There is some argument as to the origin of this healthy beverage, some say it comes from Asian cultures ( you’ll get the pun later), while others say the Japanese and Chinese acquired it from the Russians. However it came to be I’m grateful. It is another of the food items usually purchased for far more money than it actually costs to make at home. It tends to over ferment on the store shelves also, causing it to become very vinegary and unpleasant. This is not the way to drink Kombucha. An ideal serving of Kombucha should have only a slightly apple cider vinegar taste, with a hint of effervescense. There is really no need to wait until it’s so fermented you can use it for rocket fuel. You won’t want to drink it, it will turn into a large batch of starter, and all your hard work and groceries will have just gone to waste. Make it to suit your individual taste. If you like it stronger, by all means let it ferment for a longer time. I prefer it more palatable.
So, what exactly is Kombucha? It’s a fermented drink made traditionally from black tea, sugar, and a SCOBY. You simply make up a gallon of sweet tea using any sweetener, with the exception of artificial sweeteners and honey. There are some people that say you can use pasteurized honey, however honey is a natural anti-bacterial agent and it will kill the SCOBY so you’re better off not using it. You can use white, brown, raw, cane, maple crystal, or any of a number of others. We use whatever we have most of in the pantry at the time.
Umm, and what exactly is a SCOBY? That’s a little more complicated. It’s often mistakenly called a mushroom, and in fact in Japan “kombucha” is actually seaweed tea, and the tea we call kombucha is called “kocha kinoko” or “red-tea mushroom”. It is not however a mushroom. It is a Sybiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, hence the acronym.
The photo above shows a SCOBY ready for shipping. I used a recycled plate shipper of styrofoam. The SCOBY pictured above is about the size of a small decorator plate so it is perfect. If you are interested in mailing these to friends and family I would recommend finding a Granny with a nice plate collection and asking nicely for any mailers that she can spare. Sanitize them thoroughly with hot, soapy water in case the zip-loc rips, and SCOBY becomes exposed to surface of the styrofoam. (So far it has never happened, but better safe than sorry right?) This culture was just under 1″ thick. Quite a beautiful baby, if I do say so myself. Below is a much younger culture. If you look very closely you can see that it is almost see-thru. This particular baby was less than an 1/8th of an inch thick. Don’t be afraid you’ll hurt this thing. It is tougher than it looks. As a matter of fact I understand there are some types of SCOBYs that are being used to replace leather. Science is still working on the water absorbance issue. But still, leather . . . pretty tough stuff. So no need to put on the kid gloves. (Which one day could be made of SCOBY, hello).
If you can’t obtain a full grown SCOBY with starter from a friend, contact me and I can send you some for a fee. firstname.lastname@example.org. Overnight shipping is mandatory. If you have saint-like patience you can do as I’ve recently learned is possible, and buy a bottle of raw kombucha as starter and wait for the SCOBY to form on top of your tea. This takes a great deal of time and effort, but the rewards of growing your own mother must be nice.
Now, what do you do with this stuff?
To begin with you will need the following:
1 gallon sweet tea in glass container (sweet tea = filtered water* + 8 bags or 6 tsp. loose leaf tea + 3/4 to 1 C. sugar.) Please do not boil the water before you make the tea. Heat it to just before boiling and steep tea 5 min for black or longer if using green or white. Strain into glass gallon jar with sugar. Stir to melt sugar. Let come to room temp. (70-72 degrees)
1 pint of starter (fermented kombucha from previous batch or store bought bottle of raw kombucha)
1 SCOBY (not needed if you have raw kombucha combined with the patience of a saint)
Remove a pint or so of tea to make room for starter. Add starter to room-temperature tea, gently place SCOBY evenly onto top of tea/starter blend. it’s okay if it sinks, but better if it floats. If for no other reason than you don’t have to fish for it when it’s time to make a new batch. Cover opening with unbleached coffee filter (ideal) or cotton cloth. I like to attach with raffia or cotton string, you may use rubber bands or whatever you have. Kombucha needs oxygen to ferment so please use something suitable to cover it.
Now just wait. . . hmm, hmm, hmm . . .hmm, hmm, hmm. About 5-7 days in the summer, hmm, hmm,hmm, and up to 10 days in the winter. It’s best kept at around 70 degrees while in the process of fermenting. After fermentation is accomplished, remove SCOBY and 1 pint of starter for new batch.
You may add fruit juice to it at this point. Make sure to use a non-GMO, no HFCS fruit juice if you do. To add juice you can adjust the ratio to suit your individual taste. I would recommend no more than 60% juice to 40% kombucha tea. Of course if you want a stronger tea flavor use less juice.
Once tea is mixed with juice I bottle and cork. I use recycled Patron bottles, wine bottles, or other corkables. I also have some nice glass gallon jugs with finger rings (like cider comes in) that I fill up as well. When you have it blended in the flavor and ratio you desire, place in refrigerator and drink each day. You can drink kombucha without fruit juice if you’d like. I prefer with. I do the 60/40 blend and have been doing that for a long time now.
Make sure you are drinking 4 oz of pure kombucha each day. So if you are doing a 60/40 that is 6 oz of juice to 4 oz of kombucha, for 10 total oz of beverage. You may drink half in the morning and half in the evening or all at once any time of the day. By the very next day your body will be eliminating toxins it’s been holdin’ onto since the 70’s. It’s really immediate and can be somewhat intense if you are really poisoned. It works by producing something wonderful called glucuronic acid. Our liver can make this naturally, if it’s not sick or sluggish. The kombucha helps promote as well as add to the amount of glucuronic acid in the liver, thereby detoxifying and cleansing a very important organ responsible for eliminating poisons from our system.
Do not do kombucha if you take any hormone replacement drugs or are on remicade for Crohn’s or arthritis. This could result in something called lactic acidosis. You don’t want none ‘a that.
Have fun experimenting with different teas, juices, and sweeteners. I hope you enjoy this drink and that it brings you optimum health.
*do not used distilled or purified.