Have you heard of kombucha?
I made my first batch almost nine years ago and have continued ever since, even if sometimes on an irregular basis! Kombucha, in a very brief synopsis, is a fermented drink that promotes better health by detoxifying and improving the efficiency of your digestive system which boosts immunity.
It is made by brewing tea and sugar, and then adding culture – which includes a “scoby” and some previously-fermented kombucha tea.
I learned an interesting tidbit today. According to Kombucha Kamp,
More recent first hand Russian stories involve residents in towns near the Chernobyl meltdown of the 1980’s. As the horrific radiation exposure ravaged the victims over the weeks and months following the accident, doctors and scientists noticed a group of people seemingly resistant to the effects, many of whom were elderly women. When traced back, the common thread turned out to be that those who consumed Kombucha regularly survived the radiation.
You can learn a lot more about the history of kombucha on this page. In fact, Kombucha Kamp has a wealth of information that you may find interesting. For now though, I’m going to share with you how I make kombucha. I generally make two gallons for our family but I will provide the recipe for one gallon and you can adjust as necessary.
You will need:
1 kombucha scoby and starter tea (you can order one here)
6-8 bags of black or green tea
1 cup organic white sugar
Now for anyone who doesn’t know us well … we didn’t have any white sugar in the house for years! We prefer to use all natural sweeteners and it took some convincing for us to buy white sugar to make kombucha. But you see, the white sugar is what allows the kombucha to ferment; it is the easiest sweetener for the “good” yeast to digest. You can read all about the chemical factors and how it works on the aforementioned website but suffice to say – once you ferment the kombucha, the little scoby has removed all the “bad stuff” from the white sugar and created a healthy drink. This ain’t no southern sweet tea – you know, the kind where they serve a little tea with their sugar 😉
And I can say that because I’m a southern girl! Just don’t tell them I don’t like sweet tea!
Back to topic … put one cup of sugar in a pot or mixing bowl.
Bring several cups of water to a boil and add it to the sugar. Stir it around and let it dissolve.
Then add the tea bags – I generally use 7 but sometimes I add an extra or use one less. You don’t have to be exact.
Let it sit for awhile – no less than 10 minutes, and preferably no more than 10 hours.
(Somehow I didn’t end up with pictures of this part of the process!)
Remove the tea bags – I squeeze them out by hand.
Add enough water to make about 3 quarts of liquid.
Pour the liquid into a clean gallon jar, add the starter tea – no less than a 1/4 cup, no more than 3 cups – and stir around.
Then place the scoby on top. It will probably sink to the bottom and that’s okay.
Cover the gallon jar with a clean cloth and let sit, preferably in a warm dark place, for about 7 days.
After 7 days, the liquid in the gallon should be kinda bubbly and the original scoby should have grown a second layer (baby scoby) on top! When I first started finding out about kombucha, I was informed that it’s kinda like a fizzling apple cider.
It can be.
And it can also taste like vinegar!
I don’t think I’ve ever had two batches taste the exact same. The flavor is affected by the length of fermenting time period, the room temperature, the ingredients that are used and, I’m completely convinced, the mood the scoby is in that week!
So after one week, you can taste a little of the tea and if it doesn’t seem bubbly at all and is still really sweet, you’ll probably want to let it sit for another few days or up to a week. But most batches are normally ready within 7 days. Then you can strain the tea, refrigerate it, and consume as you like. Or you can do a second brew, which is what I usually do.
(I’m a poet and I knowed it!)
In this case, you need some airtight bottles. The pumpkin cider bottles from Aldis work well (a friend gave me some as a birthday gift!) but if you can’t get those, due to them being seasonal, you can also find beer bottles that have the airtight flip-top.
The purpose for the second brew is to add flavoring and more carbonation. The sealed bottles help provide the carbonation – the ingredients you will add provide the flavor! You can find Kombucha flavoring recipes & tips here, but I usually make two flavors (grape and lemon-ginger) since we normally have the ingredients on hand. My siblings’ favorite is the grape and my parents like the lemon-ginger best.
For the grape variety, I add several tablespoons of grape juice to my empty glass bottles. For the lemon-ginger variety, I add a tablespoon or two of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and fresh ginger – about half a dozen matchstick sized pieces, 2 or 3 inches long. You don’t have to be exact with the flavors, so once you have finished one batch you can get a feel for whether or not to add more or less to the next one. Adjust to your taste!
Fill it the rest of the way with the strained kombucha. You’ll want to leave a little space on top. Then let it sit at room temperature for at least one day, preferably two. Place the bottles in the refrigerator and drink when chilled. And just a word of warning: be careful about opening the bottles! Sometimes there’s just a simple pop, and sometimes the carbonation has done its job extra well and it comes bubbling out like a fountain and baptizes the kitchen!
I would definitely recommend signing up for the Kombucha Kamp newsletter – they’ll send you a free e-book and will provide much helpful information.
Making kombucha can be a lot of fun. The startup costs are inexpensive – you can get a scoby for less than $25 and it will keep growing and multiplying so that, barring an accident, you should have plenty for yourself and more to share! And of course, tea bags and sugar aren’t very expensive either. For a few dollars per gallon, you can create a drink that is tasty and is good for you!
Have you ever made kombucha?