Kombucha also called the Living Tea, is an ancient health beverage brewed from sweet tea and a starter culture of bacteria and yeast, making it a fermented tea drink. It is made using a ‘kombucha mother’, also called a ‘kombucha SCOBY’ or ‘the tea beast’. This is a gelatinous colony of bacteria and yeast. The mother is added to a container of sweet black tea, and over the period of a couple of days to a couple of weeks, the bacteria and yeast feed off of the sugar and produce a range of nutrients which fortify the tea. First-time drinkers often experience an immediate craving for more. For others, it is an acquired taste with a slight apple cider vinegar flavor. Kombucha pairs well with a wide variety of mixers, from water to fresh fruit juice to wine and more.
Kombucha is credited with anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Like all ferments, it is a ‘living’ substance, containing healthful ‘friendly bacteria’. These bacteria are essential for immunity, digestion, and nutrient absorption. It also contains vitamins and amino acids.
In ancient China, it was called the ‘tea of immortality’. These days, we all want to improve energy efficiency. Our homes, cars, appliances, and workplaces are optimized for savings. Energy diverted to break down food in the gut takes a toll all day long. If there is bloating in the belly, it is perfect nexus of wise traditions to use fermented foods and probiotics, such as delicious (and inexpensive) homebrewed Kombucha. The active enzymes present in fermented items such as yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, and Kombucha have co-evolved with our intestinal systems to help us digest for maximum nutrition and benefits. Without fermented foods, the body’s ability to digest is impacted significantly.
Kombucha is the easiest and most versatile way to get all the benefits of fermented foods. Plus it works with your liver and gut to detoxify your entire body. Over time, Kombucha also alkalizes the blood (restores pH to 7.0–7.5), helping to protect against degenerative diseases and cancer.
However, Kombucha is not a miracle or a panacea. It helps the body digest more efficiently, which frees up the energy to accomplish other important things the body needs to do, like heal itself. Some of the most commonly attributed kombucha benefits include a clearer mind, better digestion and a feeling of wellbeing.
Kombucha and Sustainable Living
Kombucha can be a gateway to other sustainable and green choices, especially in the kitchen. Integrating more homemade foods into your diet reduces waste and trash while saving money.
Fermenting foods is one way to take back traditional dietary wisdom and apply it to your life. Kombucha is always making more of itself, as the cultures replicate with each batch. You can pass them on to friends or use them for home beauty products. Over fermented Kombucha has a myriad of household uses including cleaning, pest control, and wound care. There are even more uses for extra SCOBYs, even ways to use them as beauty products to save more money.
The recipe for kombucha is simple. The only difficulty to start with is getting hold of a kombucha mother. You could try asking around your local health food shops, or look on eBay where there are often some for sale.
A kombucha mother can be reused indefinitely. Each new batch is started with about a cupful of mature kombucha saved from the previous batch, and some new (cooled) sweet black tea. One or 2 teabags and a handful of sugar to a small saucepan of water seems about right, but the quantities are very variable.
The best vessel for brewing your kombucha is said to be a bowl with a large surface area, but I find it easier in a large jar. Cover with a cloth to keep out flies or dust but do not seal closed as this would cause a pressure build up. Once it is ready, the kombucha is kept in the fridge and drunk as it is. It is slightly fizzy, slightly acidic, and has a taste, not unlike cider. The taste changes day by day as the complex fermentation processes develop. Young kombucha still tastes more like tea and is slightly sweet.
Very mature kombucha is not at all sweet, with a strong vinegary taste. Kombucha connoisseurs often seem to like it quite vinegary, but I must admit I prefer it a little milder, and normally stop my kombucha before it gets too strong.
The Kombucha Mother
Every batch you make also produces a new ‘mother’, so you end up with 2. At first, the existing mother that you put in sinks to the bottom. After a day or 2, you can start to see a film appearing on the surface of the kombucha. Do not be afraid, it is the beginnings of a new mother. After another couple of days, it will be thicker and will resemble the original mother. Once you have finished, you can use each of your mothers to make 2 separate batches of kombucha, give one away, or compost it. A mother will also keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge in a cupful or so of mature kombucha. As a new mother is created each time, it is best to keep one regular batch of kombucha tea on the go at the same time as an experimental brew.
Brewing Kombucha Tea
Brew black tea-3 quarts filtered water with 1 cup sugar and 4 tea bags of organic black tea. Once you have brewed the tea, pour the cooled liquid into a 4-quart jar and add 1/2 cup kombucha from a previous batch and place the SCOBY on top. Cover the bowl loosely with a towel or cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Let sit from 7-10 days (sometimes longer in the winter if it is in a cool place). It should be somewhat sour and rather fizzy with no tea taste remaining when ready to use. (If you let it go too long, it will have a strong vinegar taste. This is still drinkable but some people do not enjoy the taste nearly as much). Store in the refrigerator. Keep the SCOBY and a small amount of remaining kombucha aside for the next batch.
Types of Sugar and Base Tea to Use
Opt to use white sugar rather than honey or even rapadura or demarara sugar. Also, black tea rather than flavored teas is important as this usually yields higher amounts of the important glucuronic acid. Other teas can be used to make kombucha such as green tea, rooibos, flavored black teas, white tea. It is important that the teas you are using do not have artificial flavors since you are brewing this over a longer period of time. Just remember, there will be less glucuronic acid in these other kinds of kombucha.
You can actually brew or make your own Kombucha tea at home. Some of the guidelines to help prepare your own tea include:
- Your main ingredient is going to be a Kombucha culture that you can buy at health food stores.
- You will also need water, black or green tea bags and some distilled vinegar of any type.
First, you will need to prepare the base tea that will provide the home for your culture to feed. You can do this by brewing your black or green tea (six teabags and about a quart of water), allowing it to come to a boil and then steeping for about five minutes. At that point, add in three cups of granulated sugar. Allow the sugar to completely dissolve, then add another two quarts of water to the mixture. Let the tea bags steep for another fifteen minutes before you remove them.
When your tea has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to a gallon-sized container with an open mouth, such as a gallon sized pickle jar. Next, add your Kombucha culture and finish off the mixture with four tablespoons of the vinegar. Use a piece of muslin and a rubber band to cover the mouth of the jar and set it in a location where it can get air, but is not in direct sunlight and will not have to be moved for five days.
After the fifth day has passed, you get to taste your creation. There should be a culture-forming on the top of the liquid if the tea is progressing properly. Press down on the culture with the back of a spoon, so you can get a small sample of the liquid. Keep in mind you do not want a sweet taste, but one that is more acidic. If the taste seems more sweet than acidic, then the brew is not ready. Cover it with the muslin and try again in a day or two.
Storing Kombucha Tea
Once your Kombucha tea is ready, you can remove both cultures gently and then pour the liquid into clean bottles that you can seal. Place them into the refrigerator and let them set another couple of days. The cool temperature will allow the tea to develop its fizzy consistency and also enhance the taste. Making your own Kombucha tea can be a lot of fun, as well as saves money. Make sure you take care of your cultures, as you will be able to use them again with your next batch.
Kombucha is also not a difficult drink to make once you get a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. They look like a flat whitish colored jellyfish type substance with little stringers coming off the bottom of them and can also be referred to as “the Mother”.