The story of the sea treasure is based on correspondence with a fellow Kombucha enthusiast and professional brewer in Xinjiang China, Zhi Ru Yun (支如云). He shared the story of Kombucha as he knows it from the Chinese perspective. Please enjoy Hannah’s direct translation from the Chinese (edited by Alex) published here for the first time!
The Legend of the Sea Treasure
In China, Kombucha has been called “Sea Treasure” (海寶), “Stomach Treasure” (胃寶) and “Sea Mushroom”(海蘑菇). Kombucha’s earliest origins are in the Bohai Sea District. Stories say that it promotes longevity. Its cultivation was a family secret handed down generation to generation. Kombucha was popular in both the imperial court and among the common people.
As the legend goes, there was one family in Bohai that owned a grocery and sundries shop. One day, a tired shop assistant did a lazy job while cleaning up. Spilling his rinsed honey jar into an earthen crock that used to have wine in it. After a few days, the shop was suddenly filled with a strange waft of a sweet and sour fragrance. People were exceedingly curious but couldn’t find the source of the smell.
After a few more days, the shopkeeper ordered his assistant to sell the wine. When the assistant opened the cover of the wine jar, he immediately cried out in alarm, “The sweet-sour flavor is coming from here.” Everyone rushed over to have a look! In the earthen crock, there was a thick layer of milky white sticky film sealing the mouth of the vessel. Upon smelling that fragrance and seeing that film, everyone praised the curiosity. “The earthen jar has given birth to a treasure,” one exclaimed.
At that time it had just been the hottest month of the year. The thirsty assistant couldn’t resist the clear sweet-tart fragrance. He grabbed the dipper and in one gulp drank the whole spoonful. He wiped his mouth, not even letting a single drop fall, as everyone watched, their mouths watering. Then each person had half a dipper of the delicious, sweet-tart liquid. The shop assistant tried to remember what he’d put in the jar – honey, and water and then he’d let it steep.
The Process is Born
From that moment on, he used the same technique to make another batch of “vinegar.” The shopkeeper not only made money but drank the juice of the vinegar and ate the SCOBY like a salad with dressing (涼拌). He became a local celebrity known as the “Long Life Expert.” After he died at the ripe old age of more than 70 years old, his mysterious treasure was shared with the world and made public. From that time on, it has been handed down for all to use.
Perhaps, this is what has been called the origins of the “Sea Treasure.” To this day, families in the Bohai district use this ancient technique. They ferment their own “vinegar” using their white “vinegar moth” (醋蛾子) (meaning SCOBY). There are also old people who eat the SCOBY to sooth stomach problems. Not to mention they claim a burst of energy. Currently, there are studies being conducted in Japan on China’s many longevity increasing foods, including the Sea Treasure Bacteria!
We hope you enjoyed this story about the origins of Kombucha. Perhaps you have heard that Doctor Kombu developed it for the Qin Dynasty Emperor or that it came from Egypt or that our UFO friends have brought it to Earth to help us. Whether these legends are true or not, it seems this amazing elixir has been around for thousands of years and helped many people achieve longevity, energy and balance in their lives.
Read more about The Origins and Legends of Kombucha Here