Kombucha in Japan: Umami-Rich Kombu Seaweed Tea
Unlike the Kombucha, also known as tea mushroom or tea fungus, that is consumed in countries other than Japan, Japanese “Kombu-Cha (昆布茶, こんぶ茶: literally Kombu Tea)” is a seaweed tea made from powdered kombu or kelp seaweed.
Japanse Kombucha: Umami-Rich Kelp Seaweed Tea
The truth is that most Japanese people don’t even know there is another Kombucha that is fermented, lightly effervescent, and sweetened with sugar.
The Kombucha that has been a long time favorite in Japan is not sweet at all, but lightly salted and packed with umami ingredients from the seaweed kombu that is often used in Japanese cuisine to make soup stock or dashi.
Specifically, according to the ingredients label on the back of the package from Ito-En that I have now, the base powder of the Kombucha, or kombu tea, consists of salt, sugar, powdered kombu (edible kelp), starch, and seasoning including amino acids.
Although the classic Japanese Kombucha contains some sugar, I can’t feel the sweetness in the seaweed tea, rather think of it as a tasty dashi-rich soup-like tea.
How to Drink
The Japanese kelp tea, Kombucha is usually drunk hot, as an afternoon tea or during a meal, but it can also be served cold.
The preparation is very straightforward; put half a teaspoon (about 2 grams) of the base seaweed powder in a cup and pour 100 ml of boiling water or cold water. Stir well and ready to drink.
By the way, the base seaweed particles contain 1.2 g of salt equivalents per 2 grams.
As another usage, the base powder of Japanese Kombucha tea is often used as a seasoning, like a dashi broth mix. As an example, just with the seaweed powder, you can easily make Asazuke pickles like this,
- Cut your favorite vegetable (e.g: cucumber, carrot, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, or the like) into easy-to-eat bite-size pieces
- Put the vegetable (100g), the base powder of Japanese Kombucha (1 tablespoon), and some red chili pepper together in a zip lock bag and rub the vegetable lightly
- Force the air out of the bag and let it rest for about half an hour
- Remove the water and serve the pickles on a plate