June 2013: The Kombucha Mama, Hannah Crum

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

It was nice meeting everyone after a hot summer day under the cool green canopy of the patio at Nature Friends Lodge in Sierra Madre.  We had a relaxing dinner at dusk with about 15 people attending.  As our group gets more and more knowledgeable about traditional foods, the meals just seem to keep getting better and better.  The day after our monthly potluck dinner meetings, I always feel my best and most energetic!   You just can’t beat the variety and quality of the fresh, organic, pastured, nutrient-dense and homemade foods that everyone brings!

Last night, feeling good started right with dinner.  Our guest for the evening was Hannah Crum aka The Kombucha Mama and founder of Kombucha Kamp who brought us some refreshing and delicious samples of kombucha to accompany our meal.  I had the blueberry, lavender, and rose flavored “Love Potion” which was smooth, fruity, refreshing and not too sweet.  Best of all, it made me feel great and was good for me too!

After dinner and announcements, Hannah went right to her presentation.  We learned about the history of kombucha, which many have yet to agree on.  Did it start in China or Korea or Japan?  Did Genghis Khan drink it?  How did it spread across Eurasia?   Hannah believes that a Chinese origin is likely since the brew requires actual tea which originated in China.  One of Hannah’s dream is to do an anthropological study of the origins, uses, and spread of kombucha across the globe.
For those who don’t know what kombucha is, Hannah explained that it is a fermented sweet tea, produced by a culture created with a SCOBY, which stands for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast,” and traditionally used as both a beverage and a health elixir.  The discussion then turned to the concept of consuming bacteria- and yeast-infused foods and the Human Microbiome Project.  As we’re finding out more and more about our microscopic co-inhabitants (who live in and on our every surface of our bodies!), it is now known that we co-evolved in a symbiotic relationship with our flora.  In fact we not only can’t live without them, but we have more microflora in our bodies than our own cells!  Our personal micro-biomes are as individual as our fingerprints and have a huge influence on our health, our moods, and even our personalities!  Replenishing our healthy micro-flora populations on a regular basis is key to not only great health but a great life.  As Hannah pointed out, some of the healthiest and longest lived peoples in the world consume lots of cultured foods, kombucha being one of them.  Hannah even mentioned a study showing that throughout human history, our most creative and inventive periods have always coincided with the times when we consumed the most fermented foods, thereby keeping our systems and societies functioning at peak level!
From there the discussion turned to a Question and Answer session covering topics ranging from how to make kombucha, the best temperature for brewing your “booch,” how to experiment with different flavors, kombucha’s use as a tool to ween from coffee or alcohol, the book Hannah is writing, new products Hannah and her husband are inventing to facilitate the brewing process, and much more.  We discussed topics as diverse as SCOBY hotels, the use of the SCOBY as a bandage to aid in the healing of wounds, and the many uses of old SCOBY mothers and the plentiful babies they produce.  We even tried one of Hannah’s sweet and sour homemade fruit roll-ups formed out of fresh fruit and an old SCOBY.  Delicious!  In addition, Hannah showed us some SCOBY soap prepared by a friend of hers in Oregon, for which The Kombucha Mama is the sole distributor.  SCOBYs have so many purposes, they’ve even been dehydrated into leather and used to make clothing.  
The Kombucha Mama is truly an Ambassador for Kombucha, as she calls herself, and is on a mission to educate people about its many tasty, healthful, and versatile uses.   And apparently the word is spreading.  In some establishments, you can even order kombucha cocktails.  Imagine having a delicious health elixir mixed in with your martini!  
Thank you, Hannah for an inspiring presentation, and best wishes on your mission to spread the word about this delicious and health-giving beverage.  For more information about kombucha and the many related products and lessons Hannah offers, see the Kombucha Kamp website or contact Hannah.
Thanks to my new co-leader Aaron Zober for inviting Hannah to speak at our meeting, and thanks to all those who attended and shared in the potluck.  If you missed this meeting but would like to join us in the future, please check out our Meeting Schedule.  Summer is a great time to participate as we sit outside enjoying the cool summer evenings on the beautiful patio under the trees in the canyon.  Next month our special guest will be Paul Grieves of Primal Pastures talking about Backyard Chickens!
Have a great month of July, and we’ll see you on the 30th!
~ Your Chapter Leader,  Karen
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