An ancient elixir legendary for its health promoting benefits, kombucha has become a staple in many kitchens around the world. You can also find it bottled at your local health food store as well as most supermarkets for around $3.50 per 16 oz. bottle. Or, you can make it yourself for pennies a glass.
Kombucha is simply fermented sweet tea. Anyone can make it at home with the most basic tools. The one thing you probably don't already have on hand is a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
Alive with probiotics, amino acids, B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy acids, kombucha aids digestion, detoxifies and energizes the body, and supports the immune system. My dear yogi friend Ellie, who was selling her incredible kombucha to several local eateries and food coops, taught me a fool-proof recipe. I've used it for over a year now without fail. Simple, delicious and good for the gut.
WARNING: Scobies can be frightening if you're unfamiliar with them. They're rubbery, mushroomy, pancake-like yeast and bacteria cultures that float and carry trails of stringy brown goo. But they are the magical ingredient behind kombucha, so ya gotta get over it.
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HOMEBREW KOMBUCHA Recipe
Ready? Let's brew. Here's what you'll need:
3 quarts water / 12 cups of water
6 teabags / 4 tablespoons loose tea (plain black, green or oolong tea, with no added ingredients, flavors or oils)
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup plain kombucha (from a previous batch or store-bought)
Bring water to a boil in a deep lidded pot. Turn off heat, wait a few minutes and stir in sugar to dissolve. Add your tea leaves and let sit overnight or until the tea cools to room temperature. Strain out tea bags/leaves and pour into a large glass or ceramic jar with plain kombucha. Gently slide the SCOBY into the jar (with clean hands!). Cover with a couple layers of cheesecloth, paper towel or an old (clean!) t-shirt and secure with a rubber band to keep out dust and fruit flies. (If you need to divide this amongst several jars, make sure each has its own SCOBY.) Let sit out at room temperature away from direct sunlight in a place with plenty of air flow (not in a closed cabinet) for about 5 - 10 days, tasting each day with a straw or pouring a little out into a glass. Generally you'll let it sit more if it's cold out, and less when it's hot. I prefer my kombucha to be a bit sweet with a slight tang. Once it's to your liking, either infuse your kombucha with a second ferment, or cover with an airtight lid and move to the fridge.
Add whatever you'd like to infuse your kombucha with (fresh ginger, apples, cardamom, lavender, goji berries, pear or any other herbs, spices and fruit you love) to a pressure top bottle. Use a funnel to pour in your kombucha, leaving about an inch of head room. Seal the bottle and let sit out of direct sunlight in room temperature for 1 - 3 days, or no more than half the time you let it ferment during the first round. This will lend some serious flavor and fizziness to your kombucha. Store in the fridge, sealed, for several weeks once done.
NOTE: Refigerate your SCOBY and Kombucha when not wanting to ferment further. During each brew, your "mother" should produce a "baby," which often grows above the mother. You can peel off the babies and use them for fresh batches, passing the mothers on to friends who want to try their hand at brewing. You can also dehydrate it for use as a doggy chew toy. (I've also heard of people making vests and purses out of their SCOBY mothers, though I've never personally ventured down that path.) Be sure to compost mother SCOBY when it sinks, usually after about 6 uses.
I love to mix my kombucha with a splash of tart cherry juice and seltzer or tonic water over ice as a cooling and energizing summer mocktail! It's also wonderful infused with fresh ginger and pear.