“What is kombucha?” ask many of my inquisitive visitors. They’re inquiring about the jars sitting on my countertop filled with brown liquid and unidentifiable floating clumps.
Now, in my world, kombucha has been around for several years as those pricey little bottles in the health food store. I really liked it, but only bought it once a month or so. I was finally given a scoby a few months ago (more on that shortly), and after some repeated prodding from one of my high school voice students I finally got a batch going.
If you’re not familiar with it, the name “kombucha” may sound pretty exotic. However, the beverage is straightforward and easy to make. Komucha is simply fermented tea.
It can be made as an iced tea, or turned into a bubbly soda. It can be had plain, or enjoyed with a variety of flavors. While every brewer may have his favorite methods, I’ll share with you the most basic instructions for creating your own homemade kombucha.
First, you’ll need to obtain a “SCOBY,” or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. This serves as your “starter” for the kombucha. The scoby encourages the growth of the right cultures to turn your tea into certifiable ‘booch. Scobys are generally best obtained from a friend who brews kombucha, or from a cultured food supplier like Cultures for Health.
Here’s how to make kombucha tea.
- Brew a gallon of tea. I usually use 8 regular sized tea bags for a gallon of water.
- Add a cup of sugar to the tea. Mix well and let cool completely.
- Pour tea into a gallon glass jar, or split it up between quart sized mason jars. (I prefer splitting it up for storage’s sake.)
- Gently add SCOBY to each jar. (Make sure those hands are clean!)
- Cover each jar with a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band. Let sit out at room temperature for about a week.
Ta-da! You have kombucha! Pour off the liquid and save a little tea and your scoby for another batch. (Keep the scoby covered with the kombucha in the meantime.) You can store your finished kombucha in the fridge til you’re ready to drink it.
If you want kombucha “soda,” you need to let it ferment a second time, this time with some fruit or juice. You don’t need the SCOBY for the second ferment.
- For each quart jar of kombucha, add a handful of berries or a half cup of juice. (I’ve been told to stay away from citrus juice.)
- Cap jar tightly with the lid and let sit at room temperature for about another week. If it’s warm in your kitchen, watch to make sure the lid isn’t bulging. If it is, “burp” your jar by unscrewing the lid and closing it again.
A word to the wise for newbies: Kombucha will detox your system if you start drinking a lot of it at once. Be kind to your body, and start with 2 oz a day and gradually work your way up to a full glass. Trust me. Your digestive system will thank you.
A couple of commonly asked questions:
What if I’m avoiding sugar and caffeine? Good news: I’m told that the fermentation process eats up most of both of these substances.
Is kombucha alcoholic? Technically, there is a small amount of alcohol leftover from the fermentation process, but it’s so minimal that it can hardly count. Any age can buy and consume kombucha without concern over alcohol level.
Why ferment your tea? Fermentation is a preservation method that encourages the growth of beneficial yeasts and bacteria that help your body function better. For more info, see What’s Up with Fermentation? and 3 Health Benefits of Fermented Foods. Plus, it’s just really tasty.
Kombucha is both economical and easy to make, and is a much healthier (and tastier) alternative to soda. Why not start a batch today?