By Devon Chappell –
Strange, what is it!?
Kombucha! A rejuvenating health elixir many of you may have heard of before. If you’ve tasted it you probably either loved it or found it wasn’t for you. If you loved it you may now be brewing your own at home or maybe you’ve even gone to the extreme and made clothes out of its “scoby” as designer/biological conjurer Suzanne Lee has done.
Enthusiasts have been talking about it, grocery stores in North America have been holding it since the 90s, its origin remains unknown (maybe north eastern China or Russia), yet it has been being consumed for centuries.
This miraculous form of fermented sweetened tea is a symbiotic association of an acidic bacteria and a specific yeast. If you’ve had the honour of experiencing this tea then you may also have wondered how it came to be so awesome. Well, like any other amazing creature, being, or plant, it takes a nurturing “mother.” The slimy, pale pancake, mushroom-like creature floating on the top of a jar of fermenting kombucha tea is it’s “mother.” The kombucha mother is called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and while many people refer to it as a mushroom, this is not technically correct. The scoby is a living organism, or rather, represents a symbiotic relationship that metabolizes the caffeine of green or black teas and sugar turning it into an impressive and mouth-watering beverage that contains astonishing benefits. As long as the temperature is fine and there’s enough tea, sugar, and room in the glass jar, your scoby will continue to grow and it will even produce babies. So fun!
Kombucha is a deliciously detoxifying and revitalizing refreshment that packs multiple health benefits into one tasty beverage. It is an excellent source of amino acids, enzymes, an abundance of probiotics, and friendly bacteria to aid digestion while fighting harmful yeasts, and it helps with detoxification of the liver and body.
Because of the glucosamine found in the scoby, kombucha can improve joint flexibility (especially in the knees). Some also claim kombucha can increase energy, improve moods, fight anxiety and depression, help with nutrient assimilation, prolong sexual appetite and performance, and may even improve vision. It may also help prevent bronchitis and asthma, diabetes, diarrhea, and kidney illnesses.
Making your own scoby, in the comfort of home:
3 litres filtered, distilled, or spring water
1 cup organic sugar
8 bags black tea, green tea, or a mix (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)
2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought kombucha (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored)
Optional flavouring extras for bottling: 1 to 2 cups chopped fruit, 2 to 3 cups fruit juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons flavoured tea (like hibiscus or Earl Grey), 1/4 cup honey, 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs or 2-4 tbsp freshly grated ginger
You’ll first have to adopt a scoby, either from a friend or if you’re lucky I may be able to help. Once you’ve got your scoby, the process can happen.
Bring 3 litres of filtered, distilled, or spring water almost to a boil and pour into a very clean 4 litre glass jar. (Remember to heat up the jar under hot tap water to avoid blowing out the bottom and shattering the glass). Now it’s time to add the tea. You may use any of the following teas to make your kombucha: black, oolong, green, white, or pu-erh. If possible, try to use organic and unsweetened teas. Teas like Earl Grey or herbal teas can be added at the bottling stage for flavour, but they won’t work for the fermentation process. Add the cup of organic sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow tea to steep until entirely cooled. You can even make the tea at night and then use it in the morning.
Now that tea has cooled, remove tea bags and stir in 2 cups cup of kombucha from a previous batch, or the tea your scoby arrived in. If your scoby didn’t have enough tea with it, you can purchase a bottle of kombucha tea found in most health food stores. Now place your scoby onto the top of the tea mixture. It is normal for a scoby to either float on top, turn sideways, or even hang out at the bottom of the jar. Cover jar with a clean cloth, towel, or an organic coffee filter secured with elastic band and store at room temperature in a dark place.
Let this interesting little mixture sit for 7-10 days to allow the fermentation process to have its wondrous way. When it’s ready to drink, the mother scoby will have grown a white-ish/brown pancake on top and the tea will be slightly fizzy and a pleasing mix between sweet and tart (and you can decide based on personal preference). Now your kombucha is ready to bottle.
Wash your hands before handling the scoby. Set it aside on a large plate, and remembering to reserve 2 cups of the kombucha you have just made, pour your tasty new beverage into clean glass jars or bottles with tight-fitting lids. At this stage you may add other things to it. It’s lovely as is to drink or you can spruce it up with fresh fruit, flavoured teas, grated ginger, mint leaves, or herbs to whatever your taste buds desire. Have fun, be creative, or just bottle it plain. Now put your scoby back into a fresh batch of sweet tea to start over again, and close up your bottles and put them away for another 3 days until you love how they taste!
BOOM! You’ve just tasted your own homemade kombucha.
It’s okay if you can’t make it every week. Remove the scoby and place in a glass canning jar or container, along with a cup of the liquid and toss it in the fridge with an airtight lid until you’re ready to make more kombucha.
Pour the remainder of your kombucha into a glass jar or pitcher with a tight fitting lid and have it join in the fridge as well.
If you continue to ferment your tea or have “forgotten” about it, it’s all good! The scoby will still produce one baby scoby after another and become quite thick, which speeds up the fermentation. Kombucha is very safe, as long as it tastes good; it is good. Over time, the scoby can die and turn black, and it is possible if it becomes contaminated that it could mould. Should your scoby turn black or have green and blue fuzzy mould on top, then I’ll have to be thrown out or better yet, composted, unless of course you have a close connection and need to have a funeral.
It may seem complicated and time consuming but I assure you, once you’ve watched it grow and that sweet sparkling beverage hits your lips, you’ll be slightly addicted to the process, which seems simpler over time, and completely addicted to the result.
Devon Chappell is something of an impressionist with therapeutic hands. He holds a focus on what is real when it comes to food. He has a personal interest in nutrition and art and when he is in his element, Devon brings nature to the kitchen.