What is Kefir?

Kefir GrainsSo what is Kefir exactly?

Kefir is widely considered to be the most potent, healthy probiotic beverage one can possibly find. It is a cultured (fermented) milk similar to yoghurt but far more superior. Milk Kefir is often referred to as the “Champagne” of cultured milks and contains approximately five times more friendly bacteria than yoghurt. Studies have even shown that milk kefir has about four hundred times more friendly bacteria than the probiotic tablets available at our local health food stores.

The great thing about milk kefir is that it is a natural product that is quick and easy to make simply at the cost of milk. It is prepared by adding kefir grains to milk  to create a beverage which can be consumed natural or in a fruit smoothie, for instance. Milk kefir is very versatile and can be made using cow, goat, soy or even coconut milk. Live kefir grains, if well cared for, will last a lifetime (they will even multiply); so a once in a lifetime purchase should suffice. During the fermentation process, milk kefir grains transform ordinary milk into a healthy live probiotic drink. This process usually takes around 24 hours. Of course, the length of time to ferment the milk can vary quite considerably depending on temperature and the amount of milk used. At Kefir Magic, we have created Kefir in as little as four hours in warmer, tropical climates whilst in colder environments it has sometimes taken up to two days to create the same.

Kefir grains are very unique compared with other live cultures in terms of their form and structure. Whilst we refer to these particles as ‘grains’, they are in fact, not grains at all but a symbiosis of many beneficial bacteria and yeasts including Lactobacilli, Streptococci-Lactococci, Acetobacter. Together, they take on a gelatinous form, resembling cauliflower florets or rice pudding.

Origin of Kefir

Kefir dates back at least a thousand years to the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains who were known to make kefir by adding kefir grains to milk inside leather pouches and fermenting it to create a nutritious beverage.

Legend has it that kefir grains were a gift from Prophet Mohammed to the Orthodox people who jealously guarded their grains and their knowledge of kefir in fear that the grains would lose their ‘magical’ strength. This legend explains why kefir grains and the method for preparing kefir have been surrounded by mystery for so long.

For most of recorded history, kefir was scarcely known outside the Caucasian Mountains although Marco Polo mentioned it in the chronicles of his travels. During the early twentieth century however, by order of the Russian Czar, kefir was brought into Russia. The Russian government introduced it into schools where children were provided with free kefir daily as were hospital patients, owing to its nutritious and healing properties. Kefir grains soon spread across much of Eastern and Northern Europe where they also gained great popularity. To this day, kefir remains a staple beverage in many of these countries.

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