What is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha Tea is a delightfully fizzy, slightly sweet and sour drink, reminiscent of ginger and sour apples, made by fermenting ordinary tea. The drink traces its origins back to ancient China, where it is known as the “Immortal Health Elixir” and is revered for its numerous health benefits. It is sold commercially bottled, but is quite straight-forward to make at home once you know how.
Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea
Kombucha is loaded with probiotics, which are known to keep the digestive system operating at its best and combat unhealthy bowel flora. The Chinese also believe Kombucha has a detoxification action which can be help fight cancer, arthritis and depression, as well as contributing to mental clarity and mood stability. All this in a delicious, low sugar and low-calorie fizzy drink! What more could you want?
- Stockpot – any large pot will do
- A 1 gallon glass jar (5Lt) or 2 X 2-quart (2.5LT) glass jars
- A clean dish towel (or coffee filters or paper towels) to cover the jar
- 6 X 16oz (500ml) glass bottles with caps (or clean plastic soda bottles)
- A small funnel and strainer
- 3 ½ quarts (3.3 Lt) of water
- 1 cup of sugar (250ml)
- 8 tea bags – black tea, or a mixture of unflavoured black and green tea
- 2 cups (500ml) of starter Kombucha – from a previous batch or store-bought
- 1 scoby per jar – either from a previous batch or store-bought.
The scoby (acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) is the most important element you will need to make great Kombucha at home. The bacteria and yeasts in this living, breathing gelatinous-looking lump form the “mother” to get your Kombucha going. (Similar to the “starter” used in artisanal sour-dough bread). Now it cannot be denied that the scoby is not particularly attractive, but don’t let that put you off. This amazing jelly-like layer will convert plain sugary tea into delicious and nutritious Kombucha in 8 easy steps.
1Brew the tea base
Bring your water to the boil in the stockpot. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is fully dissolved. Drop in your tea bags and allow to steep until the water has cooled. You can accelerate this step by placing the stockpot in an ice bath.
2Add the tea starter
Once your tea has cooled it is time to remove the tea bags and add the 2 cups of starter tea (from a previous batch or store-bought). The purpose of using the starter tea is to make the newly brewed tea acidic, thus preventing bacteria from forming during the first crucial days of the fermentation process, before the scoby has properly covered the fermentation jars. It is a vital step and you cannot make a successful batch without adding the starter tea.
3Transfer your tea to the fermentation jars
Now you need to pour the tea into your scrupulously clean gallon (5lt) or quart (2.5lt) jars. Now comes the exciting bit – it’s time to add the scoby. If you are using 2 separate jars you will need a separate scoby for each fermentation jar. Remember, you are handling a living organism, so it is important to wash your hands before touching the scoby to prevent any possible bacterial contamination.
4Carefully seal the jars
Living cultures need to breathe, so it is important not to cover your fermentation jars with non-permeable covers. A tightly-woven fabric (clean dish towel, paper towel or coffee filter) is ideal to allow air in but keep out tiny insects. Secure with a rubber band.
5Ferment for 7 – 10 days
Your Kombucha-in-making now needs to ferment for 7 – 10 days at room temperature. Place the jars out of direct sunlight in a warm corner of the kitchen where they will not be jostled or disturbed. Don’t be concerned if the scoby moves around! It is quite common for it to float on top or partially below the surface, or even to turn side-ways. Sediment may start to collect on the bottom of the jar and little bubbles can be seen forming – these are all normal signs of the fermentation process.
After 7 days you will need to taste the tea each day by pouring a little into a cup. Avoid contamination by dipping in with a spoon! When the tea reaches the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness that is perfect for your palate, it is ready to bottle.
7Preserve the scoby
Before you can proceed you will need to create a new home for the precious scoby. Prepare and cool another batch of tea in your stockpot. With clean hands, carefully remove the scoby and place it on a clean plate, ready to be used for your next batch.
8Bottle and carbonate the Kombucha
First remove 2 cups of tea from your fermentation jar, to be used as the tea starter for your next batch of Kombucha. The remainder can be poured directly into your clean bottles using a small funnel. If you dislike finding left-over floating fragments of the scoby in your tea you can strain the liquid into the bottles – this ensures a clearer Kombucha without floaters! Leave a couple of inches at the top of each bottle to accommodate the carbonating process. Leave the sealed bottles at room temperature for 1 – 3 days to naturally carbonate. Once carbonation is complete you can refrigerate the bottle to stop further fermentation.
Sip and enjoy delicious home-made Kombucha! Drink it within a month of making.
Although it is very minimal, a tiny amount of alcohol is produced during the fermentation process (usually less than 1%). People who are sensitive to alcohol or those who wish to avoid alcohol for any reason should not drink Kombucha.