Kombucha is commonly referred to as “mushroom tea,” and the bacteria culture used to ferment it as “the mushroom,” but you may be surprised to find out that this nickname has little to do with what is actually in kombucha.
Although kombucha is commonly referred to as “mushroom tea,” it actually has no mushrooms in it, and is not made with any mushrooms. The wrongful connection between kombucha and mushrooms may have arisen because the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that is used to ferment kombucha resembles a mushroom with its circular shape and brown and tan color.
In this article I'll talk about why kombucha isn’t considered a mushroom and doesn’t have any mushrooms in it, and also about some of the similarities and connections between mushrooms and kombucha.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
There are many reasons drinking kombucha is a good idea, but one of the biggest ones is that it is full of beneficial bacteria and yeast known as probiotics. Probiotics are found in a lot of other fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and some cheeses.
It’s believed that the modern diet which is so full of sugar and processed foods harms the good bacteria or probiotics in our gut. And a lack of beneficial bacteria in the body can lead to digestive problems, diarrhea, and even infections such as candida.
Fermented foods with probiotics like kombucha replace and replenish these beneficial bacteria, and may
Is Kombucha a Mushroom?
Kombucha is not made from mushrooms, does not have any mushrooms in it, and is not technically “mushroom tea,” as many people call it.
One possible explanation for this wrongful connection between kombucha and mushrooms is that kombucha can be wrongfully translated from its Chinese and Japanese name into “mushroom tea.”
But I think the biggest reason that kombucha is still being called “mushroom tea” is because when it’s being brewed, the bacteria and yeast culture that ferments it looks sort of like a mushroom.
This bacteria and yeast culture is known as the SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and is a living creature that turns the kombucha from sweet tea into bitter and tasty booch by eating the sugar and caffeine in the tea and producing alcohol, acids, and carbon dioxide.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a SCOBY looks like, check out the picture at the top of the article. They are usually ¼ inch to 2 inch thick, have a jelly-like texture, are disk or circular shaped, and have a tan and brown color.
The circular shape and brown/tan color of the SCOBY are probably the two parts of it that most closely resemble a mushroom. Or at least resemble it enough to keep the kombucha mushroom myth going.
Kombucha Yeast is a Type of Fungus
Other than the SCOBY looking like a mushroom, the only real association kombucha has with mushrooms is that its yeast belongs to the same kingdom as mushrooms, the fungi kingdom.
Fungi are separate from the plant and animal kingdoms because they do not not make or consume their food, but instead grow around the food source and excrete enzymes that digest the food externally, which then allows them to absorb the nutrients. Other examples of fungi are rusts, mildews and molds.
So kombucha yeast belongs to the fungi kingdom and is a fungi, as are mushrooms, but is not itself a mushroom. A good way of putting it is that all mushrooms and yeast are both fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms and yeast, so mushrooms and yeast are not the same thing.
In a sense, the confusion around kombucha and mushrooms is harmless. But at the same time, I know I personally would have never tried kombucha for the first time if I had thought it was made from mushrooms or had mushrooms in it. I don’t like mushrooms and making a flavored and carbonated tea from them sounds pretty gross to me.
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of kombucha and know that although at times the SCOBY can resemble a mushroom and a lot of people call it mushroom tea, there are never any mushrooms in kombucha.
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!