-toxic and will not have chemicals released into the acidic medium. The recommended ones are made of:- glass, china, high-glaze porcelain or enamel (unchipped). 'Pyrex' glass bowls are good and easily obtained in most hardware stores across the world. Use the 3-litre/6-pint size for the batch brewing method recipe in this book.

Materials which are not advised include: aluminium, plastics (even food-grade), ceramic, some coloured glass and lead crystal glass. The reason is that acids in Kombucha, notably acetic acid, will leach toxins from these types of containers into the beverage.

Aluminium - is widely advised against. It is common knowledge that once a can of tomatoes is opened, the contents must be poured out immediately, because the action of air with the acids in the tomatoes will leach aluminium from the tin into the produce. As a general rule, all aluminium cooking utensils should be banished from the kitchen as this metal is detrimental to health. Research has also linked aluminium with Alzheimer's disease.

Plastics - There is much to be aware of in our modern over-use of plastics. A number of companies have developed a wide range of synthetic oil-based products under umbrella patents for commercial use. One of these products, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), is now used in an enormous range of applications including kitchen and household products. No long-term research has ever been carried out on the possible systemic effects. However, our naturopath colleague warns us about the overuse of plastics in the food industry; there is evidence that the hardening agents used can enter the food and then our bodies. Over time joints are affected, hence the increase in the risk of arthritis.

There is also evidence that PVC and chemical compounds used to make plastic more stable and impact-resistant are potential carcinogens and may disrupt normal hormonal function. Other dysfunctions that may result are impotence, birth defects, menstrual disorders and disruption of the endocrine system.

We want you to make a health drink, not a cocktail of toxins, so it is important that Kombucha is made in a container that is suitable for the purpose, so definitely no plastics. We would also seriously suggest that we all look at our present uses of plastics in food preparation and storage and in the home as well.

Ceramic and Lead Glass Crystal - both these products use metals either in the glaze or in the contents of the glass, which will leach into the Kombucha beverage and are not recommended. NB: The ceramic Continuous Fermentation jars are made with a non-lead glaze.

Questions about Fermentation

QAll the sweetness has gone but it still tastes flat. Why?
A Check that your brewing temperature is warm enough and that the Kombucha 'starter' has been added. It can also take 2-3 brews to come up to full strength when first starting off. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of cider or wine vinegar as a 'kick-start' with your next batch. If the Kombucha tea still doesn't improve, then get another new healthy culture and start again.

Q What is the sediment left on the bottom of my brewing bowl?
A These are old yeast cells and can be left in the bottom of the container if you are making a new batch immediately. Rinse the container after every few fermentations or each time you brew if you prefer.

Q Nothing seems to be happening, what's gone wrong?
A By about the third day of fermentation, you should see signs of a thin opaque film beginning to cover the surface of the liquid. If you don't see this, check that your temperature is high enough. Most slow or under-performing cultures do not have enough warmth. Also, did you add the starter liquid? If you think that you have done everything correctly, sit tight and leave well alone. If by the seventh day nothing is happening, try a new culture.


Questions about Kombucha Tea

Q Can I drink the beverage as soon as it is ready?
A It is better to leave it for at least 3-5 days before drinking to give the Kombucha tea a fuller, rounder flavour, but this is not essential. Some people believe that the beverage tastes even better after a few weeks of storage.

Q If I put the live beverage in the refrigerator, will this make it less active
A No, the fermentation process slows down almost to a halt but the 'live' qualities of the beverage are still very much present.

Q If the drink is too sour for me, can I add more sugar to the recipe?
A This is not the answer. Stop the fermentation process earlier, just at the point where the sweet taste has gone and before it has begun to turn sour/vinegary. The recipe has been worked out exactly to enable the right amount of sugar in the given volume of liquid to be converted, resulting in a beverage which contains the highest possible proportion of all its health-giving properties.

You can always add some fruit juice to the Kombucha tea if it is a bit sour to make it more palatable. If it has turned completely to Kombucha vinegar, do not drink the full recommended amount. You could safely drink only 1-2 tablespoons, though, in some water or fruit juice.

Q Why does my Kombucha tea foam when I pour it into a bottle?
A The foam is caused by carbonation - that is, carbon dioxide released through exposure to air - and is quite normal. It is a sign of a healthy beverage. Sometimes it is quite fizzy and frothy when poured, at other times much less so.

All About the Kombucha Culture
You must remember that the Kombucha culture is a living organism and should be treated with due respect by ensuring that it always has an adequate nutrient solution and supply of oxygen to keep it well and happy.

QWhy is my new 'offspring' thin, and what should I do with it?
A The Kombucha Tea can take 2-3 brews to come up to full activity and form a strong new 'offspring'. The donor of your starter 'mother' culture probably stored it in the refrigerator where it was in semi-hibernation. Remember, it is a living organism. The Kombucha Tea from the first few brews will still be good to drink, but should get noticeably vibrant and stronger by about the 3rd ferment. The 'offspring' will also start getting thicker. If it is paper-thin, either discard or compost it. An 'offspring' with some substance, though not thick and healthy enough to be used on its own, can be used, together with the original 'mother' culture for the next brew or two.

Q Can I give my original piece of starter culture away to a new Kombucha brewer if I have only used it once?
A Yes, if you are satisfied that you are producing substantial new cultures - but always keep at least one good back-up culture for yourself in case anything ever goes wrong.

Q Does it matter if the culture has got holes or a tear in it?
A No, not at all. It may only affect the look of the new one forming; i.e. it may be a bit patchy in thickness (but not always - it could form perfectly). It doesn't really matter what shape it is, as long as it is a healthy piece of culture. To be sure of obtaining a completely smooth culture, if this is your goal, let it fall to the bottom of the bowl and weight it down with a clean object, so that a new unconnected culture forms on the top of the liquid.

Q What are the brown stringy bits, like tendrils, on the underside of the culture is this mould?
A No, they are dead yeast cells and are absolutely harmless.

Q Should I wash the culture before use?
A There is no reason to do so, but, if you do, please don't use tap water. We usually give out clean cultures without brown, stringy tendrils on them, so as not to put off new brewers!

With clean hands as you are removing the culture from the ferment, simply rinse the brown bits off into the liquid - (this gets strained off pouring into bottles anyway) or rinse separately using some spare Kombucha tea.

Q I can't separate the new culture from the 'mother'?
A The new culture that forms usually separates very easily from the 'mother', but sometimes they fuse together. Simply snip them apart with scissors that have been sterilised in boiling water and allowed to cool. Older cultures do fuse together however if they are not separated with each ferment, and are allowed to pile up one on top of another.

Q How do I know if my culture is healthy?
A By obtaining it from a responsible organisation or from someone whom you would consider to be an intelligent, clean and caring person, capable of brewing Kombucha correctly and responsibly. Ask the donor questions from the information on page xx.

Q The culture pulls apart into pieces very easily in my hands; is this normal?
A If the culture is actually falling apart, then, no, it is not healthy and we would suggest that you get a new healthy culture from a different source.


Storing and Preserving Kombucha Tea and Culture

Q Can Kombucha tea be stored, and if so how long for?
A When your Kombucha tea is ready it is important to bottle and store it immediately in a cold place to slow the fermentation right down. The refrigerator is ideal, because its temperature virtually stops the fermentation process, thereby preventing the tea from going sour. If you only have enough room for one bottle of Kombucha at a time in the refrigerator, then store the rest in as cool a place as possible, such as a garage or outbuilding. In a warm room, fermentation will continue slowly and gradually turn the Kombucha sour and vinegary. Beware of commercial Kombucha beverage that is displayed out of a refrigerator, as it will probably be sour if it has been there for a week or two.

Q What are the small jelly-like things growing in the Kombucha tea stored in the refrigerator?
A Even with efficient filtering of the fermented liquid, you will not be able to eliminate all yeast and bacteria cells. These stimulate new culture growth, but the process is reduced enormously in the cold environment of the refrigerator. It is a simple process to strain every glass you pour through a small sieve. The jelly bits (we call them 'little happenings') won't harm you and some people don't even bother to do this. It shows the remarkable nature of the 'live' Kombucha tea health drink.


The Fungus/Culture

Q How can I store my spare cultures and how long will they keep?
A They will keep for several months stored in a refrigerator covered in a mixture of equal quantities of Kombucha tea and cold sweet tea. Once restarted, the culture may take 2-3 fermentations to come out of its semi-hibernation state to a stage where it performs fully.

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, your culture may decide not to work so well, so it is always advisable to have a spare one in hand. If you are stockpiling several for a long period of time, strain off this liquid periodically and top up with a fresh mixture. Remember to rotate them, always giving away the oldest one first.
Freezing the Culture

Q Can the cultures be frozen or will it harm them?
A Freeze-drying is a successful method for preserving Kombucha but needs special equipment. If you use your domestic freezer it is very important to do it properly. Your culture must be frozen as fast as possible. If freezing takes place too slowly crystals will form which will damage the Kombucha culture's cells.

Here is how to proceed:
  • Switch on the fast-freeze setting of your freezer well in advance so that the culture can be frozen as quickly as possible.
  • Place the culture and some fermented Kombucha tea in a suitable container or plastic bag secured at the top.
  • Label and freeze.
  • When thawing out, place the block of ice containing the culture into some fresh Kombucha beverage and allow to defrost slowly at room temperature.
Please note that your defrosted culture will take longer than usual to fully ferment in the Kombucha tea, as it has been in hibernation. But be patient, because just when you are tempted to give up, thinking that it has probably died in suspended animation, you will begin to see some activity, confirming that your culture is alive and well. It may take several ferments for it to come back into full active service again, but you will be rewarded well for your perseverance.


Going on Holiday or Vacation

Q What is the best way to keep my Kombucha culture while I am away on holiday?
A If you are going away for any length of time, the following method will help your culture survive well: Place the culture in the brewing container and add the usual amount of sweet tea and Kombucha 'starter' beverage. Cover with muslin or a fine cotton fabric and secure with elastic. Stand the container in a cool, clean place where the activity will be slowed down considerably. You can leave it there for several weeks or even months. When you return home simply pour off the liquid and your culture will be ready for use again. It will probably have even produced a very fine healthy 'offspring' as a surprise too. The resulting sour beverage won't be drinkable but can be used in the kitchen or bathroom. If it hasn't quite reached becoming vinegar, you could put it in a warm place to ferment further and turn it into Kombucha vinegar.  

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