With this type of results, Tappen continued his research. He discovered a man bottling it commercially and selling it for $9 per liter.
The bottler had discovered the tea after a hospice worker told him about it to help his Crohn's disease.
"I can make it for 90 cents a quart," Tappen says, who carefully marks "K Day" on his calendar to let him know 10 days have passed since he last brewed a batch.
Accidents lead him to tea
Accidents at the GM plant where Tappen worked in shipping had left him with some disabilities and he decided the tea would help him. His back was broken when he was hit by a fork lift in 1983, but he recovered. Being hit a second time ended his career.
"That one retired me," he says.
Still, doctors at the time remarked on happenings in Tappen's body that baffled them.
"They told me, 'Four years ago your degenerative arthritis stopped dead in its tracks and you have near perfect blood supply to the pinched nerves.'"
Even though Tappen says doctors probably don't put much stock in the drinking of kombucha, they encouraged him.
"They told me, 'Keep on drinking it. It's keeping you out of a wheelchair,'" says the 55-year-old Tappen, who proudly displays three medals won at the Bluegrass Regional Senior Games. Tappen, who often walks eight miles a day from his home to downtown Stanford, took first place in the 1,500 and 5,000 meter walks.
Tappen's testimony one of many
Tappen says his experience is only one of many. He read about one woman who can skip two-a-day insulin shots. A man he knew through work gained a much-needed 50 pounds he had lost while suffering from Crohn's disease.
"It's just testimony after testimony," he says.
Of the many people he has shared the tea with, the only complaint came from his mother. She did not like the fact that her white hair started turning to its original black after she started drinking it.
"It reverts your hair color back to the original color," says Tappen, who plans to share his tea-making skills in a workshop at his church, Freedom Baptist. He has not set a date, but thinks sharing information about this powerful cure-all is important.
"The Bible says give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day but teach him to fish and he'll eat forever."
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How to make kombucha tea
Makes 3 gallons at a time
Domino cane sugar
Green tea, regular size bags (Merle Tappen uses Uncle Lee's)
Bring water to a boil.
For each gallon, add 11/3 cup sugar and 6 tea bags.
Turn off the stove so sugar doesn't scorch. Let soak 15 minutes. Do not squeeze the tea bags because they are designed to trap tanins.
"People who squeeze tea bags release the tanins," Tappen says. "It makes the tea bitter."
Remove the tea bags and cover. Let cool to room temperature, which takes eight hours.
Fill a clean glass jar 2/3 full with the sugared tea and cover with a kombucha culture. Cover the top with pantyhose.
"I want to keep the fruit flies out but it lets it breathe," Tappen says.
Put the tea in a closet for 10 days.
During that time, the culture uses the tea and sugar to create another culture.
"I call that the mother and the baby."
Strain and store between 72 and 84 degrees.
"There are problems. It can mold," Tappen says.
He keeps an eye out for mold.
"I've never had any problems. If I had any mold, I poured it out," he says.
He prefers storing it in the closet to keep it from absorbing any airborne particles, such as cooking oil or smoke.
To begin, limit amount drank per day to 1/2 cup.
The type of jar
Tappen prefers glass jars, such as the ones pickles come in. To remove the pickle smell, wash it and put it upside down in the grass overnight.
"The chlorophyll takes it right out."
Gallon-size glass jars work well because the cultures grow to the size of the container. When Tappen started, he used punch bowls, but admits this size culture is hard to handle.
He says although the tea can be made in a metal container, metal should not be used once the culture is added.
"I always take off my rings," Tappen says.