In the past I was always a bit nonplussed when it came to kombucha. I didn’t think I liked the taste, and I was sceptical of the claimed health benefits. But now I’ve found out more about it, and discovered how easy and fun it is to make at home, I’m definitely a kombucha convert!
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea. It is made using a ‘kombucha mother’, also called a ‘kombucha scoby’ (or sometimes ‘the tea beast’!) which is a gelatinous colony of bacteria and yeast. The mother is added to a container of sweet black tea, and over the period of a couple of days to a couple of weeks the bacteria and yeast feed off of the sugar, and produce a range of nutrients which fortify the tea.
Kombucha is credited with anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Like all ferments, it is a ‘living’ substance, containing healthful ‘friendly bacteria’, which are essential for immunity, digestion, and nutrient absorption. It also contains vitamins and amino acids. In ancient China it was called the ‘tea of immortality’.
Using & Brewing Kombucha
The only difficulty to start with is getting hold of a komucha mother. You could try asking around your local health-food shops, or look on eBay where there are often some for sale.
A kombucha mother can be reused indefinitely. Each new batch is started with about a cupful of mature kombucha saved from the previous batch, and some new (cooled) sweet black tea. One or 2 teabags and a handful of sugar to a small saucepan of water seems about right, but the quantities are very variable.
The best vessel for brewing your kombucha is said to be a bowl with a large surface area, but I find it easier in a large jar. Cover with a cloth to keep out flies or dust but don’t seal closed as this would cause a pressure build up.
Once it’s ready, the komucha is kept in the fridge and drunk as it is. It is slightly fizzy, slightly acidic, and to my mind, has a taste not unlike cider. The taste changes day by day as the complex fermentation processes develop. Young kombucha still tastes more like tea and is slightly sweet.
Very mature kombucha is not at all sweet, with a strong vinegary taste. Kombucha connoisseurs often seem to like it quite vinegary, but I must admit I prefer it a little milder, and normally stop my kombucha before it gets too strong.
Every batch you make also produces a new ‘mother’, so you end up with 2. At first the existing mother that you put in sinks to the bottom. After a day or 2 you can start to see a film appearing on the surface of the kombucha. Don’t be afraid – this isn’t mould, but the beginnings of a new mother.
After another couple of days it will be thicker, and will resemble the original mother. Once you have finished, you can use each of your mothers to make 2 separate batches of kombucha, give one away, or compost it. A mother will also keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge in a cupful or so of mature kombucha.
You can also kombucha other liquids. I mentioned that to me komucha tastes a little like cider, so I recently tried komucha-ing some apple juice, and it was delicious! It is claimed that using liquids other than tea will eventually harm the mother, but I haven’t yet found this to be the case.
As a new mother is created each time I find it best to keep one regular batch of komucha tea on the go at the same time as an experimental brew, so that I always have one mother that I know will be ok.
So… I’m a kombucha convert, is anyone else with me?