What the Fungi is Kombucha? Origins and 2 Recipes

What the Fungi is Kombucha? Origins and 2 Recipes

Maddie S.
Maddie S.
January 03, 2023
2 min

Although kombucha is sometimes called mushroom tea, it is actually not made from mushrooms! A little confusing, we know, so we’re here to help separate fact from fung-tion and help you understand the difference between kombucha and its closely related fungi friends.

What is kombucha, or Manchurian mushroom?

Bottles of kombucha sitting on a large leaf.
via Shutterstock

Kombucha tea dates back all the way to 220 B.C. China, where the tea is said to originate. Since then, it has spread worldwide, and at-home and commercial kombucha brewing is readily available.

Kombucha is a fermented tea made from SCOBY, which stands for a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This colony of microorganisms is similar to a bread starter because it’s made from living bacteria and yeast. Unlike bread, however, a kombucha culture is combined with tea and sugar. As the colony feeds on the sugars, it releases chemicals that ferment the drink, giving it a fizzy, sweet taste.

While bacteria and yeast are part of the fungi family, they are not technically mushrooms. But because the word “kombucha” is directly translated from Chinese and Japanese, which have identical translations for mold, fungus, and mushrooms, kombucha’s tea fungus (SCOBY) is often incorrectly referred to as a Manchurian mushroom.

How to make kombucha “mushroom” tea

Bottles of Kombucha as well as a jar of SCOBY, with ginger pieces on the counter.
via Shutterstock

Even though kombucha tea does not contain actual mushrooms, you can still enjoy some excellent health benefits from the tea. The kombucha fermentation process results in a byproduct of lactic acid, which is known to act as a probiotic. Consuming probiotics, which include kombucha and other fermented foods like kefir and yogurt, has been associated with improved gut health and immune system response.

Some other benefits of kombucha include antimicrobial properties (which come from another byproduct of fermentation called acetic acid) and anti-inflammation.

Making your own mushroom tea is surprisingly quite simple and starts with purchasing a kombucha SCOBY or making one yourself.

How to make your SCOBY starter culture

The setup is quick: mix tea bags, sugar, and a small amount of kombucha with the live bacteria in a jar. Once sealed with cheesecloth, the SCOBY (sometimes called the Mother SCOBY) will grow independently. Just make sure to keep it at just above room temperature, around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Full recipe here.

Green Tea Kombucha

A hand removing SCOBY from a jar.
via Arishtam

Once you have a SCOBY, you can start making your own kombucha! This recipe uses green tea and a fruit juice of your choice to make a delicious fizzy probiotic drink at home. Find the full recipe here.

Strawberry Mint Kombucha

A mason jar full of strawberry-mint kombucha inside, with bits of strawberries and mint.
via Beets and Bones

This is basically a mojito mocktail! This recipe is excellent for those who have experience making their kombucha and are looking to shake things up. You’ll brew strawberries and mint with your favorite go-to kombucha starter for 24-36 hours (this one is a great easy option and uses black tea!). After you brew, it’s ready to drink. Find the full recipe here.

The beauty of kombucha is that you can experiment with your own unique ingredient combinations. Try out using different types of tea to get different flavors. If you want more antioxidant benefits to your drink, try adding berries or other fruits.

Just remember that mushroom tea comes from bacteria and yeast, not mushrooms, so no fungi friends need to be harmed in making your delicious kombucha. Want to explore more mushroom recipes? Try your hand at making mushroom ketchup.

Fact Checked: Maren Bennett


Maddie S.

Maddie S.

Content Writer

Table Of Contents

What is kombucha, or Manchurian mushroom?
How to make kombucha "mushroom" tea
How to make your SCOBY starter culture
Green Tea Kombucha
Strawberry Mint Kombucha

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