Ah, kombucha – that funky, sour, over-priced drink that is all the rage with bloggers, hippies, and hipsters alike. Okay, I know, I’m totally over-generalizing the whole thing, but you have to admit, it’s pretty trendy these days. I remember being on the search for kombucha before it was readily available in every grocery store here in Canada (does that make me a hipster?), because I just had to see what all the hype was about. I even blogged about my first kombucha tasting experience (4 years ago!), which apparently was a positive one. What can I say, I like pretty much anything tart or sour tasting. As time went on, I continued to try out different flavours and different brands, and in the process, dropping a lot of money on this tasty, healthy drink.
I love this flavour – alas, it is pretty much impossible to find up north. Le sigh.
I know what some of you might be thinking – what the heck is kombucha? Basically, it’s a fermented tea, usually black tea, but can be green tea or white tea as well, having origins in Northern China many, many years ago. It uses something called a SCOBY, which stands for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” to ferment the combination of tea and sugar, to make a naturally carbonated, sour tasting drink. It can be consumed straight, or you can flavour it with fruit, juice, herbs, and spices. Unlike say, beer, kombucha is virtually non-alcoholic. The SCOBY eats all the sugar, and produces lactic acid, acetic acid, and glucoronic acid, as well as some B vitamins. And because you consume small particles of the mother culture in the drink, it is also a probiotic. This means it can help contribute to a healthy gut. And a healthy gut = a healthy and happy you!
Check out that SCOBY action!
I knew you could make your own kombucha at home, but I had never tried it…until I moved up to the north. It just so happened that the most awesome local food store here in Prince George – Home Sweet Home Grocery – hosted a series of fermentation workshops, and one of them (the only one I could go to) was all about kombucha. It was great fun learning about the history of kombucha, and tasting different varieties. If you think there are a lot of varieties in store, when you brew your own, the flavour combinations are only limited by your imagination! Following the workshop, I was sent home with instructions, tea, and my very own SCOBY.
Needless to say, I have been having fun making batches of kombucha, using herbs from my window sill, different teas, and whatever fruits are in season. Some favourites include lemon mint, apple pie, and strawberry rhubarb. It’s super easy to make, and has allowed me to save so much money on this tasty beverage. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to the workshop, because I was able to get a good quality SCOBY from a trusted source. If you want to brew your own kombucha (which I will explain below), you can search “kombucha starter” on Google, and find countless sources for kits or SCOBY’s. I would recommend doing your research, and possibly searching for a group near your home to get a mother culture from. Every time you brew a batch, you get a new SCOBY, so it’s easy for anyone to share. There are also instructions and videos out there on how to use a commercially prepared kombucha to create your own mother culture.
Basic Kombucha Recipe
makes approximately 1 gallon (or 4 L)
- 2 tbsp or 8 tea bags of black, green, or white tea
- 1 cup sugar
- 13 cups hot water (from the tap is fine – doesn’t need to be boiling)
- 2 cups kombucha (from your last batch, commercial bottle, or a friend)
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 gallon glass jar (like the one pictured above)
1. Combine sugar and water in your jar, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Place the tea bags or tea (preferably in a mesh steeper) into the jar, and allow to steep at least 10 minutes, longer if you want stronger flavour. Remove tea, removing any errant leaves, and allow to cool until room temperature.
2. Add the kombucha and SCOBY to the cooled tea. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth tightly – it needs to be able to breathe, but you want to keep dirt and fruit flies out. Place in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight (I put mine on top of my fridge). Allow to ferment 7 – 10 days for a sweeter tea, 14 – 30 days for more fizz and a more acidic flavour.
3. Once your desired fermentation has been reached, remove the SCOBY, as well as 2 cups of kombucha, and either start a new batch, or store in a glass jar in the fridge until you want to brew again. Your SCOBY will now have new growth layers – you can share some with a friend, or just discard the excess.
4. If desired, flavour with fruit, juice, or herbs. You can allow it to sit out and ferment more, or put it in the fridge. Enjoy!
- White or brown sugar works best. Raw honey can introduce bacteria that will disrupt the SCOBY’s balance, and maple syrup is expensive!
- Always follow good hygeine/food safe handling procedures when making kombucha. If your SCOBY turns pink, it has probably been contaminated and you will want to throw it and the kombucha out.
- Always add fruit AFTER you remove the SCOBY. If you don’t, the SCOBY will grow around it, and you won’t be able to reuse it for your next batch.
I’ve been using green tea for all of my kombucha lately, which gives it a very mild flavour. I made a very summery variety recently – watermelon kombucha! And it couldn’t be simpler:
- 1 batch kombucha (see above)
- 2 cups pureed watermelon
Simple mix together, and enjoy. I love the pretty pink hue – very festive.
PS – for anyone worried about added sugars in their diet, there’s less than 1% of the sugar left after 14 days of fermentation. Woohoo!
Kombucha – do you like it? Think it tastes funky? Have you ever tried it? Discuss below!