So it’s official. I have a kombucha addiction. Actually, not just me. My whole family!
Kombucha is a raw fermented tea full of probiotics. Just like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sour dough, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, kombucha is a living food that can help us replenish and maintain a healthy gut microflora.
Most of the food we eat in our modern diet is dead as a doornail, fitting our obsession with hygiene and hyper-vigilance when it comes to pasteurization. Although pasteurization has made a lot of our food safer to eat, it has also made it a heck of a lot less nutritious. Turns out being overly anal about having a sanitized environment can actually have the reverse effect we’re looking for. Our guts are paying for it and we’re seeing more allergies and other auto-immune diseases that might not be there if we recognized the importance of bacteria in our overall health and wellbeing.
Michael Pollan’s lastest book, Cooked, has a great section on fermentation and gets into some pretty amazing details regarding the latest research on the role of bacteria and fermented foods in the human body.
To me, the whole hygiene-hypothisis makes sense, but then even if it didn’t – I live on a farm with lots of poop, organic soil, animals and all that. I couldn’t keep my 2 year old “sanitized” if my life depended on it.
So anyway, I’d read about kombucha and have started seeing it more and more in the health food store, but frankly I figured anything that’s supposedly that good for you couldn’t possibly taste nice. I mean, seriously.
We went to Salt Spring Island recently, and lo and behold there was a gal selling homemade kombucha at the farmer’s market. She was giving out free samples. We tried it and . . . everyone loved it! It was tart and fizzy and completely refreshing. We bought a bottle to enjoy right there and then and I also got a mother (SCOBY : Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) off her so I could try to make some at home.
I admit, I was a bit freaked out to make it. The SCOBY was creepy looking, ok, not creepy – downright gross. Slimy and just – yuck. But I checked out The Kombucha Mama’s site, steeled my resolve, and jumped in.
It was easy! It takes next to no time to actually put it together; most of the time involved is just allowing it to loll about on your counter and being patient!
Kombucha Tea Recipe
Yield : One Gallon
You will need:
- a one gallon container, preferably glass, do not use metal
- a piece of cotton big enough to cover the opening of your container (I use a cotton tea towel. Don’t use cheesecloth; the fruit flies will get in.)
- an elastic band or long length of string to secure your cloth tightly over the mouth of your container
- a wooden spoon / ladle
- a measuring cup
- a funnel
- bottles or mason jars – I like using my hubby’s grolsh beer bottles with the reusable flip-top cap
Ingredients for primary ferment
- 4 to 6 teabags : Use black, green, white or oolong. Do not use decaf or herbal tea. (I use two black tea, two green)
- a SCOBY + one cup of unflavoured finished kombucha (you can get these from a friend or order them online)
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1 cup sugar, preferably raw and organic. Honey is not recommended because of it’s antimicrobial properties.
- Brew your tea with the 4 cups boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in your sugar until it dissolves.
- Fill up container until it is 3/4 of the way full with cold, un-chlorinated water.
- When the brewed tea is cool, add your SCOBY and cup of finished kombucha.
- Cover the mouth of the container tightly with your cloth, and put it your brew someplace out of direct sunlight, but with good air circulation.
- Wait 5 to 7 days. At this time, slip a straw under your SCOBY and taste your brew. Too sweet? Let it go a little longer. Too tart? Next time shorten your fermentation time. It has been hot here lately, and I’m finding 5 to 7 days is plenty for a nice tart brew. It’s totally normal tho to take between 7 and 14 days.
Note: The tea should taste light, tart and have a vague apple-cider vinegar air to it. The SCOBY should not have any black spots, mold or smell “off”. If you’re not sure what it should look like, I strongly recommend visiting www.kombuchakamp.com. The Kombucha Mama is the online authority on all things kombucha and has some helpful photos of what a SCOBY should and shouldn’t look like. If in doubt THROW IT OUT.
This for me is the fun part.
Once your kombucha is brewed, you can decant it into containers and flavour it if you like. This will make it fizzy and flavourful, and you can also use this as an opportunity to add therapeutic foods like ginger for example.
Now The Kombucha Mama suggests starting with as little as 1/4 teaspoon of flavouring per 16 oz bottle of brew. Personally, I’m finding that I prefer way more than that. I’ve been experimenting with fruit so far, and in one grolsh beer bottle find that 6 to 8 raspberries gives me a sweet / tart, vibrant pink kombucha that I can’t get enough of.
- With clean hands, remove your SCOBY from your main vessel and set it aside in a clean container with 1 cup of reserved tea.
- Line up your clean bottles and pop in whatever flavouring you like. (See ideas below.)
- Decant tea into bottles and seal.
- Leave on your counter for 24-48 hours, “burping” each day to make sure they don’t explode. (This hasn’t happened to me – yet – but I have had some VERY fizzy bottles.)
- Once your brew is to your desired level of fizziness, pop it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.
- That’s it! Enjoy over ice, with juice, booze, whatever!
Kombucha Flavouring ideas
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, strawberry / ginger, pureed mango, ginger, herbal tea, mint, lavender, sour cherries . . .
That’s what we’ve tried so far – what are your favourite flavours?
Kombucha is a raw, living food. I’m 6 months pregnant and am drinking it and feed it to my family, including my 2 year old son, but you should consult a health professional if you have any concerns or questions before consuming raw foods. I am not a doctor and don’t make any health claims regarding the health benefits of kombucha.
There is very little research out there to support the health claims made by proponents of kombucha, but there’s also very little money to be made by drug companies from foods that improve our health and well-being, so take from that what you will. It is believed that kombucha has been around for approximately 2000 years.
All I can tell you is both my hubby and I have both noticed markedly improved digestion almost immediately upon introducing kombucha to our diet. And it tastes nice!