This post has been a long time coming! I am sorry to keep you waiting as I know many of you have been hanging out for a post on Kombucha.
I brewed my first jar of this sparkling effervescent tea last winter, and I've been enjoying delicious weekly batches of it ever since. I love it because a) the taste is addictive, like fizzy apple champagne with a delightful cidery twang b) the very nature of the ever-growing 'scoby' encourages community and sharing, c) it's insanely simple to make and d) if you can afford some tea and raw sugar, then you have access to one of the most incredible probiotic beverages on the planet, continuously!
So what is kombucha
Kombucha is an antioxidant rich immune boosting beverage coined the “Immortal Health Elixir”. Well, I dunno about immortality, but it's a rich source of antioxidants, B vitamins, glucaric acids and probiotics which aid in digestion, gut health, joint care and detoxification. Like all fermented foods, is extraordinarily rich in enzymes and beneficial bacteria and therefore a dream come true for your gastrointestinal function. It re-establishes the natural ecology of the intestinal flora, which in turn boosts immunity and allows the body absorb nutrients and eliminate waste with ease.
I'm no kombucha expert so I can't state that Kombucha 'heals' this ailment and that. With Kombucha, it's more about bringing the body back into balance so that your immunity can work its magic on your ailments. You can read more about the specific ways it supports health here. From a historical perspective, it has been extensively studied and consumed the world over for more than 2000 years. From a personal perspective, I've noticed improvements in my mood, energy, digestion and skin.
SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) + TEA + SUGAR + BREW TIME = KOMBUCHA
The Scoby is what makes it all happen. AKA the “Culture,” “Mother, “Mushroom" or “Full Moon” - it's the mothership, a complex organism made of bacteria and yeast working in harmony to convert your tea and sugar into Kombucha. It's that freaky looking thing you see in the 2 larger jars. But don't be afraid! The scoby is perfectly safe, clean and easy to handle. Pretty soon you'll love it like a pet, feeding it and caring for it with gratitude because it's so damn good to you!
Sharing the scoby
Every time you make a brew (which takes between 4 days and even 3 weeks depending on your preference), the scoby feeds, grows and makes a new layer. Pretty soon you'll have a scoby too thick for your jar, which is where the community love comes in. You've mastered the art of Kombucha, now it's time to give your layers away and pass on your knowledge!
That's how kombucha has spread across the globe for generations, and that's precisely what I did when I went to my friend Eleanor's house of the amazing blog Petite Kitchen. That's me putting half of my scoby (and some of my kombucha as a starter) into her jar of 'sugar tea'. The smaller mason jars are the sugar tea she prepared earlier (I'll show you exactly how it's done below!):
SO, HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA TEA!
To make 2 litres, you'll need:
Double or triple this recipe if you want to make larger batches - your scoby can handle it!
* A note on tea. Kombucha thrives on real tea (camellia sinensis). There are a number of teas made from this plant: black, green, white, pekoe, oolong, Darjeeling etc. Herbal teas derived from other plants will not nourish the scoby. Having said that, some people have reported success with rooibus, rosehip and some others. Know that there may be a higher chance of contaminating your kombucha mushroom cultures by using herbal teas or plants, particularly those containing oils (like peppermint) so use a backup culture for any experiments!
* A note on sugar. I use raw cane sugar. I started with 1/2, and reduced to 1/3 because I prefer the taste. You can experiment with other sugars but your scoby actually finds raw and white sugar the easiest to digest. It's the only cane sugar that exists in my diet, but I don't mind because my scoby consumes most of it and the final kombucha tea is very low in sugar. Finally, avoid using honey because it's anti-bacterial properties can mess with the beneficial bacteria.
* Obtaining a Scoby. The most common way is from a friend. Or, you can purchase online and it comes to you either dehydrated or in a pouch filled with sugar tea. Or, if you have access to bottled raw kombucha from your local health food store, it is possible to grow a kombucha scoby. The process is relatively simple: essentially you will be taking a bottle of kombucha and allowing it to ferment further which will result in a new baby kombucha scoby.
* Hygiene. When working with kombucha, it is important not to introduce competing bacteria to the brew. Wash and rinse your hands well prior to working with the tea mixture or the scoby. Also be sure to thoroughly clean and rinse the container and all utensils that will come in contact with the scoby - NEVER with harsh chemicals, white vinegar and very hot water will do the trick.
* Glass. Use either glass, ceramic or porcelain. Don't use metal for your vessel or utensils - it's advisable to take off any rings when working with your Kombucha too.
You can add flavour to your harvested bottled kombucha, but not the main vessel. This way you protect the scoby from contamination by keeping its brew pure (sugar tea only). To the bottles add 1-2 Tbsp of herbs, ginger, fruit, juice etc. Seal and leave for a second fermentation period for 2-5 days before consuming.
The ultimate kombucha vessel...
... would HAVE to be a large dispenser with a spigot as pictured. I upgraded to this from a regular jar and now its easier than ever to refresh my brew. I simply empty it through the spigot into my bottles, and top it up through the top with cooled sugar tea. I never have to tamper with the scoby which keeps it healthy and uncontaminated.
I prefer glass to ceramic vessels because I like to see what's going on and to check the health of my scoby.
Be sure to find a dispenser with a PLASTIC spigot. You don't want metal in contact with the brew.
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