Have you heard of Kombucha?

The other day, one of my coworkers said to me, “I’m drinking ‘Kombucha’! It’s very healthy.” So I said, “Oh, it’s Japanese. It’s a bit salty, isn’t it? It’s made of seaweed, so maybe it’s good for health.” Then she went, “No, it’s sweet. There are many flavours, but Gingerade is my favourite!”, and showed me one of these this bottles.

kombucha

I was totally confused, because “Kombucha” I know and any Japanese know is this.

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Japanese Kombucha is powdered kombu — edible kelp — and you mix it with hot water to drink. It’s slightly salty, but has a savory taste, “Umami”. We enjoy as is or use it for cooking as seasoning. Obviously the Kombucha my coworker was talking about was not the same thing. So I did some research on it.

According to Wikipedia, in Western countries “Kombucha” refers to any of a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks. Unlike the name “Kombucha”, it doesn’t contain any kelp, but it contains tea fungus originated from east Mongolia and later drunk in Siberia. I see, mystery solved.

Actually, tea fungus was a huge health fad in 70’s and 80’s in Japan. Apparently, people were growing tea fungus at home. Later, it disappeared completely from Media, but it changed the name to “Kombucha” and it has been making another fad in the US. Very interesting.

I haven’t tried “Kombucha” yet, and I am still having a hard time not associating the word “Kombucha” with our “Kombucha”. Has anyone tried “Kombucha” yet?

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