Friday, February 15, 2013

Kombucha Tea

My Kombucha Tea in an Ikea jar
Take note that there is no seal on this jar!!
Today we are going to talk about Kombucha Tea. Kombucha is a very helpful probiotic for anyone, but is especially helpful in a gluten free, Paleo, Primal, SCD or GAPS diet.

This is a long post, so be sure to snuggle up under a blanket and take your time watching the videos and reading all the links.

Just what is Kombucha exactly?

 Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that is often consumed for its anecdotal health benefits or medicinal purposes. Kombucha is available commercially and can be made at home by fermenting tea using a visible, solid mass of yeast and bacteria which forms the kombucha culture, often referred to as 酵母 (kombo, lit. "yeast mother", see etymology for disambiguation with 昆布, kombu, kelp). 

Kombucha SCOBY. Source: Google

To your left is a Kombucha SCOBY. This is probably what yours will look like if you get it from a friend or purchase one online.

You may also get one that is "torn" or cut in pieces. Mine is apparently part of a larger SCOBY at the dealer I got it from, and was cut in quarters. Mine's just a little corner piece. It will float to the top and start making another SCOBY on top of itself every brew.

One thing you will want to do with your SCOBY is to be sure and handle it with washed hands, not just when you place it into the tea, but also while it is brewing.

  ...Kombucha has the ability to mutate to fit the needs of the person making the ferments. Handling the colonies leaves personal bacteria on the colony and hence in the ferment. Kombucha will either incorporate the 'good' bacteria or produce an anti-bacteria to fight the bad ones. The effect is that the kombucha ferment mutates to help the specific health of the person preparing it. I think this is why kombucha can apparently help so many diverse health conditions. I am not at all sure that kombucha is not a direct gift from God since it can not survive without direct help from man.)

I've been asked many times what Kombucha tastes like. Well, it really depends on several factors. What kind of tea you are using, how long you are brewing it, how much air you have getting to it, and your current weather/temperature in your home.

I think the taste also changes depending on the type of glass you serve it in. I'd been drinking it in a narrow-mouthed glass and it tasted cidery. Same batch, different glass (brandy glass with a wider mouth and bottom) and it tasted more like nestea without "enough" sugar. Now - remember I grew up in Southern culture so sweet tea is the norm, 1 gallon with 1-2 cups of sugar in that mother. It's so sweet it will rot your teeth out of your head. This is just not that.

Q. What does kombucha taste like?

A. The taste of kombucha varies greatly depending on the amount of time it was allowed to ferment and whether or not flavoring was added. For example, fermentation time determines whether the kombucha tea has a very mild taste or a very strong vinegar taste (kombucha is made using a method very similar to the one used to make vinegar). If you desire a more sweet taste, we recommend a very short brewing period 5+ days. If the vinegar taste doesn't bother you, a longer fermentation process will allow the tea to fully culture. When first making kombucha, we recommend you taste the kombucha starting at day 7 (using a straw makes this easier) to determine at what point you wish to stop the fermentation process. Adding fruit or juice following fermentation can sweeten the kombucha. Alternatively, you can add water to the finished kombucha prior to drinking to cut the flavor. Click here for more information on influencing the flavor of homemade kombucha.
It's hard to compare the taste of kombucha (comb-boo-cha) to anything else. Vinegary, fizzy, cider-y, or just plain nasty if you haven't given it a chance yet. Then again, some people (particularly those who drank vinegar as a kid) like it from sip one.
...The enzymes boost your energy without the post-caffeine lows and headachey shakes, making you feel rejuvenated, restored, and pretty happy. It has something to do with the "mother cell," a mini jellyfish-looking blob floating around, which, if you really want to know, is a yeast and bacterial colony where the sugars are digested. With the addition of tea, this microorganism party ferments into a tangy, sparkling drink.

I love this comment at the end of the article by a subby. I think it sums up nicely.
I really like Kombucha but it takes some getting used to. My mom used to try to get me to a drink a version of it when I was little, and let me tell you, it did NOT have fruit juice mixed in. It was smelly, warm and I wasn't having it.

These days I crave it at least once a week. I love the buzz it gives you and I think it tastes pretty good. 
Serious Eats article

 There has been some concern expressed by some friends and family about the alcohol content of Kombucha. Please read these if this is one of your concerns:

Alcohol content in Kombucha
Does Kombucha Have Alcohol Or Can Recovering Alcoholics Drink Kombucha Tea?

This SCOBY is making another Scoby. Notice the thin film on top.

This is my most recent SCOBY. It is about 1cm thick.
You will definitely need this link as you learn how to brew Kombucha:  5 signs of a healthy Kombucha brew.

Here is some information about Kombucha:

This may be out of order. (I hope not! I tried to get it right, but it is not numbered on youtube) This set of videos is from a Kombucha "camp" that explains everything you need to know to get started. Ms. Crum's site is

She mentions using spring water - I would say DO NOT use well water or tap water. I use Vittel or a similar brand of still mineral water. Always. Make sure you change your cloth often as it will attract fruit flies. So, keep fly-eating plants nearby, but do not brew anything else fermented or keep any house plants nearby that pollinate!

I have heard that you can also brew your  kombucha with Yerba Mate instead of tea. Below are a few videos about that.

Warning: very long schpiel. (16 minutes!)

This is my SCOBY when I first got it last year.
Notice how it is on the bottom. Generally, this
is where it will start before it begins floating.
  • Don't ever wash your glass brewing jar unless you take a break or need to start over due to mold.
  • If you get a batch that's too sour it makes an excellent marinade.
  • I don't eat the fruit from the second brew, but you can.
  • You can also eat the SCOBY. If you end up with lots of babies, it's 100% fine to consume them.
  • There should always be a baby. Always. They can often be stuck to the mother but if there truly is no baby your culture is off. You should split them, not keep them together indefinitely.
  • You can supposedly make kombucha with honey. I've never tried it, though.
  • To be GAPS compatible you need to ferment away as much sugar as possible while still keeping it palpable. Most GAPSters do the first ferment a really long time then do a second ferment with fruit to make it more palatable.
  • I don't use any spiced or flavored teas but some do. DO NOT use Earl Gray, the bergamot will kill your SCOBY. Orange pekoe is a variety of black tea. So is darjeeling.  Herbal tea will not work. You might get something but it won't be kombucha and it wouldn't be safe to consume.
  • You can use a green tea as a portion of your tea but if you use 100% green tea, the SCOBY will not ferment the sweet tea properly.
  • You can use these glasses, or Grolsch Beer glasses.
  • A sour, ACV smell is a good sign. It will get stronger. Doing a second ferment with fruit will tame it a bit. The acidity is what keeps mold away.
  • I don't follow all her rules and whatnot, but this is a decent site.

This is my SCOBY Hotel.
Notice that there is tea in this from my last batch. 
The SCOBY in here is also from the batch of tea in the jar.

One thing you will want to do with your dear little SCOBY is make a SCOBY Hotel. This is a lifesaver, especially if you have issues with fruit flies, mold or other "oopsies" in your household. I once had to let a SCOBY go in the trash after it got infested last year with fruit flies. Somehow the flies got their eggs past my wash cloth barrier (this is why I now use the glass I use!!!) and laid their eggs right on top of my SCOBY. I cried buckets. I tore the baby off the mother. I washed the mother SCOBY very well and I began brewing again. At that point, I did not have a SCOBY hotel, because I only really had one SCOBY. Now, I always have a backup, because I know - as the saying goes - "Shit happens". It really, really does.

  SCOBYs are an investment here in Germany and I purchased mine through Wellness Drinks. You can get them from Kombucha Kamp in the USA. I also got my large brewing glasses and lids from them (you don't have to do that if you have other large glass jars you plan on using), and I purchased my Milk Kefir and Water Kefir (Tibicos) from them.  I'm really happy with my purchase, and they were not too expensive when you compare their prices and shipping with other shops here in Germany and the EU.

So, if you need any and you're here in Germany, one way to get a SCOBY is to ask a friend of yours that brews, or you can purchase from Wellness Drinks.  OR, you can brew your own by simply leaving some Kombucha tea out for a while in a glass jar. The SCOBY will form on the top of the tea.

Some time ago, people were recommending purchasing Kombucha Tea from the store to brew your own KT. This is no longer workable due to changes in the way bottled KT is allowed to be marketed in the USA.


How to brew your own Kombucha SCOBY
Kombucha Recipe [PDF]
Brewing Kombucha
Continuous Brew Kombucha
Double Fermentation Method
Kombucha FAQ
Kombucha recipes and ideas
Kombucha Float with Milk Kefir Icecream!
Aperol (liqueur) Kombucha drink

We had a question come up in our meeting with a nutritionist this fall - whether or not kombucha could be made with dextrose (Grape Sugar) or not. I looked it up, and if you do this - you have to do it 50-50 with the sugar of your choice. Otherwise, it will starve the kombucha. Info found here, a German site. 

UPDATE 7.1.2014  -  Kombucha: Myth vs Truth

Do you drink Kombucha? Feel free to share your stories and comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment