Let’s get it Straight. Kelp “Kombucha” is a Must-Try During Your Time in Japan.

Two names but a completely different taste: Try Japanese Style While You Are Here

Walking around Denver and Colorado Springs on my recent trip, I was flabbergasted to see little cafes and shops listing “Kombucha” as one of their special offerings.

Well, after a bit of research, I have come to understand that the “Kombucha” enjoying great popularity in the US is actually a black tea made from powdered “tea mushrooms” and don't have anything at all from the sea in the ingredients.

A quick check of the original Chinese characters for the words show completely different words with a similar pronunciation when translated into English.

Thus, my confusion! I was truly amazed that Kombucha had made it to the US and that I was sharing my favorite Autumn/Winter tea with more and more people around the world! But, it looks like there is some confusion afoot, so I would like to take this moment to explain a bit about Japanese Kombucha.

Here, I’ll let you in on the wonder of Japanese Kelp tea and other products so you can try a brand new taste i.e. rich Kombucha during your time in Japan.

Then, you too, will completely get it!

Bousui Ryoka Was My First Real Kombucha Experience

My favorite Japanese Inn “Ryokan” is called Bousui, and one of my best memories there is the welcome that included a warm cup of Kombucha at the ocean view restaurant.

It was November on our first visit and frigid wind whipped the coast. Our driver met us at the train station and then expertly navigated down the winding roads of Shimoda Peninsula despite Mother Nature’s gusts wobbling are vehicle all the way. Upon arrival, bright sun and wind outside contrasted perfectly to the scent of Tatami and the friendly smiles greeting us as we removed our footwear and stepped up to the simple yet ornate plush carpet of Bosui’s Genkan (entrance).

Ushered towards to huge picture window facing choppy, shining seas under the setting sun, our first cup of Kombucha was gentle placed on the low wooden table by Bousui’s expert and Kimono-clad restaurant staff. The tea’s aroma completed the moment by bringing the huge Pacific Ocean outside to our taste buds via the brimy, smooth and sea-scented Kombucha.

The hot Kombu Kelp Tea, sent the taste of warm ocean into our bodies and it was from the moment that I felt my tense muscles start to relax and my mind become ready to open up and enjoy this experience of respite from schedules, deadlines and the plethora of items that “buzz” in my bag.

Kombucha is a rich, smooth taste of soft ocean.

Must-use Ingredient for Japanese Cooking

On your first sip of Kombucha, you will feel the minerals flow into your system, and the taste somehow feels familiar. That familiarity comes due to the fact that much of Japanese food “washoku” uses Kombu (seaweed) as a soup base for sauces, soups and general flavoring.

My mother-in-law would soak Kombu kelp in water over night and then let the rich taste rest in the refrigerator Tupperware until required. Japanese cuisine uses Asari (clams) and Katsuo (Bonito fish) to produce soup base “dashi” for your Miso Soup, boiled vegetables “Niimono”, etc.

Rich in minerals, I’m very hopeful that my fellow Americans will add the Japanese “Kombucha” to their repertoire of healthy soup bases, teas and treats.

For all of you currently in Japan, now is your chance to make the discovery at a nearby supermarket.

Kombu Rice Ball:
(This little girl knows what tastes great! Put the moist Kombu in your rice ball for a very healthy snack or addition to lunch).

Some nice recipes for Kombu are here ☺ http://www.allaboutsushiguide.com/kombu.html

So, while the world discovers the amazing properties Washoku ingredients and Japanese teas, we urge you to be adventurous and try as many new delicacies as possible. You never know, you might discover the Next Big Thing from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Just FYI, here is a good explanation of the conundrum someone from Japan would face when they see “Kombucha” advertised in stores overseas ☺


Former Deep Japan Writer

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