Kombucha is all the rage now. At $4 a bottle, it’s as expensive a habit as espresso, although far healthier. Touted as a miracle tea that cures everything from baldness to cancer, thisnew “designer drink” has actually been consumed for centuries all over the world.
Originally believed to be Chinese in origin, kombucha has gained a reputation for enhancing longevity, youthfulness, energy and digestion in many cultures all over the world.Â While claims of reversing baldness and grey hair are not scientifically proven (nor even really believable unless you are a first-hand witness), what is proven is that the beverage is rich in B vitamins, enzymes, and helpful components such as friendly bacteria and glucuronic acid, which helps the liver and kidneys extract toxins to move them out of the body and is a precursor to glucosamines, those handy structures responsible for lubricating joints and building cartilage and collagen.
If you haven’t had it, kombucha is hard to describe. Each batch varies a bit, depending on time of fermentation, type of tea used, and the kombucha culture itself. My first taste fo kombucha was in the mid ’90s, and I recall it to be not far from drinking straight vinegar. The batch seen here – in the glasses – is more akin to apple cider. Kombucha has a fizz to it and a sourness that can be mild or strong. The longer it ferments, the more potent it is. This is because the culture (a symbiotic relationship of a bacteria and a Saccharomyces yeast) consumes the sugars used and produce the acids as a by-product. After that first taste, I did not consume kombucha again until earlier this year at the insistence of its deliciousness from a friend of mine. Certainly, the addition of juices and fruit purees to kombucha in the pricey designer versions has made it far more enjoyable an experience.
Below is a recipe for homemade kombucha, and some ways to play with the beverage to make it more palatable, fashionable, and fun.
- 1 very wide-mouthed glass jar or glass bowl
- large rubber band
- clean dish towel or ripped t-shirt
- 1 gallon water
- 6 black tea or green tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
- Kombucha baby or 1/2 bottle store-bought unflavored, unpasteurized kombucha, with bits of sediment on the bottom
Thoroughly clean the glass jar with very hot soap and water or by dipping it into a large pot of boiling water. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and add the sugar slowly, stirring to dissolve. Remove the water from heat, cool briefly, and allow teabags to steep for 10-15 minutes. Cooling the water slightly before adding teabags prevents the tea from being too bitter.Â Remove the teabags and cover the pot of water, allowing it to cool completely.
Pour the cooled tea into the sterilized glass jar or bowl.Â Place your Kombucha baby and any liquid it is in (usually obtained as a gift from a friend or online) or the 1/2 bottle of kombucha into the jar.Â Cover with clean dishtowel or t-shirt and secure with a rubber band. This will keep dust, flies, and other nasties from contaminating your culture. Place the kombucha in a dark warm place – about 0-74 degrees, and let it work it’s magic.
After 10-14 days you will notice one of 2 things. 1) If you used a full kombucha baby as a starter, a new baby will be growing atop the original. You can use this new baby to start another jar or give it away to a friend who spends too much on store-bought kombucha. 2) If you used the store bought drink as a starter, those sediment bits will have transformed themselves into a large, thick pancake-like culture covering the top of your jar (see photo). This “mushroom” is the kombucha mother, which will in turn create a kombucha baby as it consumes the sugars in the brew.
As the culture grows, it will naturally begin to seperate. I am told it is unwise to pry them apart before ready. To harvest your tea, gather jars and bottles with lids. Wash your hands and a large dinner plate thoroughly. Reach into the jar and remove the kombucha mother and place it upon the plate. Pour the liquid into jars, leaving about 2″ of liquid at the bottom of the jar as a starter for your next batch. Repeat the process as desired. Refrigerate the bottles of kombucha tea until ready to drink.
Making it Fun: Designer Kombucha Recipes
Below are some of the ways I have been playing with my kombucha (the first batch was just finished this morning, so more recipes will be added to this post in time; be certain to bookmark it if interested). If you have your own recipes, I would be delighted to partake in them! Please share in the comments section below.
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup kombucha
Fizzy and fun! Pour into a champagne glass and raise a toast to your health!
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
- 1 cup kombucha
Blend until smooth. You may want to strain out the seeds if you don’t like the crunch.