All About the Kombucha
This is for all the kombucha lovers out there. The recipe is at the end of the post.
The scenery out the window is a solid white block. After months of a relatively mild, sunny winter, February is bringing in the snow. I might be in the minority here (big surprise) but I am thankful to have snow. I feel in my gut that something is awry when it doesn’t snow in the winter, or when it is rains all summer log and never gets above 80 degrees. Even though I feel trapped in my own home today due to the snow, am scared to drive due to the snow, and will likely take a nap and eat too much homemade bread with homemade jam due to the snow, I feel at ease.
What better task to give myself on a snow day than making kombucha? Actually, making kombucha is not a time consuming project, however, it is the most interesting thing I will do today. Kombucha is, for some, an acquired taste. As for me, I have always liked it. I did drink vinegar as a child, so I suppose it is no surprise. (I have always enjoyed acidic foods, much to the chagrin of my tongue.) I finally received a kombucha mother last month after the one I had was forgotten in the refrigerator. Instead of buying ridiculously expensive kombucha from the store, I can now make my own at a fraction of the cost.
Kombucha is a fermented food. Sugars are digested by a yeast and bacterial colony known as the kombucha mother. When I first got my hands on a mother, I wanted to make the delicious fruity drinks that I bought at the store, so my kombucha was always quite experimental. I would make lightly sweetened fruit beverages and put the mother in them. I have heard that flavors can inhibit the mother and they actually prefer a much more consistent environment. This time around, I am actually making kombucha “by the book” by adding all flavoring after the kombucha has finished the fermentation process.
Internet searches bring up the controversy surrounding the consumption of kombucha. The one issue I take seriously is the lead poisoning issue caused by making kombucha in old earthen ware crocks. Many old crocks contain lead in the glaze and acidic kombucha corrodes the glaze, allowing the lead to leach into the drink. As for the health benefits, well, I have no idea what are true as far as cancer, weight loss and so forth. Kombucha contains B vitamins, live yeast and bacteria and other acids that supposedly boost the immune system and help out the digestive system. Many people drink kombucha as an energy drink because it is full of vitamins and minerals, and caffeine from the tea. I drink more kombucha in the summer, when it ferments faster. This is also the time when I eat lots of raw, fresh vegetables, am constantly working outside, do yoga three times a week and am pretty darn happy. Therefore, I am thinner, more alert, have lots of energy, and so forth. I am a bit hesitant to attribute all the benefits I feel in the summer to kombucha alone. But I do love it on a hot summer day during my lunch break.
I make kombucha from sugar and tea. For a while I was making it from honey, because I can purchase responsibly and locally produced honey. However, having read that the kombucha mother needs consistency in order to thrive, and actually thrives better in a sugar sweetened tea over a honey sweetened tea, I will attempt to ween one of my mothers on honey slowly, by using an ever-increasing ratio on honey to sugar, and see how tastes along the way.
Since the kombucha will produce a new, fresh colony with each fermentation, kombucha brewers are usually pretty generous with their extra mothers. Every kombucha mother I have acquired has been given to me by an acquaintance.
This method makes one quart of strong sweet tea diluted with 3 quarts of cold water. This ensures that the temperature of the tea is cool enough for the kombucha mother. Do not place the kombucha mother into hot water. The ideal temperature for kombucha is 75-80 degrees. Excessive heat will kill the colony.
Makes about 1 gallon.
You will need:
1-2 gallon capacity glass container with a large opening or lead free crock (do not use metal)
bottles with air-tight lids (for the finished kombucha)
2 TBS loose tea, I use 1 TBS Assam black tea, 1 TBS Sencha green tea
1 cup (fair-trade, organic, vegan) sugar
1 kombucha mother plus 1/2 cup finished kombucha
Optional: juice, I enjoy juiced ginger
Brew loose tea in one quart of boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes. Strain. Add sugar and stir into the hot tea until dissolved. Place sweet tea into the brew container and add 3-4 quarts of water. Place the kombucha mother in the sweet tea and cover tightly with several layers of cheesecloth or a towel. Let it ferment for several days before tasting it. The ideal fermenting temperature is 75-80 degrees. In this temperature range, the kombucha will take 10-14 days to ferment the sugars in the tea. In the winter, since it is cooler, the kombucha takes much longer, about 3 weeks. Taste the kombucha. if it is still very sweet, it is not done. When the kombucha is at the end of the process, it will taste acidic and slightly sweet. If you enjoy carbonated kombucha, you may strain the kombucha and place it in a jars fitted with air-tight lids, along with juice, if using. Leave the jars at room temperature for a few more days and then place them in the refrigerator until ready to drink. Once the jar is opened, the kombucha will start to lose its carbonation.
To keep the mother: The kombucha mother needs to have access to unfermented sugars at all times. Either store it in some of the slightly sweet kombucha in the refrigerator until the next batch, or start the next batch immediately.