As I dive deeper and deeper into this increasingly confusing world of health and wellness, I am bombarded by more and more terminology. By now, most of us have grown familiar with labels like GMO free, gluten free, reduced sodium and organically sourced. And then you start to come across words that sound remarkably similar, but refer to entirely different things. That has been exactly my experience with kombucha, konbucha and kabocha. What’s up with all these Ks and buchas?
Kombucha Is a Fermented Tea
If you’re looking for a little pick me up that’s arguably healthier than coffee or energy drinks, apparently kombucha has become all the rage. Most typically sold as a bottled beverage, kombucha is a fermented tea that undergoes a brewing process similar to that of beer.
You start with black or green tea. This gets fermented with SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), resulting in a slightly fizzy drink with all sorts of purported health benefits. Some people say it’s an effective stimulant, others claim it boosts your libido and stimulates your immune system. Some even go so far as to say it helps fight cancer and diabetes.
Draw your own conclusions, but the gist of it is that kombucha is a slightly fizzy tea popularly sold in health food stores.
Konbucha Is a Seaweed Drink
This becomes far easier to understand when you separate the term into two words: konbu cha. Konbu is an edible form of kelp that is prepared differently from the nori you use in making sushi. Cha literally means “tea” and it’s the same word used in Chinese. Matcha literally translates as “rub tea” or “rubbing tea,” likely related to how you prepare the green tea powder.
Things get really messy, though, considering that “konbu” can alternatively be written as “kombu.” The net result is that when you’re talking about the seaweed-based drink from Japan, you can also call it kombucha… and not be talking about the fizzy tea. Konbu/kombu is most commonly sold as packages of dried seaweed and you may be able to find it as a dried tea in a Japanese supermarket too.
Kabocha Is a Winter Squash
Thankfully, aside from its similar spelling, kabocha has very little to do with kombucha or konbucha. Sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is a winter squash with a tough green skin and a fluffy, sweet, orange flesh. You can steam it, roast it, boil it, pan fry it… treat it like any other kind of squash really. You can eat the rind after cooking; I usually don’t.
We haven’t had much trouble finding kabocha squash in any number of supermarkets around here, but you can always buy the seeds online if you want to grow some on your own. Unlike the first two, though, I imagine kabocha wouldn’t make a very good tea.
Image credit: schvin on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)