The culinary art of cultured tea Kombucha.Training


Kombucha (also tea mushroom, tea fungus, or Manchurian mushroom when referring to the culture; botanical name Medusomyces gisevii[1]) is a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly intended as a functional beverage for its supposed health benefits. Sometimes the beverage is called kombucha tea to distinguish it from the culture of bacteria and yeast.[2] Juice, spices, or other flavorings are often added to enhance the taste of the beverage. The exact origins of kombucha are not known.[3] It is thought to have originated in Manchuria where the drink is traditionally consumed, or in Russia and Eastern Europe.[4] Kombucha is now homebrewed globally, and also bottled and sold commercially by various companies.[1]

Kombucha Tea

including the culture of bacteria and yeast, which is not usually consumed
TypeFlavored cold tea with fermentation byproducts
Country of originUnknown; Manchuria or east Russia
Introduced200+ years ago
Alcohol by volume<0.5% (commercial)
Proof (US)<1 (commercial)
ColorCloudy, commonly pale brown or green
FlavorFermented, effervescent
IngredientsTea, sugar, bacteria, yeast
VariantsFruit juices or spices added
Related productsWater kefir, Kefir, Kvass, Beer, Iced tea


Kombucha is produced by fermenting sugared tea using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) commonly called a "mother" or "mushroom". The microbial populations in a SCOBY vary; the yeast component generally includes Saccharomyces cerevisiae, along with other species; the bacterial component almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus to oxidize yeast-produced alcohols to acetic acid (and other acids).[5][6] Although the SCOBY is commonly called "tea fungus" or "mushroom", it is actually "a symbiotic growth of acetic acid bacteria and osmophilic yeast species in a zoogleal mat [biofilm]".[1] The living bacteria are said to be probiotic, one of the reasons for the drink's popularity.[7][8]

Numerous implausible health benefits have been attributed to drinking kombucha.[9] These include claims for treating AIDS, aging, anorexia, arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, constipation, and diabetes, but there is no evidence to support any of these claims.[7][9] Moreover, the beverage has caused rare cases of serious adverse effects, including fatalities, possibly arising from contamination during home preparation.[10][11] Therefore, the potential harms from drinking kombucha outweigh any unclear benefits, so it is not recommended for therapeutic purposes.[9]


The exact origins of kombucha are not known, although Manchuria is the likely place of origin.[3] It may have originated as recently as 200 years ago or as long as 2,000 years ago.[12] The drink is reported to have been consumed in east Russia at least as early as 1900 and from there entered Europe.[13][need quotation to verify] Its consumption increased in the United States during the early 21st century.[12][14] Having an alcohol content of less than 0.5%, kombucha is not a federally regulated beverage in the United States. Prior to 2015, some commercially-available kombucha brands were found to contain alcohol content exceeding this threshold, sparking the development of new testing methods.[15] With rising popularity in developed countries in the early 21st century, kombucha sales increased after it was marketed[by whom?] as an alternative to beer and other alcoholic drinks in restaurants and pubs.[16]

Etymology and terminology

In Japanese, the term kombucha (昆布茶, "kelp tea") refers to a kelp tea made with powdered konbu (an edible kelp from the Laminariaceae family) and is a completely different beverage from the fermented tea usually associated with kombucha elsewhere in the world.

The etymology of kombucha is uncertain; however, it is speculated that it is a misapplied loanword from Japanese.[17] It has been hypothesized that English speakers mistook the Japanese word kombucha to mean fermented tea, when in fact, fermented tea in Japanese is called kōcha kinoko (紅茶キノコ, "red tea mushroom").[18] The Merriam-Webster Dictionary maintains that the use of kombucha in the English language likely stems from the misapplication of Japanese words: konbucha, kobucha (which translate to "tea made from kelp"), kobu, konbu (which mean "kelp") and cha (meaning “tea”).[19] The American Heritage Dictionary offers further insight into the etymology of kombucha, stating that it was “perhaps [...] used by English speakers to designate fermented tea due to confusion or because the thick gelatinous film produced by the kombucha culture was thought to resemble seaweed."[20]

The first known use in the English language of the word kombucha to describe “a gelatinous mass of symbiotic bacteria (as Acetobacter xylinum) and yeasts (as of the genera Brettanomycesand Saccharomyces) grown to produce a fermented beverage held to confer health benefits”[19] was in 1944.[19]

Composition and properties


A kombucha culture is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), similar to mother of vinegar, containing one or more species each of bacteria and yeasts, which form a zoogleal mat[21] known as a "mother".[1] There is a broad spectrum of yeast species spanning several genera reported to be present in kombucha culture including species of Zygosaccharomyces, Candida, Kloeckera/Hanseniaspora, Torulaspora, Pichia, Brettanomyces/Dekkera, Saccharomyces, Lachancea, Saccharomycoides, Schizosaccharomyces, and Kluyveromyces.[22][23]

The bacterial component of kombucha comprises several species, almost always including Komagataeibacter xylinus (formerly Gluconacetobacter xylinus), which ferments alcohols produced by the yeasts into acetic and other acids, increasing the acidity and limiting ethanol content.[24][citation needed] The bacteria of kombucha require large amounts of oxygen for their growth and activity.[22] The population of bacteria and yeasts found to produce acetic acid has been reported to increase for the first 4 days of fermentation, decreasing thereafter.[25] K. xylinus has been shown to produce microbial cellulose, and is reportedly responsible for most or all of the physical structure of the "mother", which may have been selectively encouraged over time for firmer (denser) and more robust cultures by brewers.[26][non-primary source needed]

The mixed, presumably symbiotic culture has been further described as being lichenous, in accord with the reported presence of the known lichenous natural product usnic acid, though as of 2015, no report appears indicating the standard cyanobacterial species of lichens in association with kombucha fungal components.[27]

Chemical and nutritional

Kombucha is made by putting the kombucha culture into a broth of sugared tea.[1] Kombucha tea made with less sugar may be unappealing.[28] Sucrose is converted, biochemically, into fructose and glucose, and these into gluconic acid and acetic acid, and these substances are present in the drink.[13] In addition, kombucha contains enzymes and amino acids, polyphenols, and various other organic acids, but the exact quantities of these items vary between preparations. Other specific components include ethanol (see below), glucuronic acid, glycerol, lactic acid, usnic acid (a hepatotoxin, see above), and B-vitamins.[29][30][31] Kombucha has also been found to contain vitamin C.[32]

The alcohol content of kombucha is usually less than 0.5%, but this number increases with extended fermentation times.[33] Over-fermentation generates high amounts of acids similar to vinegar.[1] The pH of the drink is typically about 2.5.[9]


Kombucha drink is prepared at home globally and some companies sell it commercially.[1] Standard Kombucha production procedures include starts with boiling 1L non-chlorinated water and dissolving 50g sugar in the boiling water. Next, 5g of tea leaves are steeped in the hot sugar water for 5 minutes and then tea leaves are discarded. Sweetened tea is cooled to around 20 °C and 24g of SCOBY culture is added. This is poured into a sterilized beaker or other glass container along with 0.2L of previously fermented kombucha tea. This will lower the pH. The container is covered with a paper towel or breathable fabric that will not allow insects such as Drosophila fruit flies to contaminate the kombucha. The tea is left to ferment for a period of up to 10 to 14 days at room temperature (18 °C to 26 °C). A new "daughter" SCOBY will form on the surface of the tea to the diameter of the container. After fermentation is completed, the SCOBY is removed and stored along with a small amount of the newly fermented tea. The remaining kombucha is strained and bottled for a secondary ferment for a few days or stored at a temperature of 4℃.[34]

Commercially bottled kombucha became available in the late 1990s.[35] In 2010, elevated alcohol levels were found in many bottled kombucha products, leading retailers including Whole Foods to temporarily pull the drinks from store shelves.[36] In response, kombucha suppliers reformulated their products to have lower alcohol levels.[37]

By 2014 US sales of bottled kombucha were $400 million, $350 million of which was earned by Millennium Products, Inc. which sells GT's Kombucha.[38] In 2014, the market was projected to have 30% growth, and companies that make and sell kombucha formed a trade organization, Kombucha Brewers International.[39] In 2016, PepsiCo purchased kombucha maker KeVita for approximately $200 million.[40] In the US, sales of kombucha and other fermented drinks rose by 37 percent in 2017.[16]

Health claims

Many people drink kombucha for its purported health benefits.[1] Research has been conducted using biological assays in vitro.[41] Other studies have been in vivo using rats.[41] There have not been any human trials conducted to assess its possible biological effects,[1][7] and the purported health benefits resulting from its biological activities have not been demonstrated in humans.[41]

In 2000, a scientific review was done, which summarized the range of claimed health benefits: "It has been claimed that Kombucha teas cure asthma, cataracts, diabetes, diarrhea, gout, herpes, insomnia and rheumatism. They are purported to shrink the prostate and expand the libido, reverse grey hair, remove wrinkles, relieve haemorrhoids, lower hypertension, prevent cancer, and promote general well-being. They are believed to stimulate the immune system, and have become popular among people who are HIV positive or have AIDS".[5]

A 2003 systematic review characterized kombucha as an "extreme example" of an unconventional remedy because of the disparity between implausible, wide-ranging health claims and the potential risks of the product.[9] It concluded that the proposed, unsubstantiated therapeutic claims did not outweigh known risks, and that kombucha should not be recommended for therapeutic use, being in a class of "remedies that only seem to benefit those who sell them."[9]

The claimed health benefits of kombucha are based only on animal studies and any potential benefits would need to be investigated via clinical trials.[42]

Adverse effects

Reports of adverse effects related to kombucha consumption are rare, but may be underreported, according to the 2003 review.[9] The American Cancer Society says that "Serious side effects and occasional deaths have been associated with drinking Kombucha tea".[11]

Because kombucha is a commonly homemade fermentation, caution should be taken because pathogenic microorganisms can contaminate the tea during preparation.[22]

Adverse effects associated with kombucha consumption include severe hepatic (liver) and renal (kidney) toxicity as well as metabolic acidosis.[43][44][45] At least one person is known to have died after consuming kombucha, though the drink itself has never been conclusively proven as the cause of death.[46][47]

Some adverse health effects may arise from the acidity of the tea causing acidosis, and brewers are cautioned to avoid over-fermentation.[48][49][33] Other adverse effects may be a result of bacterial or fungal contamination during the brewing process.[33] Some studies have found the hepatotoxin usnic acid in kombucha, although it is not known whether the cases of liver damage are due to usnic acid or to some other toxin.[44][27] Topical use of the tea was associated with anthrax infection in one report, but contamination of the tea may have occurred during storage.[9]

Drinking kombucha can be harmful for people with preexisting ailments.[50] Due to its microbial sourcing and possible non-sterile packaging, kombucha is not recommended for people with poor immune function,[48] women who are pregnant or nursing, or children under 4 years old.[33] It may compromise immune responses or stomach acidity in these susceptible populations.[48] There are certain drugs that one should not take at the same time as kombucha because of the small percentage of alcohol content.[51]

A systematic review of 2019 confirmed the numerous health risks but said "kombucha is not considered harmful if about 4 oz per day is consumed by healthy individuals; potential risks are associated with a low pH brew leaching heavy metals from containers, excessive consumption of highly acidic kombucha, or consumption by individuals with pre-existing health conditions."[42]

Other uses

Kombucha culture, when dried, becomes a leather-like textile known as a microbial cellulose that can be molded onto forms to create seamless clothing.[52][53] Using different broth media such as coffee, black tea, and green tea to grow the kombucha culture results in different textile colors, although the textile can also be dyed using plant-based dyes.[54] Different growth media and dyes also change the textile's feel and texture.[54]


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