Can Kombucha help you?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Kombucha is a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, and a SCOBY—a thin layer of cellulose that houses bacteria and yeast. (Contrary to popular belief, the SCOBY is not a mushroom!) Kombucha is now on the shelves in almost every grocery store and on tap at every startup and tech company… but this drink ain’t new.

This ancient elixir has been consumed for centuries all over the planet because, besides being delicious and fizzy, kombucha’s certain kind of wonderful leads to better digestion, increased energy, and a clearer mind.

Today I spoke with Hannah Crum, author of The Big Book of Kombucha —the brand new book that’s basically the encyclopedia of Kombucha.

Join us for this Guts & Glory podcast where we talk about:

  • The vital enzymes and beneficial bacteria strains in kombucha—and how they can help you
  • Why Kombucha should be served on tap in every single bar
  • How to make your own—and get the most vitamins and beneficial bacteria strains
  • How much to drink each day for maximum health benefits
  • The number of days to ferment it so it contains less alcohol (yes, this stuff can get boozy!)
  • Who shouldn’t drink kombucha

On the podcast I talk about why I don’t personally drink kombucha, so you’ll want to swoop in and eavesdrop on our conversation of this popular fermented beverage.

In early 2014, Kombucha was a $122 million dollar industry. This year sales could be up to $500 million, according to Hannah Crum, who, besides writing the soon-to-be foundational text, [The Big Book of Kombucha], also started Kombucha Brewers International (KBI), an organization with a global membership of nearly 50 producers.

At $4 a pop, this drink can get pricey, but you can make it yourself for practically pennies. Kombucha is also super easy to make at home—though be forewarned…if you get into it, there is no end to the variations and tweaking. (Hannah’s book alone has 400 recipes, and offers troubleshooting, tips, and dozens of glorious photos of brews. This is like porn, for fermentationists.)

Comment below and let me know… What’s your favorite kombucha brand?

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Summer Bock:
Welcome everyone. This is Summer Bock, and you are watching Guts & Glory. Today I’m really excited. I have one of my favorite people. This is Hannah Crum. Hello, Hannah.

Hannah Crum:
Hey.

Summer Bock:
Welcome. Hannah is … Well one reason we have her on the show is to go ahead and basically show you “The Big Book of Kombucha”. I’m really excited about this. We’re going to chat about this a lot today. If you don’t know who Hannah is, she’s the Kombucha Kamp’s main force, along with Alex … What’s Alex’s last name?

Hannah Crum:
Alex LaGory.

Summer Bock:
Alex LaGory. She and Alex are … They work together on this book as well. Kombucha Kamp’s mission is really to change the world one gut at a time by educating and empowering everyone to ferment food and drink safely at home, just as we have throughout human history. Research continues to prove that all living things are truly just bacteria powered, and humans need all the good bacteria we can get, especially in this day and age. Hannah Crum is also known as the Kombucha Mamma, and she’s been brewing kombucha since 2004 and educating others about how easy it is to make this delicious and healthy longevity elixir. This really began as a love of lip puckering brew. This enjoyable process has evolved into her passion, and her lifestyle. In addition to teaching, she installs large scale kombucha set ups and is a master brewer for numerous restaurants and shops in the LA area, as well as consult for many kombucha brands, from those just starting out to established breweries looking to scale up. Welcome. Welcome, welcome, welcome to Guts & Glory.

Hannah Crum:
Thanks. Thanks for having me. The one thing that wasn’t mentioned that I’ll just point out is I’m also president and co-founder of Kombucha Brewers International. Alex and I started that nonprofit trade association to support the bottled beverage industry. I first discovered kombucha by buying it at the store. How about you, Summer? Where did you have your first taste?

Summer Bock:
That is a good question. I actually think I had my first taste of kombucha at a friend’s house.

Hannah Crum:
I first saw it at a friend’s house, but we didn’t try it. It was just these jars covered with cloths. They go, “That’s the kombucha.” I’m just like, “I don’t even know what that is,” but I came back to LA, they had it all over the Whole Foods. It was love at first sip for me. You know when you try something, and this often happens with fermented foods, when like every nerve in your body just electrifies all of a sudden? You’re like, “Ooooh.” That’s how it felt for me when I had my first sip. I was like, “Oh, I’m in. This is awesome.”

Summer Bock:
That is so cool. Yeah, I remember that was a time when I was starting to make sauerkraut, and so that’s how it came up in conversation. Like, “Oh yeah, I ferment.” Like okay, I think I’ve heard of this kombucha business. I was a little nervous. I was definitely nervous in our first interaction, I was also-

Hannah Crum:
I have to say sauerkraut was not on my list of foods that I was into growing up. It like smelled weird. Like old feet. I was like, I’m not, no. I never thought I’d be into it. I got into kombucha, and of course my chemistry changed, and my palette changed, and I love sauerkraut. I don’t know, have you seen the Farmhouse Culture’s gut shots where they just put the juice in the bottle?

Summer Bock:
Yes.

Hannah Crum:
You used to do that. I remember doing shots over here with you.

Summer Bock:
Yeah, oh yeah. Shots of brine. It’s one of my favorite things. I mean, so tell us like … Here’s my big question. Is it mamma? Is it baby? Are they kombucha mammas? Are they kombucha babies? Like how can they be a mother and a baby at the same time?

Hannah Crum:
Well, how are we at multiplicitous in all of our beingness? It starts as a baby and very quickly graduates to mamma once we move that little mother ship from one batch to the next. When selecting which culture to use we always recommend what looks the healthiest? What feels the firmest? It’s not always automatically going on auto-pilot. As you know Summer, whenever we’re fermenting it’s really on taste, it’s what we’re observing. It’s a very interactive process. It’s not just I follow the recipe, here’s the result, because there are so many factors that can influence that end product. We really need to have that relationship, that engagement with it.

Summer Bock:
Right, absolutely. Well, okay so I have so many questions. I know we have such a short amount of time together compared to how long I want to talk to you. I mean obviously, like you wrote this all in a book, so if anybody really wants to take the time, I recommend this book highly, highly. I got it in the mail. I devoured it very quickly. The pictures are gorgeous, first and foremost. I mean it’s just always nice to flip through a book and get an idea of what’s in here just by looking at the visuals. I mean it’s a stunning, stunning piece of art.

Hannah Crum:
Thank you. Yeah, lots of credit to our photographer, Matt Amenderiz and our food stylists Mary and Cooper Karens. The folks at Story just did a tremendous job with the design. I love the interplay of the watercolor elements, which is kind of evocative of kombucha and it’s liquid form, the circle shapes and the bubbles, but then really great photographs to contrast that also … I think people are really going to like it. Of course, I love it. What I thought was really neat was how they portrayed like the different names of the cultures, or the different bacteria. There’s these really fun motifs in there that are visually entertaining while you’re also absorbing all this great information.

Summer Bock:
Well, I mean because here’s the thing. You’ve made, also, a very like scientific book at the same time. Yet, it’s completely accessible. It doesn’t matter what level a person comes in to read this book. If they’re just like a fermentation fanatic, or if they’re just beginning, like no matter what they’re going to come in here and be able to access the information, get what they need out of it, and not get overwhelmed by the science that you did not hold back on, which is sort of fun for me. I love that piece of it.

Hannah Crum:
Absolutely. Well that’s what we really wanted to do is root it in the science. There’s plenty of kombucha books out there. I suppose most of us who are huge kombucha fans remember Günther Frank’s book from ’95. That was kind of the first time we saw illusion to or references to the vast body of research that has been conducted on kombucha. One of the knocks on the american websites, and really part of why I started Kombucha Kamp as a blog, was to provide accurate information about kombucha. It was frustrating for me to read different websites talking about the dangers of kombucha when this so clearly is such a safe, healthy, easy to do process, just like all of the fermentation processes are. I really needed to dig in and share that more authentic information. Having that research portion was really vital to the book. It’s part of what sets it apart from some of the other books out there, is we really do give you that deeper slice.

Again, it’s not taking over the whole book. Like you said, even if that’s not what you’re interested in, you’ve got the 200 and some odd flavorings with all the pretty paintings there, and lots of technique and how tos so anyone who’s wanting to figure this out, or afraid to take that first step, we really break it down so that you have access to the information and it feels really easy to absorb.

Summer Bock:
That’s awesome. I mean I think I do have to say, I want to be fully transparent to you. Like I work with people who suffer from gut issues, dysbyosis, candida, and I work with people who I recommend to not drink kombucha just based on their health conditions. For my own self, like I had a client recently and I love this. I’m just going to say it’s the coolest thing ever, because I don’t really drink alcohol, and I’m really trying to push to get the bars in my area that serve beer to serve kombucha on tap. She called it, a little shout out to Gail, she called it the designated driver’s drink.

Hannah Crum:
Absolutely. That is one of the education points that we’re working on with KBI this year is to create a brochure so that bars understand you’re not giving up a beer tap to something that’s not going to sell, or not going to have real value to it. If anything, you’re broadening the opportunity for your clients to come enjoy even more of their experience at the bar because when you give someone either that, like you said, designated driver option, it’s fun, it’s not the same old soda, it’s not full of sugar, it has unique flavor profiles, moreover it’s a terrific cocktail mixer.

One of kombucha’s really helpful benefits to the human body is it makes that gluconic and glucaronic acid. These acids support healthy liver function, and when we remember that the liver’s our filter, so that’s where alcohol, pharmaceuticals, everything that we’re absorbing, that our body needs to process and prevent from entering our bloodstream, that’s going through the liver first. If you’re consuming a beverage that supports the liver, and keeps it clean and running smoothly as it should, you not only feel a lot better, but you’re able to metabolize that alcohol, metabolize those xenobiotics, metabolize those things so much easier. Think about it like this, when you have a clean filter of course the system’s going to run better.

Summer Bock:
Absolutely. Well, I mean what’s interesting to me about kombucha is that there are a few studies, not studies, there’s these like two stories of people dying, and we’re going to put this out there and we’re going to slash it down. The crazy thing to me is that there’s a recent study that just came out that talks about how 11,000 people die per year from liver failure from taking Tylenol. Like that is out, it is proof, it’s out there people. That is the truth about Tylenol, acetaminophen. 11,000 people a year die from liver failure from acetaminophen. Like just let that sink in. Like think about the last time you took Tylenol, or acetaminophen without worrying about it, without fearing for your life, and now think about like any of the fear around kombucha. That like-

Hannah Crum:
It makes no sense.

Summer Bock:
It makes no absolutely no sense.

Hannah Crum:
It’s totally outside. It’s like two people maybe had an issue with it. It happened in 1995, and therefore we should all be afraid. This is the pattern of kombucha. It has been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and it’s always had these kind of ebbs and flows where there will be points when it peaks in popularity, and something will come out about it and everyone will freak out and get rid of it. There’s a couple of those stories in the book. The one about Stalin is pretty interesting if you’re into history. There’s also, even here in the U.S. with those women in ’95 or whatever. Kombucha’s one of these things that continues I think to persist in our consciousness because we really need it.

I feel like part of why it’s coming to fruition, and manifesting in the form it is right now is because we are at the height of toxic absorption. Our bodies are the canaries in the coalmine. The incidence of autoimmune disease, metabolic disease, just people feel terrible because they’re being poisoned by everything. The air, the water, the food, the beauty products. Everything is loaded with chemicals. Our bodies are freaking out, and when you only deal with symptoms and never the root cause, you never get to what it is that’s actually happening to your body. You think of symptoms as your internal working’s way of expressing to the outer self, “Hey there’s a problem in here. We need to go inside and fix what’s happening,” but it’s not until you’re seeing those external manifestations that you can truly get your head wrapped around it. What’s interesting is so many people live with this illness, live with this pain and suffering, on a daily basis. Not understanding that it’s connected to what they’re putting in and on their bodies. Not realizing that these are our friends, these fermented foods. All of them. The kombuchas, the kefirs, the kavaases, the krauts. Why do they all start with k? I don’t know, but in any case they all … Maybe because they have vitamin K. They help you feel good. How do you put a price tag on feeling good? How do you quantify feeling good?

It’s the thing we hear people say time and time again when they drink kombucha, “It makes me feel good.” When you consider that the yeast have all the B vitamins in living form, some testing has shown appreciable amounts of B-12 in that living form being bioavailable to people in kombucha, and it makes a lot of sense why this is a really great beverage for all kinds of people. It has every amino acid, every essential amino acid. Now I’m not talking about in massive quantities, but it’s also when we remember that too much of anything is toxic. Too much is toxic. It’s less is more when it comes to almost anything we think of. I know we imagine we’re feeding this giant organism, this big human body, but really what we’re feeding are the bacteria, and the bacteria are microscopic. We can’t even see them, so we don’t need massive quantities of anything. We need high-quality, nutrient dense, think trace amounts of quality items, is what really your body needs in order to thrive. Kombucha is not necessarily for every immune system, because some people, their gut dysbiosis might be so severe, they need a milk kefir, they need a coconut water kefir first in order to repair. Usually once they’ve done some repair work, kombucha can then be added in at that time.

Also, kombucha has, like I said before with the detox properties for the liver, sometimes your immune system isn’t ready to release all of those things back into your system, and so you have to do it gradually. That’s where trusting your gut, listening to your body, is so crucial. I think that’s what you and I both do. We try to teach people biofeedback. If you put something in here, observe how it makes your body feel. Do you have a huh-huh in your throat? Do you have a drippy nose? Do you have … There’s many many ways in which our body will indicate to us, this thing I just consumed is not working for me. The other is true. This thing I just consumed, I feel great! I’ve got all this energy. I’m feeling alive again, or I’ve got movement where I didn’t before, whatever that might be. It’s really listening to your individual body, and giving what your individual body needs as opposed to getting hung up on all the orthorexic rules, and this diet, and that diet, and what should I eat over here and over there?

There are some really interesting infant studies, which you may already know about, where they’re allows to just select any food that they want. They’ll gravitate towards one thing on one day, another thing on a another day, but by the end of the week, they’ve given their bodies everything that they need, and did anyone tell them what they had to eat? No, because your DNA knows. Your DNA has so much information encoded into it, if you just listen to it, you just listen and allow that information to resonate in your being, you will find the inputs that work for you. You might be vegetarian most of the time, but every once in a while your body says, “Hey I need a steak,” or whatever that is. It doesn’t mean that you’re violating your principles. It just means you’re giving your body what it needs in the quantities that it needs. Again, it’s not that all or nothing type of thing. We live in the subtleties, as much as our culture tries to tell us otherwise.

Summer Bock:
Yeah well, so I have a niece who’s almost two years old. I see this study in practice every day because one day you’re like oh you loved that yesterday, and she’s like nothing to do with it the next day. It is pretty amazing. It’s really cool. That is something that I teach in my gut rebuilding program is that whole concept of intuitive eating because it’s hugely important, and if you don’t have the right bacteria in your body, then you’re actually listening to potentially dysbiotic bacteria, and potentially yeasts, that are actually tell you to eat sugar, and processed foods, and easy to digest simple carbs because that’s what they like to eat. There’s this like interesting difference between like your own physical DNA and your own intuition, and then there’s this whole conglomerate of bacteria and their DNA, and what they want to eat. They can communicate through your nervous system, and basically tell you what to eat as well. You have two big voices to listen to, and I find that that’s one of the reasons you really want try to be healthier and actually get some of these probiotic rich foods in your diet so that you’re choosing which bacteria are going to be communicating to your brain, so you’re not a sugar zombie, essentially. That’s what I think of them as.

Hannah Crum:
Exactly, right. There’s five hundred to a thousand different types of bacteria, and that’s just the most recent guess. Who knows what else they’re going to figure out or find out? You’re not going to get all of that from one fermented food, or one fermented drink. While it’s great to start with one, and we think kombucha’s a terrific gateway to other fermented foods, to feeling good, to nutrition in a living form, it’s about a variety. Getting a variety, and in living form I think is really crucial. Now there are times when taking probiotic supplements might be beneficial in certain cases, but I truly believe that getting your nutrition in food based formats is … Look it’s what we evolved to do. We didn’t evolve to eat supplements. We evolved to play in the dirt, and get our hands dirty, and let those bacteria coat our bodies. We evolved to let the dog lick us on the face, to kiss the baby with the slobber, to even have wet nurses and pass them around from boob to boob and get different immune systems in them. I mean really what we’re here to do is to connect. It’s common immunity. Community.

It’s when we come together. When we light the stove we throw out our nanofibers of cellulose, and connect with each other. That’s where, I mean again, strength in numbers, and we’re not isolated, and we start to stand up and say, “Hey you can’t poison me anymore. I’m not going to tolerate this. I’m going to look for a better food source. I want to be an organic farmer. I want to provide organic vegetables for my neighborhood or community, or whatever that is.” That’s what changing the world one gut at a time is about. It’s not about a specific outcome.

When you are back in balance, when you have that energy, when you’re not dealing with being sick everyday or worrying about what to eat because is it going to send me to the bathroom, or whatever that is, when you have that energy to now reinvigorate your own family, your own community, I am really confident that when people feel good again, they’re going to go and do great things to help others feel good.

Summer Bock:
Oh, that’s so true. Okay, so before we move on to some specific questions about making kombucha, and some of your tricks, I do have another like health style question for you. One of my big issues in my own healing journey was dealing with like massive candida and dysbiosis. Like kombucha for me really was like, there was a gateway period where it helped me … It actually helped me a lot in the beginning. Like got my digestion up and running and like was really part of that process in the beginning, but then I reached a point where I really couldn’t drink it in any frequency without getting a candida flare-up to come back. Personally, that was for me. I found that like no matter how long it sat and fermented, until it was pretty much vinegar, it was too much sugar, and I’m a slow caffeine metabolizer, and I just really can’t handle the caffeine either. It like boosts up my cortisol levels essentially. I can’t sleep, like it’s bad. It doesn’t work for me at this point.

It did at one time, and I would, if they had it at the bars, I would absolutely be there person being like, “All right get me a pint of that kombucha tonight.” That would be fun to hang out with my friends and like have my own special drink. It wouldn’t be all the time. For me, that’s how I’d rather use it in that style, personally. I guess my question for you, because I work with so many fermentationists in training, and fermentationists who do enjoy kombucha, and there’s this discrepancy where I talk about my personal experience, and I talk about the clients that I deal with with candida and various other things who when we remove it, it is better, but then we have this whole conglomerate of people out there who are benefiting from this on a regular basis. I don’t want to take away from that side of it. I just really wanted you to … If you could just speak for a minute about, I’m going to throw like three points at you here, but kind of the concept around this being a health food, like the probiotic quality of it, and talk about the sugar as well, and like how you see this fitting into somebody’s diet, and working. Like I want my people who love their kombucha and drink it to like have that moment.

Hannah Crum:
Totally, again that’s coming back to trusting your gut. Many people have had candida overgrowth, they drink kombucha, and it really helps them get rid of it, but oftentimes you have to go through a die off period. That can feel like, oh well the kombucha’s causing it then, as opposed to if I stick through this I know I’m going to get out on the other side it’s just, you’re literally beating them back into submission, and they’re like, “No I don’t want to go!” They’re freaking out, so your body’s like “Ahhhhh!” It can definitely create a lot of problems. There are known candidacides in kombucha, but like you said, we do need to ferment the sugar out of it because here’s the issue, if you’re drinking a commercial kombucha they’re not also vinegary, right? Kombucha’s essentially tea vinegar, but for most people the concept of drinking vinegar would be like, “Oh there’s no way I would do that.” In order to kind of bridge people into the category, many brands have chosen to be a lighter profile, to maybe have a sweeter flavor than you might get in a really traditional fermenting kombucha. That sometimes can create an issue because there might be more sugar present in those flavors.

Again, it’s listening to your body and how is it reacting. Are you … I can’t tell any one person what die off feels like. I can’t tell any one person how long that’s going to take or what you have to go through to get to that other side. That’s why sometimes reverting back to those coconut water kefirs … Kombucha has caprylic acid, but coconut water kefir has a lot more. In terms of organisms and diversity in probiotic, the definition of probiotic, if we take it just in what the base words mean, pro-biotic, for life, kombucha’s definitely probiotic. Does it have the same number and quantity of bacteria or organisms as other beverages? Not necessarily. That’s again why we emphasize a variety of fermented foods because you’re going to get the full monopoly then of the different types. Kombucha’s an acetic acid ferment, so you’ve got your glucon acetic factors. It’s not really a lacto-ferment, though lactobacillus are also important. Whether we’re getting those from our sauerkraut, or our yogurts, that’s why you have those variety there.

In terms of … Candida and diabetes are both sugar sensitive, cancer as well, and kombucha has a lot of research and history. If you got to the book into that back section, the appendix, you’ll see some of those research studies demonstrating it’s efficacy in helping with those specific things. That’s because it’s able to just metabolize and get the junk out. You do have to listen to your body, you do have to realize it might not be right for me right now, but it’s going to be right for me later. It’s finding that balance between everything. Like you said, it’s again, it’s that idea of balance. If we’re always drinking one thing all the time, at some point that might be out of balance. It can be good to take breaks. I myself have an ebb and flow with my kombucha. I like to drink [inaudible 00:23:56] every day.

Summer Bock:
You like to drink how much every day?

Hannah Crum:
Well some days I have none, and some days I have eight ounces, and some days I have thirty-two ounces. It just really varies depending on where am I, what’s going on, what’s happening. Always on the road when I travel I love to buy kombucha wherever I go. First of all, whenever you’re travelling you’re exposed to so many foreign organisms, and secondarily, I love to taste the local flavors because it really is a craft product. It’s not like a soda where you’re expecting the same flavor again and again. Each brand has their own style of brewing it, their own way of flavoring it. Just like you have ten hefeweizens, or twenty pinot noir’s, or whatever all on a shelf next to each other, and they’re all there, different price points, that’s what kombucha is. It is this craft, unique beverage. I think that gives people a huge opportunity to try all different kinds. Like maybe you’ll try a kombucha and you’ll be like, “Nah, I don’t like that.” Well try a different flavor. Try a different brand. There’s probably a kombucha out there that fits your needs, your flavor profile, and your desire.

If you are dealing with those more intense issues, making it at home is sometimes better. Even if you buy store bought, let it sit. Let it get more tangy in the bottle, as opposed to being fresh and sweet from the store. Those are some ways you can work with it, but really it’s so individual Summer. There are kombucha files. There are people who are self-proclaimed kombuchaholics, or whatever, which I don’t think they’re addicted to anything. It’s more their body feels good, they get a nutritional benefit, and where’s that nutrition coming from? The tea. If we look at tea, tea is already such an incredibly healthy beverage. The polyphenols, the antioxidants, the calcium, the magnesium, all of these nutrients are made more bioavailable, easier for your body to absorb in a form that you can instantly utilize and catalyze all of those reactions. It’s really listening. It all comes back to that. You’ve just got to listen.

Summer Bock:
I have my friends at Harvest Roots, they came over just the other day after the farmer’s market, and they make amazing krauts, and they make these incredible kombucha blends. The one they brought over was elderberry lemongrass.

Hannah Crum:
Mmmmmm.

Summer Bock:
It’s really cool what you can do in terms of flavoring kombucha, and like coming up with, using even like some medicinal qualities from other herbs as well combined with the tea benefits. Tell me some of your favorite recipes, or favorite blends that you’ve tried.

Hannah Crum:
Well what I’m drinking right now, which you’ve probably seen me sipping, is elderflower lemon, so I just … Plants and herbs have been here to support us the whole time. Humans evolved this strategy where they’ll eat a little bit of a lot of things. Again, it’s that concept of if I eat too much of just one thing, that might be toxic for me. Looking to nature, looking to those flowers and plants, your garden is a great place for inspiration. That’s where I made some of my earliest flavors, garden dew, which was rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano, just things I found in my garden and put into my kombucha.

Think about it like this, kombucha, like I said, tea vinegar, vinegar extracts nutritional value into it. It’s a carrier. It’s the catalyst for those things. Whenever you’re infusing herbs, flowers, or whatever into your kombucha, those nutritional benefits are passed onto you. That’s also why when you put those elderberries in there, you get that beautiful purple color. All that anthocyanin, all of those nutritional components are being passed on to the beverage. The flavor that got Alex hooked, which he thought I was a total weirdo making this stuff at home when I was not a cook at all, definitely standard american diet back then, was pink lemonade. That’s a strawberry lemon thyme, and yes. It remains one of our most popular flavors. Then one of my favorites, and I called it Love Potion 99, because I love to drink it, is blueberry lavender rose. A lot of these recipes are in the book, but like you’ve said we’ve got bacon recipes, we’ve got mushroom recipes, we’ve got all kinds. You can so creative with this stuff, it’s fascinating.

Summer Bock:
Banana ketchup.

Hannah Crum:
Yeah right?

Summer Bock:
I have not tried said recipe, but-

Hannah Crum:
Yeah and it was so fun researching the recipes for this book because obviously we wanted to make things that were fun and accessible for people. Things they already enjoy, but then some little twists. That banana ketchup was really a food of necessity in terms of how it came into being. During World War II, tomatoes were scarce in the Philippines, and so this wonderful food scientist figured out a way to make ketchup so people could feel good about it out of bananas. It’s really good.

Summer Bock:
I can’t wait. That’s totally amazing. Okay, so then here’s … Just to put it out there, like making kombucha’s pretty easy. I want to just give some of the more advanced people who have been doing kombucha for a while, I want to give them an opportunity to get some tips from you right now. There’s two big questions that I get on a regular basis about kombucha, and one is second ferment. Can you talk a little bit about what second ferment is, and some of your favorite additions to the second ferment?

Hannah Crum:
Well that’s what we’ve just been talking about. Flavoring is secondary fermentation. We always do our primary fermentation with just the tea and sugar, because we want to protect the mother culture. Some herbs have high amounts of essential oils. They might be antimicrobial, which to me is always like okay anti-which microbial? In any case, we just to protect the culture, we keep those things separate. Secondary fermentation is also where we build the carbonation. In order to do that we need some of the yeast bodies present. [inaudible 00:29:43] can just stir it first before it pours out of the spigot in order to get some of that yeast in the bottle. Once the yeast is in the bottle you add that little bit of flavoring, nutrition for the yeast, the ginger, the fruit, whatever it is, and that drives the carbonation up again.

Now because it’s capped in that bottle we get our bubbles in there. Bubbles are a primal signal. They’re a signal that nutrition is present because how did ancient people know that microbes were doing their work. First of all, they had no clue there were microbes. They had to look for the bubbles. The bubbles look like the same bubbles you see in a boiling pot of water. What’s so neat is that root word for ferment, is fevere, which means to boil because it was always by witnessing the bubbles that people knew something was happening, something good was happening. That’s unfortunately the bait and switch of sodas. We call those simulacrum. They are mimicking, they are imitating, all of the qualities of these beverage that we instinctually know are good for us, but then replacing them with things that addictive chemicals, that are cancer causing potentially, that really offer no nutritional benefit, and worse they often rob your body of needed nutrients. I really think we’re going to see, not just kombucha, not just kefir, but all kinds of traditional fermented beverages continue to bubble up in a commercial way. I’m really excited about that.

We’re even seeing people combining kombucha and kefir. Kefir has a softer flavor, a little bit milder, can temper the tanginess of the booch, and now you’ve got even more probiotics in there. I think we’re going to see a lot of really fun, creative stuff. Same with the cocktails. I know we have a prohibition hangover in this country, but alcohol’s a vital nutrient, and again it’s when we consume it in the right quantity at the right time. Now I’m not saying everyone should go out there and drink alcohol. You have to, again, listen to your body and do what’s right for you, but I think if we start to put it back into it’s appropriate cultural position, we can enjoy it in a healthier way. In a way that supports life, as opposed to becomes a negative drag on the body.

It’s an invaluable preservative, and when we think about the root cause of disease being diet and stress, we all know having that first couple of sips, it all melts away. Those trace amounts of alcohol not only help to carry nutrition, they also help to relax the organism, and in kombucha it’s metabolized so quickly there’s not a negative effect. Now, some people who are really sensitive to these things, they might feel something, but a lot of people also report those same feelings of euphoria from getting a B vitamin shot. Is it nutrition in a living form that you’re just not accustomed to experiencing, versus inebriation. I think that’s the case more often than not. Again, there’s people allergic to peanuts, there’s people allergic to anything in the world, so it’s always again, that communication with yourself.

Summer Bock:
Well, and so one of my fermentationists, Riah, she has this question because she keeps making kombucha, and she had it tested actually and it keeps coming back with really high alcohol content. I saw that you had some good tips in the book. I was wondering if you could share with me a couple tips. I can tell you she does two and a half gallons of tea, with 1 and 3/4 cups sugar. I’m just curious if you have any tips. That didn’t seem over the top crazy to me in terms of sugar content, so maybe it’s something else.

Hannah Crum:
Yeah, it sounds like the initial sugar being reduced to that level should yield lower amounts of alcohol, that is true, but again what’s creating the alcohol is the yeast. It’s always the yeast. Now what limits the alcohol in kombucha is the bacteria. There’s a couple of different techniques. One of course is filtering out the yeast. Remember when you filter out the yeast you filter out that nutrition. I mean there’s still some in there, but you’re filtering out some of that, and also flavor. Like when you go and look at beer and wine have been studied for hundreds and hundreds of years, so much research, and more often than not you’re tying specific yeast strains to different flavors that come through. Remembering that that’s going to be part of what you’re compromising in that process, but it is still very possible to make an under half a percent kombucha that tastes delicious, and doesn’t lack it’s body, but filtering the yeast is an important thing to do if you need to minimize that. Also, letting it age longer in the bottle, which is hard if you’re trying to do it commercially because then you have to hold product, you have to have storage for that, you have to come back and check on it, this, that, and the other. I think we’ll eventually see folks evolve into these different styles of fermenting kombucha in that way.

Summer Bock:
Nuanced.

Hannah Crum:
The interesting thing about the 0.5 percent is it’s a number not tied to anything. It’s either alcoholic or not, so at that point it should be .00001. It’s alcoholic. That doesn’t make any sense. Fruit juice has trace amounts of alcohol, so does energy drinks. [crosstalk 00:34:41]

Summer Bock:
She ages it seven to nine days. What would you recommend?

Hannah Crum:
Yeah that’s not long enough.

Summer Bock:
How long would you go?

Hannah Crum:
For two and a half gallons? I would say ten to fourteen days would be a good amount to start with, but again, you’re dealing with taste preference. It depends on what you’re trying to do. Sometimes mixing older kombucha with younger kombucha because the older stuff has less alcohol, it’s a little tangier, but you’re still tempering the flavor. That’s kind of what we get in a continuous brew. That’s our favorite way to make kombucha because it’s just so easy. It streamlines the whole process. Everything goes into your vessel. It comes out your spigot. You just keep with that process. There has been some initial research showing that it may help fight the levels of glucaronic acid with that reintroduction of sugar at that point in the process. It offers additional glucose to those organisms creating the glucaronic acid. Again, that’s just an initial study.

It’s always about balancing these things. I try not to get too hung up on the does it have this one strain? Does it have this amount of this vitamin or whatever, because it’s really that intuitive eating, that trusting your gut. Your body knows what it needs, and we don’t need a number in order to quantify that. That only gets our brains confused a lot of times, and focused on the wrong things. Again, it’s diversity, just like nature. Nature loves diversity. You walk out your door, what do you see? You don’t just see only grass. You see the birds, and the bees, and trees, and flowers, and different types of grass. Nature loves diversity. It loves diversity of ideas, it loves diversity of opinions, it loves diversity of colors, and freckles, and all kinds of things. If we embrace that diversity, and realize that just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad or anything, I think we find there’s room for everybody, for all kinds of organisms to thrive together.

Summer Bock:
High five for that. All right. Well we could keep jamming on this stuff forever. Just for everybody, like remember this is called “The Big Book of Kombucha”. It really is the encyclopedia of kombucha as far as I’m concerned. Like this is where you need to go to get your answers, and ideas, and really a lot of troubleshooting, like if you want to keep it safe, like read this. Then, you also have a tour going on. If you’re watching this in time for the national tour of “The Big Book of Kombucha” there’s some great tour dates out there. You can probably go onto what? Kombuchakamp.com to get to that?

Hannah Crum:
That is correct. Kombuchakamp.com. We have a free recipe there if you’re new to kombucha. You can download that. You can also click on to find our tour dates. We’ll be doing all different kinds of fun events. Some are cocktail parties with tastings, some are book signings in the book store, but all of them are going to have kombucha samples because we have partnered with our friends in the commercial world to make sure everyone has a chance to try some kombuchas while we’re talking about it because there’s nothing more fun than … I don’t know about you Summer, but I love talking about food and like talk about the qualities of it, and what did I like, and what didn’t I like. I think our minds enjoy those levels of sophistication. We know about single-estate shade grown coffees, and pu-erh tea that’s been fermented for, you know what I’m saying? Humans love that kind of information. Really excited to share kombucha, and our love of kombucha, and our kombucha livestock philosophy with everyone. Thanks so much for having me on, and sharing this with your people.

Summer Bock:
Absolutely, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for all the hard work that you put into this book. I remember back when you were talking about this, it was quite a while ago, and it’s wonderful to see this come to fruition. Thanks for that, and everyone this is Hannah Crum and Summer Bock signing out. Bye bye.

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