Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kombucha vs Hot drinks

A few weeks ago, a friend shared with me what is called a scoby, or kombucha starter.  It's a fermentation of tea (?) that is supposed to have all sorts of beautiful health benefits.  I wanted to make my own, because the ones in the store are supposedly all made with black or green teas.  I've been taught to avoid those types of teas because of the Word of Wisdom.

In D&C 89 it reads in verse 9, "And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly."

Several years ago I read a book called Joseph Smith as Scientist, by John A. Widtsoe.  The main thesis of the book is to point out that the Word of Wisdom as absolutely inspired, as there was little to no scientific evidence of any of the health facts at the time regarding many of the substances referenced.  He points out that this was absolutely a revelation, and by revealing it, Joseph was indeed a revelator.  Agreed!  

With this in mind, I would like to point out a few things, and raise a few questions.  But first let me say I have no problems abstaining from the things we are told to abstain from.  I've never tried wine.  Never smoked once.  Never tried coffee or black tea, and really the thought disgusts me.  I have no desire to break any "commandments", although I believe God was very clear upon revealing this that it was to be use "not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days" (vs. 2).  Question 1: why would God reveal through Joseph something that was NOT to become a commandment, and then turn around with Brigham and say, "Nah, changed my mind.  It really IS a commandment.  Just kidding!"

After all, it is "Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints" (vs. 3).  It's given for a principle, not a law.  And what a beautiful promise!  If it were a commandment or constraint, many might falter, and be prohibited from beautiful blessings.  So it's not a commandment or constraint, right Jesus?  But wait.

The traditional narrative I was always taught was that Brigham received a revelation changing all this.  It's somewhere in our history books somewhere (or been lost to history), so we just assume it's true because it's what we've been told.  At least I've always believed that, hence never having tried it.

One documented record reports that many years after we believe Brigham to have "changed" this to a commandment, that he was still struggling with giving up his tobacco habit.  How could this be???  By saying this am I un-sustaining my leaders?  Absolutely not!  I'm just saying the documentation of this becoming a "commandment" I would assert implies differently than what we pass along by word of mouth.  Does Brigham approve of this, if we were to lay claim to our stance on him?  Would he approve, if he knew the course we have taken in turning his words into a commandment when God has indicated otherwise?  Do our current leaders today give us guidance here?  Sure.  Year after year there is undoubtedly a Conference or Ensign talk that hammers this home.  Do they have a source to point me to for when this changed from what is canonized to what we accept as true?  A scholar was granted access to our history annals to dig up some official sources, but nothing was found.  However it was found that things changed officially after Prohibition.
Some will say that our current prophet and leaders have received modern revelation on this.  Is this true?  Or are we simply following a tradition, as we did with blacks and the Priesthood?  (Poor Brigham can't get a break with this stuff!)

Back to verse 9.  Hot drinks.  Hot drinks.  One online blogger I found today said that Brigham said Joseph said this was tea and coffee.  (Sounds like a game of telephone!)  And then somehow we know that it's black tea and green tea.  The same source I mentioned actually had arguments about which plant it is, down to the scientific name, and then went into tanic acid vs. caffeine.

A few verses after verse 9 God explains which grains are good for various animals, and delineates between wheat, corn, rye, barley and oats.  Let's put 2 and 2 together.

God knows the difference between wheat, corn, rye, barley and oats.  If He has a preference that we avoid black and green teas, and that herbals are ok, as well as hot chocolate, Stevens' Pumpkin Spice, or any other hot drink, why not delineate between them?  If He prefers that we don't drink mate (Argentina - sorry, I'm too lazy to find the accent for the e!), or Iced Tea, why not delineate?

Any why do we delineate?  It's hot drinks!  Is it warm drinks?  I would think it would have been clarified.  Why didn't Joseph clarify too, if he knew what it was?  Apparently it was obvious then, but only when we start nit picking and imposing judgment on others is when the trouble arises.  I say I'll agree with the Lord; hot drinks are not for the belly.  Agreed.  Sustained.  Done!  No trouble here Bishop.

So what of kombucha?  That's where this whole post came from.  Jury's still out.  I made mine with herbal tea, but it was certainly cooled.  It's ready now to be used, but most websites I'm reading are saying it's imperative to have the black or green tea to keep the pH at a certain level, or to maintain the health of the scoby and to not pass on pathogens.  So all my work in preparing this carefully might be in vain.

Maybe I could ask God and get an answer for myself on that?  He's actually the best resource I could go to - better than Google, for sure.  Any thoughts on this one?  


  1. Abstaining from kombucha because it is made with tea is like abstaining from vinegar because it's made with wine or hard cider. Kombucha isn't tea. It has been transformed just like lye and tallow transform into soap. You would NEVER drink lye - it is caustic, but it achieves a chemical transformation similar to what kombucha has been through. An interesting aside...the "mild drinks" mentioned in the WoW refers to "small beer," an only slightly alcoholic ferment that was drunk at breakfast and throughout the day (even by children). So if you're worried about the very slight alcohol content in kombucha or water kefir -- don't be.

    1. Thank you! You are awesome! Having questions and I felt good about Kumbacha but was having a hard time putting logic to it when it had the tea aspect to it. Thank you for helping me understand. : )

    2. Thank you, ladies, for your comments! :) Glad to have helped the discussion a little. My thoughts have even changed since I wrote this, and I'm even more convinced of its positive health benefits. I wouldn't hesitate a second (as I did previously) as I see SO much improvement in my digestive health, even when I have a few ounces of kombucha. I went through so many medical attempts to help improve my gut health, so this more natural solution is definitely a win! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I just found your post after suggesting kombucha to a friend with digestive issues today. After telling her it was made from tea, she said she'll stick to drugs. Ok, well, to each his own. While I don't drink coffee or tea (except herbal), I defend that the Word of Wisdom clearly states 'hot drinks' not tea or coffee. Research has found a direct correlation between hot drinks and esophageal cancer, so maybe the scriptural direction has nothing to do with caffeine. I, too, have had such wonderful results with kombucha and I believe my God is ok with that.

    1. I love this comment. Sorry I didn't reply sooner, Kaylyn. I believe God is ok with it too! :) Thanks for your comment!

  3. i'm in a couple of kombucha groups... i learned that there are definitely herbs that can be used to make your kombucha... have made myself my own herbal mix and brewed kombucha successfully for several months now... my mix has hibiscus flowers, red raspberry leaf, rooibos (red bush), elder berries, and rose petals... my next mix will probably drop off the rose petals... but so far my brew is wonderful... don't need camellia sinensis at all...

  4. would you be willing to share your exact recipe and method for using herbal tea?

    1. It has been several years since I made it - I struggled finding bottles at the time my scoby was live, so I haven't made my own in a long time. But I basically replaced the black tea portion of the standard recipe with peach tea, which was my favorite at the time. I'm sorry, I don't have the exact proportions anymore. If memory serves there were about 8 cups of water, 8 tea bags, and 1 cup or sugar? I may be wrong so I'd use whatever recipe the person uses from who you obtained the scoby (if you received from a friend). Mine turned out really delicious! But I think I overdid it, and it quickly turned into vinegar flavor. :) Good luck with making yours, Orva!


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