Manchurian mushroom or SCOBY
Other Names - Kombucha, Fungus japonicus, Fungo-japon Kombucha, Kargasok Tea, Kvas, Manchurian Mushroom, Tea Fungus, Tea Sponge, Tea Wine
Edible Parts - Although it is called a mushroom, it is not a mushroom at all as it does not produce spores or "fruit." The "mushroom" or SCOBY can be described as a light brown or creamy white disk that grows on top of the liquid tea/sugar mixture and will take the form of the container that is in, which is why most look circular in the pictures you may see. Again, it is not a mushroom at all and is not edible! It really is a yeast culture that has a symbiotic relationship with various bacteria, which duplicates itself during each brewing cycle. The correct name for the "mushroom" is a S.C.O.B.Y. (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The culture may look fragile, however, it is really thick and leathery in consistency. The finished brewed tea should be regarded principally as a live food unusually rich in nutritive properties and tastes something like cider with a nice fizz. As with yogurt or miso, the bacteria and cultures in the tea are a great source of nutrition, aiding in metabolic function and balance.
This ancient, yeast-culture "Panacea," Manchurian mushroom, also known as "kombucha," takes seven days to reproduce itself. It looks like a 6"-diameter hot cake but is grayish in color. As a tea, it contains a concentrated amount of high quality protein which the body ingests and uses immediately. Yeast enzymes respond to the living micro-organisms in the body where they metabolize readily.
The first recorded use of kombucha tea was during the Chinese empire of the Tsin-Dynasty in 221 B.C. In 414 B.C. Dr. Kombu, from Korea, brought it to Japan. Afterwards, this tea was used throughout China, Japan and Korea and later introduced to Russia and India.
The actual composition of the symbiotic varies according to geographical and climatic conditions, and depends on whatever types of wild yeasts and bacteria exist locally. The Kombucha Tea preserves itself. Any micro-organisms that do not belong to the Kombucha Culture are repressed by the acetic acid and lactic acid it produces. The yeasts in the Kombucha Culture produce carbon dioxide as well as alcohol. Carbon dioxide is a gas with antimicrobial properties and alcohol is a universally known preservative. The Kombucha fungus is built in membrane form and is a symbiosis of yeast cells and different bacteria. Among these bacteria are:
The bacterium Acetobacter aceti subspecies xylinum, along with other organisms associated with production of vinegar, has also been identified in Kombucha. The following constituents may be found in the resulting Kombucha Tea - a small amount of alcohol, carbon dioxide, vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, acetic acid, Glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, oxalic acid, usnic acid, fructose, dextrogyral (L-Lactic Acid+) plus enzymes and minerals.
The end product contains a very small amount of alcohol, 0.5% - 1%, which is as much alcohol present in "alcohol-free" beer and many beverages including apple juice. By law, a beverage can contain up to 0.5% alcohol and still be labeled "non-alcoholic." Most beer contains approximately 3% - 8% alcohol. The end product also contains a small amount of sugar which is not converted. The longer the drink ferments, less sugar and more alcohol will be present. It will turn to vinegar if allowed to ferment too long.
The kombucha fungus needs to live in a solution composed of black tea and and sugar. In the right temperature they multiply constantly. They donít build spores as yeast normally does, but instead multiply by a process of producing glucuronic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid and several vitamins. The yeast culture transforms the sugar and black tea into enzymes useful for the body. The fermented mixture contains 0.5 percent alcohol, glucuronic acid, which is used in the body to build the important polysacharides such as hyaluronic acid which is vital for the connective tissues; chondroitinsulfat acid which is the basic substance in our cartilage; mukoitinsulfat acid which is for the mucous and for the vitreous (eye); and also heparin and lactic acid which is especially for the colon.
While it may not be the cure to all the ills of mankind, it is a traditional fermented beverage used in many cultures to promote well-being. Some of the reported benefits from testimonials are it:
With eight ounces of tea a day, kombucha works like a natural antibiotic. It can activate the glandular system; stimulate the metabolism, reduce weight, lower uric acid, cholesterol, rheumatism, arthritis, neurasthenic stomach-liver-kidney disorders, gout, boils, hypertension and skin diseases. The tea is also felt to rebuild the colon flora and increase the blood circulation and aids those under stress. Just after drinking the Manchurian mushroom tea, you may feel a warm sensation due to the fact that the tea components join the blood stream causing draining action of toxic chemical elements and fluids, reason for which you will notice increased mobility in your extremities and flexibility around your waist.
Contamination due to mold-growth is sometimes found growing on the surface of the mother-culture, if this happens one should discard the Kombucha, and start or obtain a new culture. Some species of fungi or molds, especially of the Aspergillus family, have been known to propagate on MOV and SCOBY cultures. These molds usually have green coloured spores, while some strains may produce black spores. Some varieties of fungi produce aflatoxins and mycotoxins, which contaminates the brew! Unless the mother has already been drinking Kombucha, it may be best for the pregnant woman and the breastfeeding mother to forego Kombucha until pregnancy or breastfeeding passes
For more information - Click Here for a recipe for making Kombachu!