Kefir – what is it?

by Naomi Clark on September 1, 2012

OK, so there are two types of Kefir, milk Kefir (more on that one later) and water Kefir.

Most people’s first reaction when presented with a bottle of slightly dubious grubby liquid with small floating ‘I’m ovulating right now’ (TMI?) reminiscent blobs in it, is one of extreme repulsion. Yup, that’s Kefir water.

What is it?
Is it an animal?
Is it a vegetable?
Is it ALIVE?

We don’t recognise it as anything of our planet!

Kefir water

However the answer to anything relating to Kefir, I have now decided, is always ‘YES’, and don’t forget to say thank you.

Yes, to this fermented product which will help manage the symptoms of overly produced candida in the body; yes, to the sweet fizzy drink that is so good for us and so absolutely yummy; yes to keeping, raising, farming and passing onto your loved ones (like ALL the best things in life) this beautiful, health-giving life form.

So when I was finally offered Kefir (again – it takes most people a few times to get their head around it) and Kate Magic offered to give me her babies (pre 40 I had been trying anything to get a friendly, solvent, non-attached man to offer me his babies – really the answer to ‘having more babies’ was a small tattooed blonde woman who doesn’t cook her dinner!). I hesitated only once before going alright then babe, let’s do it!

The liquid is not unlike a cloudy lemonade, a little like kombucha but less vinegary. You can flavour it simply by adding whatever you like, grapefruit, lemon chunks, blackberry powder.

The babies, or Kefir Seeds, are actually a bacteria that feed off sugar and spring water (tap water will kill them, don’t do that!) and ultimately (3-5 days later) produce a bubbly drinkable probiotic type liquid that is touted as a health drink.

Really easy to look after, all you need are some tall glass jars (they don’t like metal), sugar and good quality water. I found it helpful to have a plastic tea strainer too (£1 shop variety) to pour out the ‘juice’ into a cup to drink and throw the saved babies back into the jar.

Healthy Kefir give off little anaerobic bubbles (Kefir farts, my son Ruben calls them!) and you must love them and feed them or they WILL die, a little responsibility with them, bit like having a pet!

Crazy thing is, all that sugar and bubbling – my raw tummy LOVES kefir and I have noticed how calm and UN-bubbly my tummy is when I drink it, no matter what my stress levels get like!

But where do they come from?

The story goes that in Tibet and Russia, Kefir was a well-kept secret known to offer extreme longevity. There was a Prince with the Kefir seeds and a beautiful female spy was sent in to discover the secret of Kefir and steal some seeds. The Prince and spy-chick fell deeply in love, but still, tricky bugger, he wouldn’t give her his seeds (sigh!) On the way home having given up, the spy-chick was captured by bandits and when the father of the Prince, the King found out, he encouraged the Prince to give the spy-chick the Kefir seeds upon her release; and so the secret of Kefir was given to the western world. Or something like that.

There is also the rumour circulating that the more seeds you give away to loved ones, the more seeds will grow; give more, get more; I like that philosophy!

So, in this spirit of bonhomie and sharing what I’ve got, since successfully farming more than 3 canisters of happily bubbling Kefir, I have passed on my babies to Johnny at the Guarana Bar, Sade who comes in to Bikram in the Lanes, and now there is an orderly queue of very polite and well meaning friends whose qualities I am now vetting as prospective Co-Kefir parents.

I am happy to share.

Come over here, let me give you my babies…

To find out more check out this awesome video:

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