Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making Kombucha--A mild obsession

Kombucha is all the rage. Hipsters are drinkin' it, makin' it and trading scoby's like pogs. Well this is one of those moments where I can say..."I've been drinking and making kombucha way before it was cool or even known to my fellow health-foodies here in the states."
There. I said it. I am a original kombucha drinker. And have no shame in tooting my hipster-horn.

My first encounter was in Ireland, a lovely musician we stayed with in Galway had a funny looking science experiment on his counter. He noticed me starring at it, one blurry eyed Irish morning and offered me some. I didn't want to seem uncool so I tried a sip...hmmm...fizzy...tart but a tinge in my mouth. He gave me a bottle to take back to the Burren. Shortly there after on my way home the hangover lifted and I felt way better. Maybe it was the trillions! of pro-biotics that brought me back to life but one thing was for sure; I was hooked on the 'buch. Upon arriving back in the states I scoured the message boards at my local co-op for a SCOBY aka Mother and finally found one from a sweet woman who lived just across town, she told me how to make it and I did for years until my ex-boyfriend killed my Mother.

So what is Kombucha? It's a magic "mushroom" of symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (aka SCOBY and/or Mother). Kombucha has its origins in Japan and Russia. Ah forget it. Just click this link: kombucha.
Basically its an amazing fermented carbonated beverage that is chock full of helpful yeasts, probiotics and magical goodness that gives you super powers. So here is how to make it:

Get a SCOBY or find another hipster friend to give you an offspring (like me!)
Or grow your own!

Growing your own:
Get a bottle of Raw Organic Kombucha (unflavored)
Pour it into a glass jar along with one cup of sweet tea (one cup black tea plus 1 tablespoon the tea to room temp)
Cover with a cloth secured with a rubber band and let sit at room temperature until it forms a thick 1/3 inch SCOBY!
Takes bout a week and a half to two weeks.

The Basic Kombucha Recipe:
You will need...
SCOBY (duh)
Large glass container with a spigot (like a sun tea container, see image above)
Cloth and rubber band (like a kitchen towel)
Tea (for your first attempt use black tea, loose leaf or tea bags)
Sugar (Organic is best but not required)
Water (filtered is best)
Large pot to boil water
Containers to store your Kombucha (like flip tops, liquor bottles)

Bring 3 liters of water to boil (12.7 cups, 12  or 13 would be fine)
Add 5 tea bags
Turn off the heat
Add one cup of sugar
Let it come to room temp (between 70 and 80 degrees is perfect, I place the pot it in the fridge after its cooled for a couple hours, if you add it when its too hot you'll kill your Mother, too cool is fine it will equalize eventually.
You can brew your tea as long as you'd like, I remove the bags after an hour.
Add your sweet tea to your clean and dry glass container
Add your SCOBY
Cover with the cloth and secure it with a rubber band
Date the outside with a marker and place in a quiet spot out of direct sunlight. Don't place your kombucha in a cupboard.

After 2-3 days you should start to see a film form on the surface. This is your SCOBY's baby SCOBY! Taste your elixir buy drawing a small bit from the spigot or use a straw and draw out the liquid that way. It should still taste a bit sweet with some carbonation. Taste a little bit everyday until you get the flavor you like, the whole process takes about one week. Then bottle your 'buch, date it and in two days enjoy! To make a continuous brew save about 2 inches of finished tea called your starter (see above image #4), leave the SCOBY's in the container and simply add your new batch of cooled sweet tea and repeat! (you can have up to five SCOBY's in a container, it will ferment faster however so keep an eye on it)

Finished Kombucha flavoring ideas:

In the image above I added about an inch of fresh local blueberries and topped them with kombucha.
Please note that when you add fruit the bottled kombucha will take on that flavor and sweetness (Yum!) and it will ferment faster and be super bubbly, so leave some head room for carbonation.
Some other flavor combos that I have tried and love are: Ginger and hot pepper, ginger and blueberry, blueberry, foraged wine berries, spirulina. Next brew i'm going to add Nasturtium flowers, chia seeds and lemon.

*Update- The Nasturtiums are divine and add a lovely flare to a mock/cocktail, The kombucha did not take on the flavor of Nasturtiums probably because I added blueberries too. I also did ginger grated with hot peppers and lime also delicious ( I enjoy this "tonic" in the morning).