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Part One - Kombucha FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

About Tea


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but that it may be found out by seeking"

Terence 185 - 159 BC

© Copyright 1995 - 2000 Colleen M. Allen


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Miscellaneous (part 1 of 2 -  6.1 - 6.50 )

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1. TEA

1.1 Where did tea come from?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, China introduced tea to the world. The word tea comes from a Chinese ideogram pronounced "tay" in the Amoy dialect and came into English with that pronunciation, changing to its present form in the 18th Century.

Tea is made from the young leaves and leaf buds of the tea plant, "Camellia sinensis"--a species of evergreen. Ancient legends refer to a beverage made from an infusion of dried tea leaves which was thought to have been introduced by Emperor Shen Nung in about 2737 BC. Existing records credit the Chinese with originating tea cultivation, although it is possible that some tribes in Shan States in Burma, China, and Siam (Thailand) have used tea in some form as long as the Chinese. The China tea plant--brought to Japan in about AD 800--was regarded as a medicine for 500 years, until green tea was developed and became a popular Japanese beverage.

Tea is designated as black (fermented,) green (unfermented), or oolong (semi-fermented), depending upon the process applied. Oolong, is prepared in South China and Taiwan from a special form of China plant, chesima, that gives this tea unique flavor.

1.2 Where did the name "tea" come from?

The word for tea in most of mainland China and also in Japan is "cha." Hence its frequency in names of Japanese teas: Sencha, Hojicha, etc. But the word for tea in Fujian province is "te" (pronounced approximately "tay"). The first mass marketers of tea in the West were the Dutch, whose contacts were in Fujian. They adopted this name, and handed it on to most other European countries. The two exceptions are Russia and Portugal, who had independent trade links to China. The Portuguese call it "cha," the Russians "chai." Other areas (such as Turkey, South Asia and the Arab countries) have some version of "chai" or "shai." "Tay" was the pronunciation when the word first entered English, and it still is in Scotland and Ireland. For unknown reasons, at some time in the early eighteenth century the English changed their pronunciation to "tee." Virtually every other European language however, retains the original pronunciation of "tay."

1.3 What are the major tea types?

The three main classifications of tea are:

1.4 What are some of the most popular teas?

1.5 What are some of the most popular blends of tea?

1.6 What are some of the most popular oolong teas?

1.7 What are some of the most popular green teas?

1.8 What are flavored teas?

While flavored teas evolve from the three basic teas, (black, oolong and green), herbal teas contain no true tea leaves. Herbal and "medicinal" teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants.

1.9 What is Bergamot?

Bergamot is a small acidic orange with a peel that yields an essential oil--called "essence of bergamot" which is used for perfumes and confections. The peel is used in Earl Grey tea. It is also candied and used in the same way as other candied fruit peels.

1.10 What are some of the most popular flavored teas?

1.11 What types of teas are used most often to make Kombucha Tea?

Regular black or green tea, or a combination of these two, are used the most often.

1.12 Can I use herbal teas to make Kombucha Tea?

Some people use herbal tea to make Kombucha, others add the herbs to Kombucha after it has been fermented. Herbal teas contain alkaloids which may affect the Kombucha colony.

1.13 Can I use decaffeinated tea to make Kombucha Tea?

Yes. Some people use only decaffeinated tea . Others use a combination of 3 or 4 bags decaffeinated tea with 1 or 2 bags regular black tea. Decaffeinated tea still has about 3% caffeine content.

1.14 Is the caffeine in Kombucha Tea all used up by the colony?

No. The caffeine content of Kombucha Tea remains unchanged by the fermentation process.

1.15 Should I use teas with fruit oils added?

The fruit oils in flavored tea like orange and lemon zinger, have been found to have a damaging affect on the Kombucha colony.

1.16 Do tea polyphenols effect the growth of bifidobacterium?

Yes, see following report:

Mitsuoka T. Intestinal Flora and Aging. Nutrition Reviews (1992) 50:438-446.

"Mitsuoka is one of the few widely published researchers in this field (probiotics) and s associated with the Nippon Veterinary and Animal Science University in Kyonan-cho Japan. Without getting into the full article, he basically says that as one ages, the intestinal flora change their relative proportions. Bifidobacteria are diminished, whereas clostridia increases significantly (along with lactobacilli, streptococci, and entero-bacteria). The metabolism of bacteria appear to play a more important role in human health than previously thought, and as such, the shift of bacteria in health and disease may provide indications of prospective health.

What we eat or drink contributes considerably to the selective growth of various bacteria. This particular study reports that tea polyphenols (as in green tea) appear to moderately enhance the growth of the bifido-bacterium and selectively inhibit the various species of Clostridia.

To put this all in perspective, several of the "medicinal foods" like Kombucha that are reported anecdotally to affect conditions of the GI tract, skin, and allergic conditions, may have as common denominator the selective inhibition and promotion of those bacteria in the GI tract that affect immune function and detox metabolism. In any case, such information at least provides a rationale to further investigate the particular effect of Kombucha on health.

1.17 What water temperature is recommended for making green tea?

Chinese or Japanese traditional tea-making requires water temperature of about 90° C.

1.18 Are there side effects from using Chinese or Japanese green tea?

One should start with a small amount, as each individual may have different sensitivity to green tea. Some people may find it makes it hard to sleep if drunk at night. Some have experienced no side-effects at all.

1.19 How seriously should I take the time limits for infusing tea?

If you've ever tasted over-steeped tea, you know that it is bitter and astringent.
Three to five minutes is fine for most varieties. Oolong, which is always large leaves, requires a long steeping time: usually between five and six minutes. Darjeeling, interestingly enough, is often best with a steeping time between 90 seconds and three minutes. (Since it tends toward astringency, the short steeping time helps keep the balance of flavors right. This is especially true of first flush Darjeeling.)

While the above steeping times are used by some, others prefer to steep tea for 10-15 minutes, some longer, feeling the longer steep time to be more beneficial to the end results--by adding more nutrients from the tea to the culture. Remember, however, the longer you steep your tea --the higher the caffeine and tannin contents will be in your Kombucha Tea.

1.20 What is a tea infuser?

A tea infuser is a small perforated basket-like container with a hinged opening. Loose tea is placed inside the infuser, which is then closed and lowered into the teapot filled with boiling water. The tiny holes in the infuser allow the water to interact with the tea leaves. A tiny chain with a hook at one end is attached to the top of the infuser. The hook slips over the rim of the teapot so the infuser can easily be removed. Tea infusers are usually made of stainless or chromed steel, although there are also porcelain and silver models.

1.21 What are some good methods to strain loose tea leaves?

1.22 Does caffeine act as a stimulant?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance, and, depending on the dose, can be a mild central nervous system stimulant. [2] However, any pharmacological effects of caffeine are transient, usually passing within hours. [5] Scientific studies have shown that individuals who consume caffeine may increase memory and improve reasoning powers. Research indicated that those who consumed caffeine scored higher grades on motor skill tests, enhanced reaction times and improved auditory and visual vigilance.[6,7]

1.23 How long does caffeine remain in the body?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Caffeine does not accumulate in the body over the course of time and is normally excreted within several hours of consumption. The "half-life" of caffeine is the time it takes to eliminate one-half of consumed caffeine from the body. This varies among individuals, about three to four hours in healthy adults. Smoking increases the metabolism of caffeine, generally reducing the half-life to no more than three hours. Children also metabolize caffeine at a quicker rate.[2]

1.24 Does caffeine consumption cause cancer?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

The American Cancer Society's Guidelines on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer state there is no indication that caffeine is a risk factor in human cancer and the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council reports there is no convincing evidence relating caffeine to any type of cancer. [17, 18]

1.25 Does caffeine cause heart disease or stroke?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Findings from a Framingham Heart Study were substantiated in 1990 when a prospective study concluded by Harvard University researchers further concluded that caffeine consumption causes "no substantial increase in the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke." The study included 45,589 men between the ages of 40 to 75 years old and adjusted for major cardiovascular-risk indicators including dietary intake of fats and cholesterol and smoking.[21]

1.26 Does caffeine consumption affect high blood pressure?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Dr. Martin Myers, of the cardiology division at the Sunnybrook Center in Toronto, reviewed the scientific literature of caffeine and blood pressure in 1988. In his review, Myers examined 17 scientific studies that investigated the effects of caffeine on blood pressure after long-term administration. Upon final examination, Myers concluded that "caffeine does not cause any persistent increase in blood pressure." [24]

1.27 Can pregnant women safely consume caffeine?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Dr. Alan Leviton of Boston's Children's Hospital reviewed the results of 13 human studies conducted since 1981 on the effect of caffeine consumption on reproduction. Published in 1988, Leviton concluded that "no evidence has yet been offered that caffeine consumption at moderate levels by pregnant women has any discernible adverse effect on their fetuses." [32]

The FDA after evaluating scientific evidence, has concluded that caffeine does not adversely affect reproduction in humans. However, the agency continues to advise pregnant women to consume caffeine in moderation. [3]

1.28 Does caffeine consumption make children hyperactive?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Contrary to popular belief, children, including those diagnosed as hyperactive, are no more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than adults. [5,8] Plus, a 1984 study demonstrated that caffeine was not a cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). [9]

1.29 Does caffeine effect benign breast disease?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

A large case-control study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1986, involving more than 3,000 women, showed no evidence of an association between caffeine intake and benign tumor, fibrocystic breast disease or breast tenderness. [35] Both the NCI and the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs have stated there is no association between caffeine intake and fibrocystic breast disease. [37,26] The original findings suggesting such a relationship have never been corroborated.

1.30 Is there any link between caffeine and osteoporosis?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Because caffeine has been linked to calcium excretion, it has been suggested as a risk factor for osteoporosis. However, Scientists from the Mayo Clinic conducted a clinical study of 290 women to examine the influence of caffeine intake on bone mineral content. After adjusting for age, calcium intake, cigarette smoking, and alcohol consumption the researchers concluded that caffeine was not an important risk factor for osteoporosis.[40]

1.31 Does discontinued use of caffeine cause withdrawal symptoms?

[The following answer is from the IFIC, International Food Information Council Foundation. 1100 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Suite 430. Washington, DC. 20036 (reference in bibliography- Part 8)]

Depending on the amount ingested, caffeine can be a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. When regular caffeine consumption is abruptly discontinued, some individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue or drowsiness. These effects usually are temporary, lasting for a few days, and can often be avoided if caffeine cessation is gradual.[10,43, 44]

1.32 What is the chemical composition of the tea leaf?

The following information is from Chemistry of the Tea Leaf--The Way of Tea by Max Tillberg


Aluminum 0.069%
Calcium 0.46%
Copper 0.002%
Iron 1.15%
Magnesium 0.22%
Manganese 0.12%
Phosphorus 0.32%
Potassium 0.76%
Silicone 0.024%
Sodium 0.030%
Sulfur 0.088%
Zinc 0.003%


Total nitrogen 4.5%

Soluble protein and amino-acid nitrogen 0.92%

Insoluble nitrogen 2.51%

Caffeine nitrogen 1.07% (Caffeine percentage 3.71%)


Sugars and starch are consistently found in tea leaf but only in small quantities. Lipids occur in the general protoplasm and Pectin's are present in quite large amounts in tea.

Sugars 0.73-1.41%

Pectins 6.1%

Starch 0.82-2.96%


The most important and characteristic components of tea leaf are polyphenols. The polyphenols, like alcohol, are a very large class and properties and derivatives differ widely. Those occurring in tea are derivatives of acid and catechin. There are four main compounds with chemical configurations based on catechin and gallic acid. These are:


The leaves contain:


The oxidation of tea polyphenols on exposure to air is exceedingly slow unless brought about by the activity of the appropriate enzyme. The major reaction is accomplished by a specific oxidase, a protein of which the prosthetic element is copper.


1.33 How can one lower the caffeine content in tea?

According to Mack Flemming of the "American Classic Tea Company" of Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina; "to lower the caffeine in tea, brew it overnight in cold water, this will cut the caffeine by 50%. Place 7 tea bags into a one gallon container filled with cold water, let sit overnight then squeeze the tea bags out and discard them."

Note: Be sure you boil tap water first, then cool it before adding the tea, or use cold bottled water.

1.34  What is Rooibos Tea?

[The following information is from:
http://www.strandtea.com/rooibos.htm  Aspalathus linearis ]

"Rooibos tea is brewed from the leaf of the plant Aspalathus linearis which grows on the slopes of the Cedarberg mountain range around Clanwillium, South Africa. Known in South Africa as "Red Bush" because of the color of its leaves, and  believed by indigenous peoples to have great healing powers, it began to be cultivated in 1930. Today it is a popular and highly regarded drink throughout South Africa, many calling it the "miracle tea." "

For more information about Rooibos Tea, please look on the following websites which have been contributed by our Kombucha List Mate Ron Golbeck.




This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is based, in part, on the personal experiences of the members of the Kombucha mailing list. It should not be regarded as a complete or definitive manual on Kombucha but rather as a collection of practical everyday answers to questions that come up when starting to make Kombucha Tea. This article is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the authors/contributors assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

This FAQ may be posted to any USENET news group, or BBS as long as it is posted in its entirety and includes this copyright statement, obligatory disclaimer, and authors name. This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain. This FAQ may not be included in any commercial collections or compilations or posted on any commercial or non-commercial websites.

Permission is granted to freely copy this document in electronic form, or in print if the publication is distributed without charge, provided it is copied in its entirety without modification and appropriate credits are included. On the WWW, however, you must link here rather than copy it. Any other use requires explicit permission by the author.




Designed Colleen M. Allen

Copyright 1996 - 2000 Colleen M. Allen  

Maintained by: Bob Williams [E-MAIL]
UpDt: 01/10/2001