Kombucha or Combucha or fermented tea and sugar drink or whatever you want to call it;
apparently if you haven’t heard of it you’re not up on the hippie health drink craze and you know what? That is ok. Grannie gonna say, "it’s good for what ails ya”.
The word ‘fermented’ brings to mind drinking kimchi or something which might not appeal to the non Koreans among us but let me assure you that Kombucha is absolutly lovely.
It’s a little sweet, a bit bitter, bubbly, fresh and very good for you. Annnnnnd, you can easily make it at home in all kinds of different flavours so follow along; I’m going to show you how get started.
Now if you’re not quite sold just yet let's quickly go over some of the health benifits.
Kombucha is a probiotic which means it encourages healthy bacteria growth withen the stomach and intestines. Bacteria’s got a bad rap but I’m pretty sure we are all mature enough to know that we are full of the stuff (some good and some bad) and probiotics give a bit of a boost to the good kind. Sounds nice? Let’s keep going. Some other benifits you can get out of Kombucha are:
Apparently good for the lungs???
Helps manage diabetes
Good for the cardiovascular system ... and a whole lot more. Check this article for sources.
Basically Kombucha is sugar water with tea for flavor that has been left to ferment and develope what is called a ‘mother’ or ‘scobee’ which is basically a bacteria that slowly eats away the sugar to form a squishy solid mass at the top of the liquid. The fermentation process makes for a nice bit of carbonation, less of a sweet tea taste and a little kick of vinager. This ‘mother’ can be used over and over again in future batches or can be fried up and eaten like a tofu steak. Some people, mostly vegetarians, are crazy for the stuff.
Let’s start with a quick ingredients and equiptment list.
1 large pot - we’ll start with making around 5 liters
1 large liquid container that will accomadate at least 5 litres
1 large cloth that can cover the top of the container to allow air exchange
1 string to seal the cloth to the container and enough bottles to contain the end result
1 cup of sugar - any kind will do
2 teaspoons of tea
5 liters of water
1 bottle of Kombucha from the health food store if you are making this for the first time without a ‘mother’ or starter bacteria.
Additional flavours are optional
First off, let me say that this is just a very general recipe to start with. People use all kinds of different ingredients and variations in quantity. Making Kombuch goes well with experementing with and tweaking to your own tastes is encouraged. I’ve also chatted with a bunch of different people who make Kombucha and their techniques vary. As with almost anything, it’s best to just try to make it your self and if it doesn’t come out how you like it, try again with a few tweaks.
Here are the basic steps:
Step 1: Boil the crap out of your water. We bring ours to a boil and then keep it boiling for a good 20 mins to totally kill all other bacteria that might compete with the good kind you’re trying to encourage.
Step 2: Turn off the burner, stop the boiling and add your tea. Let the tea steap for 5 mins and then add the sugar.
Step 3: Stir until your sugar is disolved.
Step 4: Leave the liquid with the tea still inside to cool down fully, sometimes overnight is best.
Step 5: Pour the liquid into your container and add the bottle of Kombucha if you are starting fresh with no mother. This bottle is to encourage the grown of a new mother bacteria. If you areadly have a mother, pour the liquid in with the mother and a little bit of starter Kombucha left over from the last batch.
Step 6: Cover the container with the cloth and leave it somewhere out of direct sunlight and at room temperature.
Step 7: Taste your Kombucha after a 3 or 4 days, it will probably still taste pretty sweet but if you feel that it’s started to ferment you can decide if you want to bottle it now while it’s still very sweet or wait another day or two for a more vinegar type flavor.
Step 8: Bottle it up, add additional flavoring at this time or not, let it go through a second fermentation in the bottles for 2 or 3 more days to build up carbonation then refrigerate and enjoy!
Now let’s go over a few more details including flavoring and reusing the ‘mother’ for future batches.
If everything’s gone well you’ll be left with a pretty thick ‘mother’ bacteria possibly a little scummy on the top and with some tea leaves mixed in. For the next batch we trim the top and bottom or whatever kind of browish scummy bits off of and leave a nice healthy clean chunk to start us off fresh. If you’ve left the ‘mother’ a bit too long or in the wrong place it might go bad. Have a smell, if it’s funky go on and start with a new bottle of Kombucha next time.
You can experiment with all kinds of different flavors.
What a lot of professionals do is as follows: After they’ve made and bottled their basic batch, they make an additional sugar and flavor concentrate in the blender. They then add a teaspoon or so of this to the kombucha filled bottles, seal them back up, and let it ferment in there for another few days. Afterwards they refridgerate. I’ve heard of some bottles exploding from over-active fermentation causing too much carbonation so always make sure you don’t fill the bottles all the way.
Here I’ve tried a whole bunch of different flavors. I’ve added some straight cut up ginger to a few bottles and some passion fruit fresh from the vine to some others. I’ve made a few with the purple flowers from a bush of basil. Some bottles contain only lemon grass and others a ginger and lemon grass mix. I would love to try to make some with berries s and a whole variety of other kinds of fruit.
I made a batch that was left to ferment perhaps a day or two too long so I added an extra couple of teaspoons of sugar to see if I can bring it back to a bit more of a palatable balance. In the end it all comes down to individual taste. Personally I prefer a Kombucha with a nice vinagery punch. Others like it more sweet and smooth.
Give it a try, make your own. Do you know how expensive this stuff is in the health food stores? Ain’t nobody got time for that.