Have you heard of kombucha? It’s a really popular drink in the health foodie community but has been consumed throughout human history, beginning in ancient China and spreading to Russia. It’s a refreshing tonic made from fermented sweet tea that delivers both powerful antioxidant and probiotic benefits. It has a slight fizziness to it and is tangy and slightly sweet at the same time.
The first time I tried it I didn’t know what to expect and was really surprised by the vinegary taste (like how you’re expecting milk and you get orange juice?). Once I learned more about it and went in with a different mindset, though, I found I really loved the taste. It is so refreshing and energizing. I find myself craving it, especially after a hard bike ride on a warm day or a yoga class.
The kombucha drink is made by the kombucha “mushroom” acting on the sugar in sweet tea. The “mushroom” is also called SCOBY (which is Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). The process begins much the same as it does in the post in which I described the vinegar process. The fermentation produces acetic acid (as it does with ACV), as well as lactic acid and gluconic acid.
Along with these organic acids, kombucha also contains a number of other beneficial components. It has a spectrum of active enzymes and amino acids that are produced by the microbes in the SCOBY. The tea contributes polyphenols and the drink has an array of beneficial bacteria (probiotics).
Because of the actions these constituents have on the body, kombucha has been cited as aiding in the prevention of some types of cancers and other degenerative diseases and boosting the immune system. It may also help to fight yeast overgrowth resulting from an abundance of sugar in the body (from sugar or alcohol consumption) because of the acetic acid present, which stabilizes blood sugar. For more information about kombucha helping in the prevention of cancer, check out Tom Valentine’s Search For Health. Kombucha has also been cited over the centuries as having anti-arthritic compounds and liver-protective detoxifying and cleansing compounds. There have been various studies investigating exactly how this works (I won’t bore you with the details) but now most of the evidence is anecdotal.
So, the only downside of kombucha as far as I’m concerned is the cost. It usually runs about $4 for a 16-ounce bottle. To circumvent this prohibitive cost, I began brewing it at home, which has also turned out to be a lot of fun! To do this, you will only need a few ingredients: SCOBY, tea, sugar, a heat-resistant glass jar and a clean cloth to cover it. Chief and I have been playing around A LOT with the ratios so the recipe I have below is a simple recipe that we have found to work best but our experiments are ongoing:
- ¾ liter boiling water
- 2 liters cold filtered water
- 1 cup plain white sugar
- 8 tea bags of organic black tea (or equivalent amount of loose tea wrapped in muslin)
- 1 cup kombucha (from a previous batch or that comes with the SCOBY)
- 1 kombucha mushroom (SCOBY)
Bring water to a boil in a teakettle or pot. Put the tea and sugar in to a large glass jar. I usually tear the paper off the tea bags. It took us a while to find the right glass jar because some were too big and some had the bottoms crack off because they weren’t made for boiling water. We eventually found a nice 3 liter jar made for heat and canning.
Once the water has come to a boil, pour it over the tea bags and sugar, just enough to cover them. Give a gentle stir without breaking any tea bags and making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Cover the jar with a clean cloth fabric and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove the tea bags and gently squeeze them to get out any excess. Be sure you don’t leave any bags behind. Fill the jar about 4/5 full with cold filtered water and gently stir. If the whole batch is at room temperature, gently place the SCOBY along with the cup of kombucha liquid from the previous batch/starter. Cover with a clean swatch of organic fabric and secure tightly with a rubber band to keep out insects, etc.
I have had good luck with the brand Goldfinch for the starter mushroom that I ordered from Amazon.
Place the kombucha in warm dark place where it won’t be disturbed. Depending on the temperature and how you like your kombucha, it will take anywhere from 7-21 days for it to be ready. It should have a slight sourness and some fizz and you shouldn’t be able to taste the tea when it’s ready. Feel free to start tasting it after the seventh day to see how it’s changing.
Once it’s ready, we like to funnel it in to 750 ml growler bottles we get from the local pub that has beers on tap. It’s a good excuse to try some good beers so you have bottles for kombucha! After pouring them in to the refillable bottles through a funnel, secure the top and place them in a dark place for about 3 days. We like to label them as we go along with information about when they were brewed and any variations. For exmaple, we’ve occasionally brewed some hibiscus tea along with the black tea, or added galangal root we dug out of the garden and ground turmeric root, etc. Then they can be refrigerated and served once cold.
If you get too busy or go traveling and forget a batch for a long time, no matter. It will have just turned to vinegar and you can use the vinegar for cooking/consuming, cleaning or beauty treatments.
Your SCOBY mother will grow a spongy pancake-like daughter with each new batch. You can save these in a glass container along with some of the kombucha liquid for additional batches or give them away to friends or give them to your kids to be grossly fascinated with. I hope my family is getting excited about their Christmas presents 😉
Please place any questions in the comment section. I love talking about kombucha!