Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Fri Jun 22 02:44:51 UTC 2012

On Jun 21, 2012, at 7:23 PM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Kombucha
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 6/21/2012 3:52 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett<gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
>> Subject:      Kombucha
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> The Wikipedia article on kombucha =
>> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha) says that the word was first =
>> recorded in 1995, citing: Algeo, John and Adele Algeo (1997), "Among the =
>> New Words," American Speech 72.2: 183-197.
>> Google Books claims a 1923 citation in _Ars Medici_ at =
>> http://ow.ly/bJ0N8, but it can't be seen. If it's the same as =
>> http://ow.ly/bJ0PA  of 1928, then it may be about a fungus.
>> The next earliest citation I see is 1927 (http://ow.ly/bJ0Wh). It =
>> appears to be titled _Chemistry Research: The Production of Formaldehyde =
>> by Oxidation of Hydrocarbons_. The citation is: 'In the "Kombucha" =
>> fermentation, which consists in the fermentation of China tea sweetened =
>> with sucrose by a mixture of Bact. gluconicum, Bact. xylinum and Bact. =
>> xylinoides, the inversion takes place before the dehyddrogenation to =
>> gluconic acid.' The next sentence includes the names Hermann and =
>> Neuschul, perhaps German scientists; there are earlier German citations =
>> for "kombucha."
>> Also worthy of note is a 1928 citation athttp://ow.ly/bJ14U.
>> The OED does not include kombucha, though the AHD =
>> (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/kombucha) and Wiktionary =
>> (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/kombucha) have it.
>> The earliest possible citation I see for "konbucha," a possible =
>> Romanization, is 1998 (http://ow.ly/bJ1av).
> --
> I guess this fermented tea stuff called kombucha is completely distinct
> from the Japanese kelp tea called (in Japanese) konbucha/kombucha or
> kobucha?
> So maybe the name for the fermented stuff actually came from somewhere
> else (perhaps subsequently altered to match the name of Japanese kelp
> tea with which it was confused)?
> Here is a candidate:
> 康普茶 = kang1 pu3 cha2
> -- apparently one of the Chinese names for this fermented stuff (of
> course "cha" is "cha" is cha[r] is tea).
> This appears (e.g.) in the first line of body text in the pertinent
> Chinese Wikipedia page:
> http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%BA%A2%E8%8C%B6%E8%8F%8C
> Here is "What is kangpucha?" from Baidu (in Chinese):
> http://zhidao.baidu.com/question/148978..

The drinks seem to be completely different. On Honyaku, Masako Sato said that her 昆布茶 is made from kelp and pointed out that the Japanese link on Wikipedia goes to 紅茶キノコ (koucha kinoko = black (lit. red) tea mushrooms).

Among others, Kirill Sereda added to this, saying:

I enjoyed the effervescent drink throughout my childhood thanks to my Grandmother who maintained a "chainyj grib" (lit. "tea mushroom") culture for over 20 years in our family in Russia, where 紅茶きのこ has been used for at least 200 years.  The Chinese online encyclopedia Baidu has the following to say about the origins of 紅茶きのこ (红茶菌 in Chinese) http://baike.baidu.com/view/57756.htm :


(which says basically that it appeared in China during the Qin Dynasty (3rd century BC), that its first medical use, for the treatment of digestive disorders, was recorded during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (in 414), and that it was adopted in Russia in the 19th century and used in the Caucausus region of the Soviet Union in the 80s [this probably refers to the widespread use of "chainyj grib" in the tea-growing Republic of Georgia], after which a Japanese professor of Russian (!) brought it from Russia to Japan, from where it spread to other countries of the world.)

Incidentally, other Chinese websites report that the drink was originally invented by certain Tungus (Manzhou) peoples in Northern China.

It seems possible that this Japanese professor's research somehow resulted in the name being attached to the drink.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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