Kombucha has relatives in the whole world      
by Colleen Allen and Günther W. Frank, Copyright 1999

Communalities of yeasts and bacteria have been used by people, and applied for their well-being, since ancient times in all the world for the creation of health-promoting fermented drinks and foodstuffs.

We read already in the Bible (Ruth 2:14) that the land-owner Boas invited the Moabite Ruth, who later became his wife, during her gleaning of grains: "Come over here and eat some bread and dip your morsel into the vinegar-drink! And she sat down beside the reapers; and he reached her parched corn and she ate and was sufficed and left." This biblical report from around 1000 B.C. not only gives us a hint of their exemplary nutritional habits, although they were modest by our perspective, we see from it also that, even at that time, people prepared beverages with microorganisms of lactic acid and how they served the people for strength and refreshment during the hard work of harvesting.

An ancient, pure relative of these related symbioses of bacteria and yeasts is the tea-fungus called Kombucha. It is a symbiotic culture of yeast and several different strains of bacteria grown on sweetened black or green tea.

Kombu has relatives round the world. In my opinion Kombucha is the king of all these. I tried some of these relatives, but always returned to my friend Kombu.

A look at other fermented food and drink

And from our dear friend Colleen Allen in Canada comes the following that gets us "up close and personal" with some other fermented foods and beverages. (Partly the description of the beverages is from Günther W. Frank).

Fermentation is the chemical breaking down of organic substances, such as the tea and sugar used in the production of Kombucha Tea by microscopic fungi called yeast. These microorganisms convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (C02) in the absence of oxygen. Other microorganisms can convert alcohol into acetic acid.

The several factors required for healthy fermentation are:

Sugar
Sugar is the basic food needed by yeast in order for it to survive. Yeast consumes the sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Several kinds of sugar are usable by yeast: Simple sugars such as glucose and fructose can be easily digested by yeast as well as maltose and sucrose(a 12 carbon sugar), larger molecules such as dextrins and starch are not usable by yeast.

Oxygen
In order for fermentation to get a good start, oxygen is required for initial growth. If it doesn't have enough oxygen at the start of the fermentation process it will take longer to ferment.

Nutrients
Yeast requires certain nutrients such as soluble nitrogen, B vitamins and minerals. If you are adding a LOT of sugar, you may require additional nutrients.

Cleanliness
In the case of home fermentation, it is very important that everything be kept very clean to help stop your ferments from being contaminated by pathogenic bacteria.

Fermented Drinks

There are many hundreds of recipes for fermented beverages, such as meads, wines, and ciders, ale lager, vinegar, as well as Kombucha Tea. The following list of lesser known types of fermented drinks was sent into the Kombucha mailing list by Günther Frank, the well known author of a book written about Kombucha Tea, entitled: "Kombucha - Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East".

Kvass
In Russia, a slightly sour weak beer called Kvass is made from rye flour and malt or from bran and four or from black bread and apples, which are left to ferment in water, and to which various other ingredients are added. The acid contained in the Russian Kvass is primarily lactic acid. In Russian military hospitals nearly every patient receives a litre of kvass daily, according to the writings of Professor Lindner. Here you will find some Recipes for bread-kvass

Posca
Posca was the main beverage of the Roman Army, a kind of vinegar water. The acid gave the drink this refreshing taste and killed the pathogenic germs that were in the water that the Roman soldier had to drink under war conditions.

Kefyr
Kefyr is made from milk with the help of the Kefyr Mushroom which resembles cauliflower.

   Here you will find more information on Kefyr:
    The Kefir page of Dominic N. Anfiteatro, Australia

Tibetan Mushroom
Tibetan Mushroom, (translated from German "Tibetanischer Pilz"): This beverage is made from milk, similar to Kefyr, however the culture looks like little grains for rice.

Airag
Airag is a fermented drink from Mongolia.

Kumyss
Kumyss is made in Russia and Turkey from sour and fermented mare's milk. Here you will find the Recipe for kumyss

Tsampa
Tsampa is made in Tibet from tea, roasted ground barley, Yak-butter and sugar.

Pulque
Pulque is a mildly alcoholic fermented drink made in Mexico from the sap of the maguey.

The following is a list of some of the more well known fermented or cultured foods.

Miso
Miso is a fermented soy paste made from fermented soybeans and is available in a variety of types such as, Hatcho, Red, Yellow, Mellow White and Sweet White. It is used primarily as a flavouring agent on vegetables and in soup stocks and is believed to be beneficial in supplying some vitamin B-12 for vegetarians.

Miso is made by inoculating trays of rice with a mold called "aspergillus oryzae", and leaving it to mold abundantly; ground soybeans and salt are then mixed in, and the resulting mass is fermented for several days before being ground into a paste that has a consistency of peanut butter.

Pasteurized miso and sweet miso like yellow, mellow white or sweet white will not keep unless refrigerated.

The nutritional value per tablespoon of miso taken from Pennington "Food Values of Portions Commonly Used"

Calories..............36g
Protein............... 2g
Carbohydrates......... 5g
Fat................... 1g
Sodium...............329mg

MSG
MSG or monosodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid and a form of glutamate. It is sold as a fine white crystal substance, similar in appearance to salt or sugar. It does not have a distinct taste of its own, it is believed to stimulate glutamate receptors in the tongue to augment meat-like flavors. Asians originally used a seaweed broth to obtain the flavour-enhancing effects of MSG, but today MSG is made by a fermenting process using starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses.

Although MSG is considered a safe food additive for most of the population, there are a group of people with severe, poorly controlled asthma who are prone to MSG symptom complex and may suffer temporary worsening of asthmatic symptoms after consuming MSG. The dosage that has produced reaction in these people range from 0.5 - 2.5 grams.

Tempeh
Tempeh is a cultured soy food, a highly nutritious alternative to meat, cholesterol free, high in fiber and protein and is a somewhat meatlike substance made from fermented soybeans. It is used grated in dishes like sloppy-joes, and has a rather strong taste compared to Tofu. Tempeh can also be easily cut into convenient shapes like round or square patties, cutlets, ribs, dogs, grated, etc.

Natto
Natto is made from fermented soy beans.

Tofu
Tofu, or Soy Bean Curd, is a whitish substance made from soybeans. It has a variety of uses in vegetarian cooking because of its bland taste that soaks up other flavours. It comes in a couple of varieties, basically amounting to soft and firm style. Soft tofu is often used to make frostings for cakes, dips for chips and vegetables, while the firmer style is generally used in stir-fries and soups where it will hold its shape.

Yogurt
Yogurt, a very well known acidophilus cultured food has been eaten for centuries all over the world. Because of it's acidic nature, it is very beneficial in the absorption of iron and also supports the growth of valuable intestinal bacteria in much the same manner as Kombucha Tea.

According to Adelle Davis in her book "Let's Eat Right To Keep Fit", it can easily and inexpensively be made by blending together 6 cups (1½ litre) of water, 1 - ½ cups (250 - 125 ml) of non-fat instant powdered milk, and a large can of evaporated milk and yogurt culture or 3 tablespoons of commercial yogurt or the last yogurt made. This mixture is then poured into sterilized jars and set into an electric yogurt maker or in a large pan of warm water coming to the brim of the glasses or jars, and kept at 105 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit (= 41° to 49 ° Celsius) for approximately 4 hours, or until it becomes the texture of pudding.

   Link: The Kefir page of Dominic N. Anfiteatro, Australia


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