What is Kombucha and how do you make it?
Kombucha (kom-BOO-cha) is a fermented drink made from tea and sugar. That makes it sound like your afternoon cuppa, but it’s definitely not your average cup of tea, because:
- It’s literally bubbling with gut-friendly probiotic bacteria
- It’s fermented, usually for about a week or two, so the sugars are broken down and transformed into a drink that’s super healthy
- It’s made with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast), which is not something you’ll usually find floating in a cup of earl grey!
What is a SCOBY and where do I get one?
The SCOBY is a wobbly, flubbery disc that ranges in colour from pale to dark, depending on the tea you use for your brew. It basically grows on top of the sugary tea that you make, so that in a couple of weeks when you inspect your jar of fermenting tea, you’ll find that a new SCOBY has grown on its surface. This is the key to the nutritional benefits of kombucha.
Just like an afternoon tea with a group of mums, kombucha is a bit of a communal experience. You’ll get by with a little help from your friends – the first step is to find a friend who already has a SCOBY! Yep, it takes one to make one.
When you’re ready to make your first batch, you’ll need your friend’s generous SCOBY gift plus a cup or so of their recent brew. Then, with every batch of kombucha you make, you’ll end up with an extra SCOBY that you can either reuse, donate to someone else, throw in your compost or store in a jar (called a SCOBY hotel) for future use.
What do I need to get started?
The basic setup includes:
- Tea bags – green or black work well, we also found Roobos tea are very nice
- Sugar – it’s worth experimenting with different types such as raw, caster, coconut and rapadura, but you do have to use sugar. Stevia won’t work, nor will honey (honey contains natural antibiotics which can interfere with your bubbly probiotic goodness)
- A large glass jar or stoneware jar
- A fermenting Airlock Lid (never a lid – as bubbles form, gas is produced and a sealed jar could explode)
- A SCOBY and a cup or so of fermented kombucha
- A bit of patience!
TIP: Avoid metal implements when making kombucha. Metal can kill the fragile little life forms that you are about to repopulate your gut with. Instead, use a wooden spoon (or your hands) when handling SCOBYs and if there is a need to strain, use a plastic and mesh strainer.
Once you’ve gathered all your bits, find a set of instructions that work for you. The methods can vary slightly but the basic process is to boil up the tea with the sugar, allow to cool completely, add to your jar with the SCOBY and the old brew, and set it aside somewhere cool and dark until it’s bubbly and tastes nice – not too sour. Fermenting for too long can turn it to vinegar, though it can also be used as vinegar at this stage! A lot like apple cider vinegar.
How to make kombucha once you have a scooby
- Combine 2-3 cups hot water and 1⁄4 cup sugar in a glass jar. Stir to dissolve.
- Add 11⁄2 teaspoons loose tea or 2 tea bags. Steep at least 10 minutes.
- Cool to 68°-85°F.
- Remove tea bags or strain loose tea leaves from liquid.
- Add 1⁄2 cup distilled white vinegar to cooled tea.
- Transfer scoby from the initial batch to the cooled tea.
- place lid ( either Stoneware lid or Airlock on jar) Keep cover damp with vinegar during the culturing period.
- Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68°-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste.
- Pour kombucha off top of jar for consuming; retain scoby and 1⁄4-1⁄2 cup liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch.
Can you buy premade Kombucha?
Definitely. If brewing your own seems too big a task, there are some amazing kombuchas out there, in a range of lovely flavours. Take a look at this yummy green tea and lemon flavour. The Asian pear and ginger is delicious and refreshing, but the flavour of straight kombucha is actually really beautiful – try the traditional Himalayan blend. Once fermented, kombucha tastes a bit like apple cider.