What is all the hype about this funky tea known as kombucha?
Kombucha most likely started in China and spread to Russia more than 100 years ago. It is often called mushroom tea because the "SCOBY" (an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) that forms on the top resembles a mushroom. Kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and vitamin C.
According to the American Cancer Society, "Kombuchahas been promoted as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer.
Supporters say that kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process.
It's a wonderful probiotic. It is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, which is helpful for digestive health. It has a distinctive odor, but I find it to be very pleasant tasting.
Here’s how to Brew a Batch.
I use a 2 a gallon clean glass jar, (WIDE MOUTH!) and combine 8 cups hot water and 1 cup sugar in a metal pan, heat till sugar is dissolved, throw in the tea bags, cover to steep and let cool to room temperature. (always use either glass or Stainless steel pans and utensils when making kombucha).
Use 4-6 tea bags for a gallon of tea. Try and find and organic black tea. If you are using loose tea, use 4 Tbsp. for a gallon of tea.
The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools. Once cooled, remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid and pour into your clean glass jar. Add starter tea (preferable with the scoby) from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea add an active kombucha scoby (These are also available in kits obtained online, some Natural Food Stores or find a friend who brews kombucha!)
Cover the jar with a towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band; ants and fruit flies can smell sweet tea a mile away.
Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. I usually taste after 5 days.
The longer the kombucha sits and ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste. When making it for children, you may consider only letting it ferment for the 7-day period.
Keep the scoby and about 1 cup of the liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch. You will have the "mother scoby" that you added and a new "baby scoby" that will have formed on the top. You can reuse your mother scoby, and gift your baby to a friend by placing it in about 1-2 cups of the finished kombucha in a Mason jar. You can also just keep it in the jar which is what I do - see photo! They can get pretty thick, so just be aware.
The finished kombucha can be flavored, or enjoyed plain. Keep sealed with an airtight lid if you like a fizzy drink like soda. This is a ‘Second Ferment” Lots of folks prefer fruit-flavored kombucha, and this can be done by adding any fruit juice to the cultured tea. Add about 3 Tbsp. of fruit juice per quart, seal with an airtight lid, and allow to culture on the counter for about 14 days. It can then be stored in the refrigerator. You can use quart Mason jars to try multiple flavors or make single servings. Remember to check and ‘burp’ if necessary, and note that ambient room temperature will cause your tea to ferment. Warmer + faster!
My favorite way to flavor the finished kombucha is by adding lemon and ginger. Add ½ tsp. sugar (I’ve used honey and maple syrup successfully here), a couple of slices of fresh ginger, fresh juice from ½ a lemon to a quart Mason jar. Fill the rest of the jar with brewed kombucha, and allow to culture on the counter for 5-7 days. Strain out the ginger pieces, and store in the fridge. (Leave out the lemon here and you can make some tasty ‘gingerale’ .
I like lemon is the summer, it’s really refrehsing! To make a simple lemon kombucha, add 1 Tbsp. fresh juice to every pint of finished kombucha tea, let ferment on the counter for abut 12 hours, then refrigerate. It’s wonderfully refreshing to add lemon and fresh or frozen berries. I allow the berries to ferment in the tea.
There is really no end to the flavors you can create for your kombucha, so have fun with it. Whether or not it cures cancer, I am not sure, but at worst you have a delightful and affordable probiotic.