Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The pluses and minuses of kombucha

As revolting as it looks, it's just yeast

The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills. - Image by Rick Geary
The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills.

Dear Matthew Alice: I’ve heard recently that the kombucha tea mushroom that everybody’s drinking is supposed to be bad for the sewer system. Is that true — Toni, South Park

Pardon my typos. Haven’t quite gotten the hang of pounding the keyboard in my new biohazard suit. Gloves are a little bulky. The gnomes in the Matthew Alice Recombinant DNA and Buffalo Wings Development Lab are brewing a batch of the stuff, and after I peeked in to check on progress, the suit seemed like a good idea. Hope the “mushroom” is the miracle people claim, because it sure is a stone-ugly sucker.

Kombucha is the name given to a brownish, translucent, jellyfish-like glob of yeast and bacteria. It’s not a mushroom, though it is a distant relative. They’re both in the broad group of simple organisms that includes truffles and athlete’s foot. People have been cultivating kombucha for about 2000 years. Somehow they’re convinced it will cure absolutely anything from cancer to chapped lips, stop the visible aging process, and generally make you a more interesting, attractive person. Remember those TV commercials that showed hefty Siberian peasants who lived to be 130 by eating yogurt? Apparently they washed it down with kombucha tea. The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills, and now it’s the very last word in life-enhancing elixirs. Tradition has it that the jiggling globs must be passed along free for the asking, from believer to believer, like some kind of mystical sourdough starter. But of course Beverly Hills ain’t Manchuria, and this ain’t 200 B.C., so it’s often peddled for $10 to $50 each by people who raise the stuff like orchids or Jack Russell terriers.

As revolting as it looks, the yeast in the kombucha blobs is from the friendly group of baker’s and brewer’s yeasts that reproduce by budding. The bacteria are those commonly found in vinegars. To make the tea, you plop the slimy mass into a glass bowl of black tea with sugar, cover it with a towel, keep it warm for a week, then pour off the tea and drink it. During that week, the yeast beasties have devoured the sugar and reproduced themselves in a layer under the original yeast/bacteria island. Pull the two layers apart and, lucky you, you now have twice as much of the stuff. In the process, the tea has fermented, though the alcohol content is only about half a percent, the same as nonalcoholic beer. Mature, fully ripened kombucha tea tastes like — oh, dusty, mildewed vinegar is as close as I can come. Some people put the kombucha itself in a blender and use it for facial masks, or put it in taco shells, rub the stuff on their pets to improve their coats, feed it to their plants....

U.S. physicians who’ve analyzed the tea admit it contains B vitamins and certain useful amino acids, but of course the docs are leery of all the miracle claims. Most of the research into the yeast’s rejuvenating properties comes from Russia and Germany. And to answer your question, in our primary-treatment-type sewage disposal, small amounts of yeast and bacteria would pose no problem. They’d be separated from liquid wastes at the Pt. Loma treatment plant and be hauled off with the sludge. In an inland, secondary-type treatment plant that depends on bacteria to break down solids, small amounts of yeast would actually be a help, since the bacteria feed on it.

Personally, I’ll pass on kombucha. About the only renegade member of the myceteae kingdom I’ll take a chance on is Ustilago maydis, a parasitic black smut ball that grows on corn. Sliced and fried, with crepes and cream sauce, it becomes the Mexican classic crepas de huitlacoche. It may not prolong your life, but you’ll really enjoy what little time you have left.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Bounce and Twerk: common moves for Megan Thee Stallion and Danyelle “Sweet Dee” Solana

“I use Megan’s music when teaching my classes.”
The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills. - Image by Rick Geary
The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills.

Dear Matthew Alice: I’ve heard recently that the kombucha tea mushroom that everybody’s drinking is supposed to be bad for the sewer system. Is that true — Toni, South Park

Pardon my typos. Haven’t quite gotten the hang of pounding the keyboard in my new biohazard suit. Gloves are a little bulky. The gnomes in the Matthew Alice Recombinant DNA and Buffalo Wings Development Lab are brewing a batch of the stuff, and after I peeked in to check on progress, the suit seemed like a good idea. Hope the “mushroom” is the miracle people claim, because it sure is a stone-ugly sucker.

Kombucha is the name given to a brownish, translucent, jellyfish-like glob of yeast and bacteria. It’s not a mushroom, though it is a distant relative. They’re both in the broad group of simple organisms that includes truffles and athlete’s foot. People have been cultivating kombucha for about 2000 years. Somehow they’re convinced it will cure absolutely anything from cancer to chapped lips, stop the visible aging process, and generally make you a more interesting, attractive person. Remember those TV commercials that showed hefty Siberian peasants who lived to be 130 by eating yogurt? Apparently they washed it down with kombucha tea. The tea’s reputation has drifted from the wastes of Manchuria to the Berber carpets of Beverly Hills, and now it’s the very last word in life-enhancing elixirs. Tradition has it that the jiggling globs must be passed along free for the asking, from believer to believer, like some kind of mystical sourdough starter. But of course Beverly Hills ain’t Manchuria, and this ain’t 200 B.C., so it’s often peddled for $10 to $50 each by people who raise the stuff like orchids or Jack Russell terriers.

As revolting as it looks, the yeast in the kombucha blobs is from the friendly group of baker’s and brewer’s yeasts that reproduce by budding. The bacteria are those commonly found in vinegars. To make the tea, you plop the slimy mass into a glass bowl of black tea with sugar, cover it with a towel, keep it warm for a week, then pour off the tea and drink it. During that week, the yeast beasties have devoured the sugar and reproduced themselves in a layer under the original yeast/bacteria island. Pull the two layers apart and, lucky you, you now have twice as much of the stuff. In the process, the tea has fermented, though the alcohol content is only about half a percent, the same as nonalcoholic beer. Mature, fully ripened kombucha tea tastes like — oh, dusty, mildewed vinegar is as close as I can come. Some people put the kombucha itself in a blender and use it for facial masks, or put it in taco shells, rub the stuff on their pets to improve their coats, feed it to their plants....

U.S. physicians who’ve analyzed the tea admit it contains B vitamins and certain useful amino acids, but of course the docs are leery of all the miracle claims. Most of the research into the yeast’s rejuvenating properties comes from Russia and Germany. And to answer your question, in our primary-treatment-type sewage disposal, small amounts of yeast and bacteria would pose no problem. They’d be separated from liquid wastes at the Pt. Loma treatment plant and be hauled off with the sludge. In an inland, secondary-type treatment plant that depends on bacteria to break down solids, small amounts of yeast would actually be a help, since the bacteria feed on it.

Personally, I’ll pass on kombucha. About the only renegade member of the myceteae kingdom I’ll take a chance on is Ustilago maydis, a parasitic black smut ball that grows on corn. Sliced and fried, with crepes and cream sauce, it becomes the Mexican classic crepas de huitlacoche. It may not prolong your life, but you’ll really enjoy what little time you have left.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

No longer a David, Stone Brewing recast as a Goliath

The foe of big beer tangles with small breweries over trademarks, including a local IPA
Next Article

Bounce and Twerk: common moves for Megan Thee Stallion and Danyelle “Sweet Dee” Solana

“I use Megan’s music when teaching my classes.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close