February 8, 2015

Kombucha confusion

Did you know those kombucha you see in healthfood stores is not what it means in Japanese: kombu = kelp; cha = tea? I didn't. Naturally, as a native Japanese, I had a firm belief that these bottled liquid was the slightly salty kelp tea that I sip sometimes, too.

Well, I'm glad I got to know the truth before I tried a bottle. (I'll never try a chilled kelp tea, though, like I will never put sugar in my green tea. It just seems wrong.)

It is actually fermented health drink which is called kocha kinoko (translates "black tea mushroom") in Japanese, originating from China.

Though I've never tried this Chinese fermented drink, it reminds of this incident back in Tokyo when I was still living with my parents.

My mother hired a couple of gardeners to trim some Japanese pine trees in our yard. The branches grew high and trimming of Japanese pines need some skills & experience. Since old school gardeners used scissors, it was a day's work and my mother always served the gardeners some tea & light snacks in the afternoon.

That day, she was out and my grandma served them tea instead. When the sunset came & the work was almost done, my mom came home and while clearing the tea tray, she asked one of the gardeners how the tea was. He replied, "It tasted like kocha kinoko."

Puzzled by his answer, since we never had any kocha kinoko at our house, she asked my grandma what she served them. Grandma claimed that she gave them the regular hoji cha, roasted green tea.

Even more perplexed, my mom looked into the teapot in the kitchen sink - among the brown tea leaves, she saw grayish, whitish mold!

We always served tea in the same, big tan-colored teapot whenever any contractors came to do work. Whenever it was used last time, the teapot was put away into the cupboard without being washed, tea leaves still in it. And you know, contractors don't come that often - who know how long it has been fermenting!

My mom kept it from the gardeners, but they went home happily and never complained of any stomachache. Maybe, the unintentionally-homemade fungus did some good to their health.

P.S. I came across a kombucha recipe and got to know what it meant in the U.S., while researching a sauerkraut recipe in THE KITCHN. Saved by its fermented cousin...

pear study #1 and #2

study of my daughter.

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