Kombucha Kamp Blog

Kombucha Is Not A Mushroom, People

Kombucha Mushroom: What is it?

Search for Kombucha on the internet and you’ll find may find reference to “kombucha mushroom tea” or a mysterious “kombucha mushroom.” You might find information about a “Manchurian Mushroom”, see someone selling a “Kombucha Mushroom Kit“, or even strange characters in Chinese or Russian that you can’t read!

What is Manchurian Mushroom Tea?

Kombucha Mushroom thick and white circular diskIn fact, people have said to me many times, “Oh, I’d drink Kombucha but I don’t like mushrooms.” I smile and try not to sound like a know-it-all as I inform them that Kombucha isn’t a mushroom at all, but rather a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, hence SCOBY.

That’s usually followed by a blank stare or a dirty look. Sorry. I’m a nerd. So, how in the heck did Kombucha come to be known as mushroom tea? First, let’s consider, “What is a mushroom, exactly?”

Kombucha Mushrooms Are People Too?

Well, mushrooms belong to the kingdom of organisms called Fungus. It is a kingdom because it is completely different from plants, animals and bacteria. Fungi are actually more closely related to the animal kingdom than the plant kingdom (kombucha mushroom people!!).kombucha mushroom people cartoon

However, while all mushrooms are fungi, not all fungi are mushrooms (and not all fungi are Fun Guys! – sorry again, I’ll stop). Yeast are fungi, so in that regard the Kombucha cultures, in part, belong to the same family as mushrooms. That doesn’t make them a mushroom.

Yeast and mushrooms are distant cousins, not brothers. Who knows, they might not even like each other.

Does Everybody Call it a Kombucha Mushroom?

According to Wikipedia:

a man examines a kombucha mushroom jar

  • In Russian, the kombucha culture is known as čajnyj grib чайный гриб (lit. “tea mushroom”), and the drink itself is grib гриб (“mushroom”).
  • In Chinese, kombucha is known as hongchajun 红茶菌 (literally “red tea fungus/mushroom” [*Hannah’s note – I speak Mandarin Chinese and the literal translation for jun 菌 is bacteria]), hongchagu 红茶菇 (“red tea mushroom”), or chameijun 茶霉菌 (“tea mold”).
  • In Japanese, the kombucha drink is known as “kōcha kinoko” 紅茶キノコ (lit. “black tea mushroom” [*Hannah’s note – according to Google translator, this translates to “black tea fungus“]).

a wall of mushrooms

The Chinese & Japanese words for mold, fungus and mushroom all contain the same character, so it is most likely the source from whence the initial misnomer arose. A more accurate translation is likely “red bacteria tea” or even “red mold tea.” Those names would be a pretty tough sell – so I can see why “Mushroom Tea” might be a preferable English translation!

Some speculate that the term came along because of the legendary health benefits of all kinds of mushrooms. They have long been part of traditional medicine for curing a myriad of ailments and improve longevity.

There is something very powerful in this association. As mushrooms are closer to the animal kingdom than the plant kingdom, there is an element of spirituality in consuming the “body” of another living thing, or having that living thing create nourishment for you. It initiates another level of connection to the world around us.

So we agree? Kombucha is not a Mushroom People!

The Kombucha starter culture is very different from real mushrooms in so many aspects (for instance, it doesn’t produce spores). The only real connection is that the mushroom misnomer has become a legend that has been passed down through the generations. In French they call it “le champignon de longue vie” (the mushroom of long life). And in Spanish, they say “hongo” (mushroom). But in German, “teepilz” (tea fungus) is the name. And so it goes!

Kombucha Mushroom in SpanishRegardless of what you call it, a “Kombucha mushroom” for all about the symbiosis. It is about the harmony that is created when balance is achieved across all the kingdoms: animal (human), plant (tea), fungus (yeast) and bacteria.

Click here for your Kombucha Mushroom Kit!

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  • Barbara Hudson

    August 22, 2021 at 7:59 am

    Is there a difference between kombucha and mushroom elixir. For now I buy the kombucha and the one I like the best is GT’s. They have now come out with one called Alive Ancient Mushroom Elixir. I’m not sure of the taste yet but it does have reishi,turkey tail and chaga. Is there any difference or is it kombucha that has those three mushroom powders added to the tea brew? The reason I ask is that I do want to make my own and this would be helpful information.
    Thanks, Barb Hudson

    • Hannah Crum

      November 2, 2021 at 4:15 pm

      Kombucha is not a mushroom – check out more details here –> Kombucha is Not a Mushroom

    • Hannah Crum

      February 26, 2022 at 6:51 pm

      Hi Barb! Yes, the Alive Ancient Mushroom Elixir by GT’s Living Foods is an apple cider vinegar beverage. We have some mushroom flavoring recipes for Kombucha in our book, The Big Book of Kombucha. Let us know how your experiments turn out.

  • Barbara Hudson

    August 19, 2021 at 7:09 am

    I’m confused! I want to start making my own kombucha but for now I have been buying GT’s kombucha which I love. Good flavor and fizz. They have now come out with GT’s Alive Ancient Mushroom Elixr that has reishi, chaga and turkey tail mushroom in it. It is good, maybe not quite as fizzy. So is this different or is it all the same, different ‘flavor additives’?? I do trust GTs authenticity. I’d just like to make my own.

    Thanks, Barbara Hudson

    • Hannah Crum

      November 2, 2021 at 4:15 pm

      Its not a Kombucha – is an apple cider vinegar drink – read the label for more details!

    • Hannah Crum

      April 10, 2022 at 1:27 pm

      The GT’s Alive are Apple Cider Vinegar based drinks, not Kombucha.

  • Tom

    August 15, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    That was a long setup for a System of a Down joke. 🙂

    • Hannah Crum

      April 2, 2021 at 6:08 pm


    • Adri Joe

      October 6, 2022 at 7:57 pm

      Right mate, I’m looking for the meaning of Kombucha mushroom people that Serj once sang from System of a Down. And they brought me here.

      • Anthea Tayag

        October 13, 2022 at 9:51 am

        Kombucha Mushroom People could refer to hippies in who brew Kombucha.

      • Hannah Crum

        June 13, 2023 at 7:34 pm

        It could refer to Armenian families that would brew their own Kombucha at home or perhaps its a metaphor for the old ways of doing things…bit of a dark song when you read the lyrics

  • Sudy Graham

    November 30, 2018 at 8:13 am

    I am just looking to buy a couple of nice, quality scobies – I don’t need a kit. Can you help with that – or point me to a good source?

    Sudy. 😉

  • Deidre

    November 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Nice article! I am sensitive to both fungi and candida…so I have not been too keen on trying Kumbucha. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    • Mary

      March 6, 2013 at 7:21 am

      I have the same concern. I have a sensitivity to mushrooms, and wonder, even though it isn’t mushroom, will I have a reaction.

      • Hannah Crum

        March 7, 2013 at 11:58 am

        Every body is different and will therefore react differently. Most with mushroom sensitivities are not affected by Kombucha, but you will have to trust YOUR gut!

    • Assumpta

      June 16, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      I’ve been brewing for a year now and I also have gut issues. If the Kombucha has a lot of yeast in it, it affects me more than when the Kombucha has less yeast.

  • Anonymous

    September 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Good reporting Hannah!

  • Anonymous

    September 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Kombucha is awesome! According to Gunter Frank, our former prez Ronald Reagan drank kombucha to cure his cancer, and it worked! Too bad the ACS and govt doesn't want us to know about it.

  • Hannah Crum

    September 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Hi Kathy! Thanks for your comment – I understand that you have many questions. Check out the Brewer's FAQ & join the Kombucha KommUnity to have all of your questions answered!

    https://www.kombuchakamp.com/basic-kombucha-faq – Brewing FAQ

    – KommUnity

  • bartlingkathy

    September 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    hannah i need help my first batch turned to vinegar and had no carbonation i understand the vinegar thing but why no fizz? what do i do with the old scoby when the new one appears? can i use canning jars with sealed lids to bottle? can i use honey at the flavoring stage? does scoby remain dormant if refrigerated and for how long and how to make it wake?

  • Hannah Crum

    September 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Thanks bitt!

    I have definitely noticed the resemblence between SCOBYs and mushrooms. Without a stem or gills like most mushrooms, I find a new creamy white SCOBY reminds me more of the full moon than anything else.

  • bitt

    September 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Interesting article. I do think people associate mushrooms with health benefits. The scoby kind of looks mushroomish too.


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