WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
It is an ancient Asiatic beverage which was hugely popular in Australia in the 70's and has resurfaced in a big way in the last decade. I have fun calling it 'booch' and being all hip and saying 'let's get our booch on' (and yes, you may have noticed by now I am a total dag...)
You can now get kombucha almost everywhere now! From restaurants, cafes, bars, supermarkets to the petrol station! My favourite premade kombucha is by a brand called Remedy if you want to try before becoming a brewer! Hint: Try their Raspberry Lemonade flavour (my fave).
It's believed to have started in China, then moved to Russia and then spread around the world as a health giving beverage, which is largely due to the active good bacteria it contains due to it being a fermented drink. Remember we talked about fermented foods and drinks in the last post and why they are so good for us? If you missed that, please click HERE.
It is actually a mushroom or fungus. The kombucha mushroom is actually a symbiotic culture of friendly bacteria and yeast. This living organism ferments sweetened tea to become what is known as the kombucha beverage. You can use black tea, green tea, rooibos tea, white tea or herbal tea. You can not use herbal tea on it's own though as it will not work but you can combine herbal tea with the green, black or white tea for a different flavour. Just make sure it is 100% pure dried herb and is a herb that contains no oil as this will hurt the culture. The kombucha culture is also referred to as a SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE ?
It is sooooo yummy. The taste will keep changing as the fermenting process goes along, from sweet to sour. The best way to describe it is like a cider taste but milder. It contains a fizz as it's a fermentation. The longer you leave it, the less sweet and more sour and fizzy it will become and this is when you have a lot more of the beneficial probiotics and acids present. Leaving it to brew for less time will mean there is more of the sugar still present (which is the food for the kombucha) and because it hasn't had time to eat all it's food, it will be sweeter. Leaving it longer, the kombucha has had more time to eat it's food and become more fermented and also fizzier.
If you wish to sweeten it or make different ones for different occasions you can add fruit juice to the finished product and drink immediately or add whole pieces of fruit in air tight bottles or containers to ferment some more and flavour with that fruit. I have tasted and made apple, watermelon, grape, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and ginger and turmeric kombucha. They are all delicious and there are so many ideas you could come up with, even use natural extracts to flavour like vanilla, It is really only limited by your imagination.
You need to brew your first batch for at least 8-10 days days and from here you can start to drink it, this is when it will taste a tiny bit sweet. It can be brewed up to 30 days, this is when it will be completely sour and you can add fruit juice if need be.
Don’t brew beyond the 30 days though because the SCOBY will start to starve as it won't have any of it's food left (sugar). Generally, I like the taste best at anywhere from about day 8 to around the 15 day mark.
It's like having a pet isn't it? Well, it is alive and you need to feed it but it will be a lot less trouble and give you not only something yummy for your family to drink but will also be another positive gut health action you are taking.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED TO MAKE KOMBUCHA ?
Something to boil water in (kettle or saucepan and stove).
A large jar or vessel, (glass or stoneware is best) that holds at least two and a half litres. DO NOT USE METAL OR PLASTIC vessels and make sure you have cleaned it with some hot soapy water and rinsed in a bit of vinegar and water to have it cleaned of any soapy residue.
Muslin cloth to go over the top and a large rubber band.
A large bowl or pot.
You can double or triple this recipe if you have a larger vessel like the Durand one I am using which holds six litres.
A SCOBY - this can be obtained from someone else who may have kombucha already and be able to give you one. You can also buy scobies online from places like Nourishme Organics. You will have many 'scoby babies' as you start making your own kombucha, as they multiply and you can keep them separate to give to others (more on this later).
2 litres of boiled filtered water
1 cup of kombucha tea (this is just previously brewed kombucha tea, if this didn't come with your SCOBY - you can buy bottled kombucha from good healthfood stores and some fresh food markets).
3/4 of cup of white refined sugar "refined white sugar is the easiest for the SCOBY to digest. Organic evaporated cane juice is second best for the SCOBY, and possibly best for you. Those are the only two recommended sugars. Raw sugars are too difficult for the SCOBY to digest and the SCOBY suffers over time. Raw honey can actually kill the SCOBY, due to its anti-microbial properties. Molasses creates a very unpleasant flavour, and stevia starves the SCOBY" - Eileen from Phoenix Helix
*Don't be scared of the sugar! Remember it is the scoby's food! The longer you leave it to brew the less sugar content there will be. After a thirty day brew, there will likely be little to none left. It is not like drinking a sugary drink as that sugar is being eaten and fermented but the earlier you drink it, the more there will be. It is still not a large enough amount to worry me at all but if you are concerned with sugar content at all, leave it to brew for the longest time possible.
2-4 teabags or 2-4 tablespoons of loose leaf tea or dried herbs
Put your boiled water in a large bowl or if boiled on the stove just leave in pot.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Add your tea bags or loose leaf tea and leave for fifteen minutes.
Strain or remove tea bags and let cool.
Put this into your kombucha container and add the previously brewed or store bought kombucha tea and carefully add your SCOBY.
My cute little Scoby :)
This will depend on the temperature of your house, how much starter tea was added etc. The most important thing to go by is the TASTE. If it is too sweet, it's not ready, keep testing until it's slightly sweet, tangy and a bit fizzy.
Each brew you make will get more fizzier. It can take 2-3 batches to get a really good ferment going especially if you started out with a smaller SCOBY. But as mentioned earlier, a rough guide will be between 8 and 10 days.
If you want to do a continuous brew of kombucha like I do with my Kombucha vessel, Nourishme Organics also sells them online (as well as plenty of other fermenting needs!) You can do continuous brewing so you don't need to wait for each batch. It allows you to dispense kombucha daily and top up as you go.
For this you do the same process as outlined above. When it is ready to your liking, dispense 10% of it off into a jar and store in the fridge. Do this the first couple of times and the tea will become stronger and you can add 30% of new tea to the brew each time.
Make sure each time you make a new batch of tea mixture, you let it cool before adding the stored tea from the fridge. If you top up with the new tea of an evening, it will be ready to drink the following morning.
scoby collage - image credit from pinterest
SCOBY BABIES, SCOBY HOTELS AND OTHER STRANGE THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW!
Ok, so as you keep using your SCOBY, it can have baby SCOBYS! I told you it was like a pet! This happens with each brew you do, you will notice a new layer growing on your SCOBY, you wait until they get thicker for at least the first few brews to get it stronger and then eventually peel the top layer off and place in a glass jar filled at least halfway with the fermented kombucha tea for it to live in, otherwise known as a SCOBY hotel!
Keep this SCOBY hotel in the pantry with the lid on tight. This is useful for back-up SCOBYS in case anything happens to your original, you can also get more fermentations happening if you wish and you can give to people wanting to start their own kombucha adventure. Don't let the SCOBY get too thick, once it is about 2 inches thick, it is time to separate so you can see the more you brew, the more babies you will have!
Does the kombucha contain alcohol?
Yes. It is a fermentation which means alcohol is created in the process, it is a very small amount though, around .5% for initial brews and can reach anywhere up to 3% once you have been brewing for a while and is stronger.
Does it contain caffeine?
Yes. The caffeine is nearly entirely gone in the final product but a little remains. If you want to remove even more of the caffeine, simply pre-steep the tea bags for 30 seconds and throw that water away. Then use these teabags again for the kombucha brew. The majority of the caffeine is dispersed in the pre-steeping.
Can I drink Kombucha if I have Candida?
Because this is made from a culture and therefore is yeasty, it's not wise to drink if you have an active systemic candida overgrowth. It is an excellent drink to prevent candida however as you are topping up your good bacteria which keeps fungal overgrowth at bay.
Can I drink kombucha while breastfeeding or pregnant?
Sure! There is only a tiny amount of alcohol so as long as you keep it to a glass a day, there will be no problem. Or buy store bought kombucha so you know exactly the amounts (which will often be nil to none).
Can my young kids drink it?
Oh my goodness, yes! But please be aware of the small amount of caffeine and alcohol present and don't let them have too much. A small glass a day is going to do them wonders and it will be a nice treat!
Can I combine the tea with fresh herbs instead of dried herbal tea?
Yes, but you will need to multiply the dried herb tea amount you were going to add by seven if replacing with fresh herbs and remember not to use any oil containing herbs!
That's it! Easy, hey?
Now who's ready to GET THEIR BOOCH ON??
Yours in Health,
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