- Other names for the mushroom:
- Tea mushroom
Kombucha. An incomprehensible slippery something floating in a jar neatly covered with clean gauze. Weekly care procedure: we drain the finished drink, rinse the mushroom, prepare a new sweet solution for it and send it back to the jar. We observe how this jellyfish straightens out, takes a comfortable position for itself. Here it is, the true "tea ceremony", no need to go to China, everything is at hand.
I remember how this strange jellyfish appeared in our family.
Mom then worked at the University and often told all sorts of news, either from the world of "high science", or from the world of pseudo-scientific speculation. I was still quite small, a preschool girl, and eagerly caught all sorts of tricky words in order to frighten my friends later. For example, the word "acupuncture" is a terrible word, right? Especially when you are 6 years old and you are terrified of injections. But you sit and listen as if enchanted, because this is sheer magic: to poke just needles, empty needles into the “right” points, without syringes with disgusting vaccinations, from which the skin then itches - and all diseases go away! All! But, the truth is, to know these "correct points", you need to study for a long time, many years. This revelation somewhat cooled my childish ardor to immediately arm myself with a pack of needles and go to treat everyone in a row,from a dozen chickens in the chicken coop and our aging cat to the neighbor's angry dog.
And then one evening my mother came home from work, neatly carrying some strange saucepan in her string bag. She put the saucepan solemnly on the table. My grandmother and I were impatiently waiting for what was there. I, of course, hoped that there was some new delicacy. Mom opened the lid, I looked inside ... Medusa! A nasty, dying, yellowish-hazy-brownish jellyfish lay at the bottom of a saucepan, slightly covered with a transparent yellowish liquid.
A dumb scene. Brutal, you know, like in the best productions of The Inspector General.
The grandmother was the first to find the gift of speech: "What a disgusting thing?"
Mom, apparently, was ready for such a reception. I slowly washed my hands, took the plate, deftly picked up the jellyfish from the saucepan, put it on the plate and began to tell.
To be honest, I don't remember much of that story. Pictures and impressions remained in my memory. If there were abstruse words like “Acupuncture”, I would probably remember more. I remember how strange it was for me to watch my mother take this monster with her hands, explaining where it is up and down, and that it grows in “layers”.
Mom, without stopping to tell, prepared a dwelling for the jellyfish: she poured boiled water into a three-liter jar (this is the end of the sixties, the concept of "purchased drinking water" was absent as such, we always boiled tap water), added some sugar and topped up tea leaves from a teapot. She shook the jar to make the sugar dissolve faster. She again took the jellyfish with her hands and released it into the jar. But now I knew that this was not a jellyfish, it was Kombucha. The mushroom plumped into the jar almost to the very bottom, then slowly began to straighten out and rise. We sat and watched, fascinated, how it occupies the entire space of the can in width, how the can turned out to fit him exactly (long live GOST and standardized sizes of glass containers!), How it slowly rises.
Mom took the cups and poured liquid from the saucepan over them. Try it! - the grandmother pursed her lips in disgust and flatly refused. Looking at my grandmother, of course, I also refused. Later, in the evening, the men, father and grandfather drank the drink, I did not understand the reaction, it seems they did not like it.
It was early summer and it was hot.
My grandmother always made kvass. Simple homemade kvass according to a simple recipe, without any starter cultures: dried real "black" round bread, unwashed black raisins, sugar and water. Kvass was kept in traditional three-liter jars. A jar of kombucha took its place in the same row. In the heat, I was constantly thirsty, and my grandmother's kvass was the most affordable. Who remembers those times? There were machines with soda, 1 kopeck - just soda, 3 kopecks - soda with syrup. The machines were not a lot, we lived then on the outskirts, there were only two of them within walking distance, but I was not allowed to go to one of them, since there I had to cross the road. And constantly there something ended: there was no water, then there was no syrup. You come like a fool with your glass, but there is no water. You could, if you were lucky, buy citro or lemonade in a half-liter bottle,but they didn’t give me money for this (it cost, it seems, a little more than 20 kopecks, I only got such a lot of money at school, when I could save on breakfast). Therefore, grandmother's kvass saved from thirst: you run into the kitchen, grab a cup, quickly grab a can, pour a magic drink right through the gauze and drink. This absolutely unforgettable taste! That's how many different types of kvass I tried later, in the post-Soviet era, I never found anything like it.That's how many different types of kvass I tried later, in the post-Soviet era, I never found anything like it.That's how many different types of kvass I tried later, in the post-Soviet era, I never found anything like it.
Three weeks have passed since that evening when my mother brought someone else's saucepan into the house. The story about the jellyfish that settled with us has already disappeared from my memory, I do not remember at all who looked after the kombucha and where the drink went.
And then one day exactly what should have happened happened, which you, my dear reader, have already guessed, of course. Yes. I rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a can without looking, poured myself some kvass and began to drink greedily. I took several full sips before I realized: I don't drink kvass. Oh, not kvass ... Despite the general similarity - sweet and sour and slightly carbonated - the taste was completely different. I lift the cheesecloth - a jellyfish is swaying in the jar from which I just poured myself kvass. Pretty much enlarged from the moment we first met.
It's funny that I didn't have any negative emotions. I was very thirsty, and the drink was really tasty. I finished it slowly, in small sips, trying to taste better. Quite good taste! About twenty years later I found out that there is a small percentage of alcohol in kombucha, just like the word “kombucha”. Then we called it simply: "mushroom". The question "What will you drink, kvass or mushroom?" was understood unambiguously.
What can I say ... a week later I was already a super-expert on the "mushroom", I hooked all my friends on it, a queue of neighbors lined up for the "shoots" to my grandmother.
When I went to school, the parents of my classmates came in line. I could easily and without hesitation rattle "point by point" what Kombucha is:
- it is alive
- this is not a jellyfish
- it's such a mushroom
- he grows himself
- he lives in a bank
- he makes the drink like kvass, but tastier
- I am allowed to drink this drink
- teeth do not deteriorate from this drink
This uncomplicated children's marketing acted on everyone, gradually jars of mushroom settled in all the kitchens of the neighborhood.
Years passed. Our outskirts were demolished, we got an apartment in a new building, in another area. It took a long time, it was hard, it was summer and it was hot again.
The mushroom was transported in a jar, from which almost all the liquid was drained. And they forgot about him. For ten days, maybe more. Found a jar by the smell, sour specific smell of stagnant yeast fermentation with foulbrood. The mushroom wrinkled, the top was completely dry, the bottom layer was still wet, but somehow very unhealthy. I don't even know why we tried to revive him? It was possible to take the scion without any problems. But it was interesting. We washed the mushroom several times with lukewarm water and dipped it into a freshly prepared solution of sweet tea. He drowned. All. Lay down like a submarine. For a couple of hours I still went to see how my pet was there, then I spat.
And in the morning I discovered that he came to life! Raised up to half the height of the can and looked much better. By the end of the day, I surfaced quite as expected. The top layer was a bit dark, there was something painful in it. I changed his solution a couple of times and poured this liquid out, was afraid to drink, tore off the top layer and threw it away. Mushroom agreed to live in a new apartment and forgave us our forgetfulness. Amazing survivability!
In the fall, I went to ninth grade at a new school. And during the autumn holidays, my classmates came to visit. We saw a jar: what is it? I took in more air in my chest to drum off the usual "this is alive ..." - and stopped. The text that you proudly recite as an elementary school student will be somehow wildly perceived when you are already a young lady from a high school, a Komsomol member, an activist.
In a nutshell, she said that this is Kombucha and that this liquid can be drunk. And the next day I went to the library.
Yes, don't laugh: into the reading room. This is the end of the seventies, the word "Internet" then did not exist, as well as the Internet itself.
She studied the filing of the magazines "Health", "Rabotnitsa", "Krestyanka" and something else, I think, "Soviet woman".
A couple of articles about Kombucha were found in every file. I then made disappointing conclusions for myself: no one really knows what it is and how it affects the body. But it doesn't seem to hurt. And thanks for that. Where it came from in the USSR is also unknown. And why exactly tea? Kombucha, it turns out, can live in milk and juices.
My "marketing" theses at that time looked something like this:
- it is a living organism, symbiotic
- he has been known for a long time in the East
- kombucha drink is generally good for health
- it boosts immunity
- it improves metabolism
- he cures a bunch of some diseases
- it helps to lose weight
- it has alcohol in it!
The last item on this list, as you can imagine, was strictly for classmates, not for their parents.
For a year, my whole parallel was already with the mushroom. Such is the "cyclical history".
But the mushroom did a full cycle when I entered the university. I entered the same university, KSU, where my mother once worked. First, she presented several sprouts to the girls in the hostel. Then she began to offer her classmates: do not throw them away, these "pancakes"? And then, it was already in my second year, the teacher called me and asked what I brought in a jar and gave it to my classmate? Isn't this the "Indian mushroom", the drink from which heals gastritis? I admitted that I have heard about gastritis for the first time, but if it is gastritis with high acidity, then drinking this drink is unlikely to work: there will be constant heartburn. And that the name "Indian mushroom" is also, in general, I hear for the first time, we call it simply Kombucha.
"Yes Yes! - the teacher was delighted. - That's right, tea! Can you sell me a scion? "
I replied that I do not sell them, but give them away "completely without air-mez-bottom, that is, for nothing" (activist, Komsomol member, early eighties, what a sale, what are you!)
We agreed on barter: the teacher brought me a few grains of "Sea Rice", I made her happy with a kombucha pancake. A couple of weeks later, I accidentally found out that there was already a line for the processes at the department.
My mother brought Kombucha from the university, from the low temperature physics department. I brought it to the same university, to the department of the history of foreign literature. The mushroom made a full circle.
Then ... then I got married, gave birth, the mushroom disappeared from my life.
And here a few days ago, putting in order the Kombucha section, I thought: what is new on this topic? As of now, end of August 2019? Tell me, Google ...
Here's what we managed to scrape together:
- there is still no reliable information where the fashion came from to ferment the sugar solution using the so-called "Kombucha"
- there is no exact information where he comes from, it is Egypt, India or China
- it is absolutely unknown who and when brought it to the USSR
- but it is known that in the USA it gained incredible popularity in the 90s of the last century and continues to spread aggressively, but not for free, according to friends, from hand to hand, as it was with us, but for money
- the US kombucha drink market is estimated at some absolutely insane millions of dollars ($ 556 million in 2017) and continues to grow
- the word "Kombucha" has become firmly used, instead of the long and unpronounceable "drink made by kombucha"
- there is no reliable information how Kombucha is useful with constant use
- periodically there is viral news about the alleged deaths among Kombuchi fans, but there is no reliable confirmation either
- there are a huge variety of recipes with the participation of Kombuchi, almost all of these recipes contain herbal preparations, they must be treated with due care
- Kombuchi's consumers have grown considerably younger, they are no longer grandmothers whose jar of kombucha is on a par with kvass. The Pepsi Generation Chooses Kombucha!
The photographs used in this post are not documentary photographs of the years that the story is about. These photos were taken by my friend, Yuri Podolsky, at my request, especially for VikiGrib and for this article.