The Kombucha Craze

By now you’ve probably heard of kombucha, you may not have a clue what it is or does but chances are you’ve heard it talked about by someone. Kombucha is trendy, but it is not a new thing. It has been around for 200-2000 years depending on your source of history. It is experiencing a bit of a revival at the moment and you’ll find it popping up in cafes, brewpubs, and grocery stores all over.

So…exactly what is it?
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is created by adding a SCOBY (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to a sweetened tea mixture and left for a certain amount of time in order to ferment it. The SCOBY is similar to “the mother” in the vinegar making process and can be quite off-putting based on appearance alone. It looks a bit like a rubbery white and brown streaked jelly fish top and feels slimy to the touch. But, don’t let that put you off! The SCOBY is also what makes Kombucha a healthy and beneficial beverage.

What does it taste like?
Well that can depend greatly on how it has been prepared. A longer fermentation time will make the Kombucha more vinegar like. If you desire a certain flavor or combination of flavors, those will need to be added during a second fermentation period. Typical flavors to mix would include: ginger, citrus fruits, berries, vanilla, coconut, or other fruits. The sky’s the limit when coming up with new flavors to incorporate.

Why is it good for me?
The reason Kombucha is so sought after these days tends to be because of its abundance of pro-biotics. Pro-biotics are beneficial bacteria that can help to balance out negatively compromised gut flora. For people who have been on prolonged anti-biotic use, sometimes the gut flora can be out of balance, as antibiotics; although helpful and amazing at fighting infections, do not discriminate between the bacteria they take out. Thus, good bacteria can be obliterated along with the bad causing an imbalance in the gut micro biome. Even people who were not on long term antibiotic treatment can develop gut dysbiosis (imbalance in gut flora) which can benefit from pro-biotics in the form of fermented foods and drinks such as Kombucha.
Other than pro-biotics, Kombucha also contains vitamins and beneficial acids such as B vitamins, antioxidants and glucaric acid. Anecdotally, it has been touted to do everything from decrease wrinkles to cure cancer. However, no studies have proven these claims to be fact. People also love to use Kombucha as a soda replacement. It’s a little but fizzy and sweet like soda, but without the drawbacks that come from chronic soda consumption.

Where can I get some and how much does it cost?
You can easily pick up a bottle at most big chain grocery stores these days. For more variety of brands and flavors I would suggest going to a Whole Foods, Sprouts or your local health food store. At the store, a bottle of Kombucha can be anywhere from $2.50 to $6.00 depending on the store, brand and area you live in. A lot of Coffee shops, some brewing companies and even restaurants have Kombucha on tap. From what I’ve seen in Colorado and Missouri $4.00 a pint seems like a pretty consistent price. Now if you’re like me and after sampling a few here and there get hooked and find yourself with a rather expensive habit starting to form, it may be worth your while to look into making your own at home.

What do I need to make it?

glass container (I recommend a 1 gallon mason jar)
8 tea bags (plain black or green tea)
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup starter fluid (already made Kombucha)
1 SCOBY (get from a friend or purchase online)
1 breathable cloth
1 large rubber band to secure cloth
6 or so glass bottles to put the finished product in

How do I make it?

  • Put the 8 tea bags in the bottom of the gallon mason jar and fill it up with 4 cups of boiling water. Wait 10 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of cane sugar and mix well. Fill the rest of the jar up with water (not boiling) but leave about 2 inches of room at the top. Wait until this mixture is at room temperature or lower.
  • Add your SCOBY and 1/2 to 1 cup of starter fluid (already brewed Kombucha). The SCOBY may float, sink, or go sideways. All of these are normal and not a concern.
  • Cover the top of the mason jar with the breathable fabric and fasten with the large rubber band.
  • Put your Kombucha in a spot where it will stay at about 75 degrees F. I find that putting it on top of the fridge works quite well.
  • An average brewing period of about 10 days is a good place to start, but some may find that they want to stop sooner or go longer. The preferred taste of your Kombucha is personal and you can tailor it to your liking by checking on how the taste is changing daily.
  • Once you are happy with the taste, you can remove the SCOBY and set aside some starter fluid for your next batch, then pour the rest into glass bottles.
    Refrigerate for 2-3 days before consumption for best results.

How do I add some flavor to it?

Flavor can be added during a second fermentation. This is where, after getting to the taste and acidity profile you prefer, you would then add fruit juice, fresh fruit, date syrup, coconut sugar, or other various ingredients to the Kombucha and let it ferment for another week or so.

Some Handy Tips:
Every time you make a batch of Kombucha, it is likely that you will end up with a Mother and Baby SCOBY. They will peel apart from one another like peeling the backing off a sticker. It is recommended that you keep the Baby with its Mother until the baby becomes at least 1/4 inch thick. Then the Baby will be ready to be given to a friend so that they can start their own Kombucha brew.

It is possible to brew Kombucha without a SCOBY, but it can take 3-5 times longer and will require more starter fluid.

If your SCOBY gets too thick, it can actually slow down the fermentation process, due to less oxygen flowing down to the lower parts of the brew.

Make sure all of your equipment and containers are cleaned thoroughly between batches.

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