july-7-2009-435This is the final part of a series on fermented foods for beginners. You can find the first three parts here:

The first time I tasted kombucha it came from a bottle that I purchased for over $3 at the whole foods market. I had just read about it in Nourishing Traditions and in my zeal to make some major dietary changes I splurged. When I opened up I noticed bubbles, similar to what you would find in soda pop. So, being that I was totally unprepared for the intense flavor of kombucha, I took a big swig. I nearly choked due to the carbonation and acidity. After a few more sips I was hooked.I find that Kombucha tastes a bit like a tart sparkling wine.

Since then I have purchased a bottle here and there as a treat, but at $3.50/bottle there was no way I could drink a glass per day. So about 6 months ago I finally took the plunge and started researching how to make my own. It turns out that once you get a scoby (stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) the process is quite simple and hands off. Basically kombucha is a fermented sweet tea.

Health Benefits

There are many health claims regarding kombucha. Like other fermented foods it contains living bacteria, which are said to aid in digestion and help ward off candida. It is also said to aid in cleansing the liver (source). On a personal note I have noticed an improvement in digestion and energy since I have started drinking it on a regular basis.

How to Make It

Kombucha is fairly easy to make. Here is the general method:

  1. First off do not use any metal jars or utensils for the process. I use large glass jars and a wooden spoon for stirring in the sugar.
  2. You can either obtain a scoby along with a small amount of kombucha from a premade batch or grow your own from a bottle of raw organic kombucha.
  3. Brew up some sweetened black tea. As a sidenote I have read that organic teas will not contain fluoride as some non-organic teas. You will use 2 tea bags and 1/4 cup sugar per quart. It is recommended that you use white sugar for the tea. It is said that the bacteria eat up the sugars in the tea if you allow it to ferment long enough, so no need to worry.
  4. Allow tea to cool to room temperature and add your scoby (“mother”) and premade kombucha to the sweetened brewed tea.
  5. Cover loosely with cheesecloth, a tea towel or a light cloth napkin and bind with a rubber band.
  6. Allow to ferment in a dark, warm place for at least 5-7 days. After the first 5 days you can taste it, but keep in mind that the longer you let it sit the less sugar it will contain. Because I am trying to avoid sugar I let it ferment for at least 2 weeks.
  7. Once the tea has reached your desired level of fermentation, remove the original scoby and the newly formed “baby” scoby. You can now use these scobys to make more than one batch of fresh kombucha.
  8. Place an air-tight lid on your jar or transfer to smaller jars and cap. At this point you can refrigerate and allow to become more carbonated over time or do a 2nd fermentation using fruit juice.
  9. I find it most delicious when it has sat in the refrigerator for several days.

Where To Find Starters

If you are a bit apprehensive or unfamiliar with the culturing process you may want to consider purchasing a scoby that will come with detailed instructions. I found that these instructions were very thorough, easy to follow and took away a bit of the apprehension. You can find kombucha starters on my resources page here. Happy brewing!

What about you… have you tried kombucha? Do you brew your own and if so what method do you use?