Tuesday, November 20, 2012

homemade kombucha with hannah

kombucha is a sparkly fermented tea.  you may have heard it called "mushroom" tea (it tastes nothing like mushroom).  i call it magic elixir.  it's an ancient probiotic brew that is detoxing and prevents all sorts of disease.  i just feel good when i drink it.  it took a really long time before i tried it but once i did, i loved it instantly.  i love it so much i am flirting with an addiction.  which is probably great for my health, but not so great for my budget given the cost of bottled kombucha in stores ($4-$5 per bottle).

my friend and yoga teacher sarah makes her own kombucha at home and sweetly offered to share a starter mushroom (scoby) with me and show me the steps to brewing my own batch.

meet hannah, sarah's daughter.  she is very talented in the kitchen.  she is already quite famous in our town for her healthy eating and mad culinary skills.  she is just a joy to be around.

we used 2-quart jars and the recipe from this beautiful book.

the recipe
(for each jar)
2 quarts filtered water
2/3 cup organic sugar 
4 organic black tea bags or equivalent loose tea leaves 
1 cup previously brewed kombucha
1 scoby (kombucha mushroom)

(you can find a thousand recipes online.  sarah says not to stress out about the precise recipe, she likes to experiment with different proportions and tastes.)

wash your hands and kitchen surfaces (cleanliness is pretty important in this process).

measure your tea into a clean, dry jar (or use teabags).

fill the jar about 3/4 full with boiling water.

add your sugar and stir well until the sugar dissolves.

(use a wooden spoon, not metal.)

repeat for each jar you are making.

allow the tea to steep.

seriously, how adorable are they?  a beautiful baby-wearing, kombucha-brewing yoga teacher and her amazing children.

kombucha...kombuda...kombuddha.  such a wise child.

let the brew cool to body temperature.  this is very important, you don't want to "cook" the scoby.  be patient.

remove the tea bags or strain the tea if you used loose tea.

add one cup of previously brewed kombucha (and cold water to fill the jar if necessary).

now for the scoby.

this is scoby (below):  symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  she is a culture therefore she is alive.  treat her right.  express your love and gratitude openly and often.

(she's quite a versatile substance, watch this to see how scoby is being used to make fabric.)

place one scoby in each jar.

once they are full, cover your kombucha jars with cotton fabric.  secure tightly with a rubber band.  they should look like they are in the sunday school christmas play.

they are now ready to be stored to "brew".

store them in a quiet warm space out of direct sunlight for two to three weeks.  (sarah suggested experimenting storing the jars in a cooler with a heating pad set to low.)

after three weeks, a new scoby "pancake" will have grown in your tea.   taste your tea.  it should be a bit tangy with a bite.  if it's sugary, it's not ready.  back in the cupboard.

(if any mold has grown in your batch, discard the entire batch, scoby and all.  you will know if there is any funkiness present.)

when it's ready, remove the scoby and save.  at this point you can flavor it if you like with hibiscus flowers, ginger, chai spices, etc.

pour off and bottle most of the brew, always leaving a cup or two of brewed tea and scoby for your next batch.  you can use glass jars or recycled drink bottles.

if you added flavors, you may want to store your bottled brew for one more week or so.  this will allow the flavors to deepen and promote effervescence.

speaking of effervescence...hannah likes to wait out the brewing process by star-stirring, cabbage hugging and making her baby brother laugh.

this is sarah's mothership scoby.  she is quite impressive, yes?

these are ready for storing.  in three weeks, i'll have my first batch of kombucha.  i'm going to add some hibiscus and ginger.

thank you sarah and hannah!  you completely demystified this process for me and i had a great time spending the morning with you.

if you haven't tried kombucha, i know it can look a little weird.  i encourage you to try it to see if you like it.  whole foods or your local health food store should carry a line.  you can also find local brewers at farmers markets.  if you are near southwest virginia, local brewer buffalo mountain makes amazing kombucha.  regardless of the source, there are a lot of varieties.  i suggest synergy trilogy or buffalo mountain hibiscus to start.  they taste great and you will feel awesome.

a few internet kombucha resources: