February 28, 2014

Kombucha 101. ~ Kelly Kaiana


I have never been good with recipes.

I’m the kind of person who throws in a pinch of this, a splash of that, a squeeze here and a dollop there and I’m done. It usually leaves me racking my brains after a particularly good experiment, trying to remember the quantities and steps I took to reach the final product. However, no matter how many times I am left in that predicament, I never change—the pen and paper remain at the end of the creative process never at the beginning.

This is why the process of fermentation had always frightened me somewhat. I mean, it’s alive, it’s growing, it’s in some way (without this sounding too eccentric) relying on you to survive!

A friend gave me a kombucha scoby about six months ago and I accepted it with a determined, yet weary smile, knowing in the pit of my stomach that this little guy didn’t stand a chance in my kitchen.

Alas, I was wrong.

I spent that evening researching kombucha, looking for the perfect (most simple) recipe I could find that I couldn’t screw up as I wanted to prove to myself that I could really make this work—that fermentation and I could be friends.

I found what appeared to be a foolproof recipe: ½ a cup of sugar and 4 black tea bags. How hard could that be? I had been given the scoby in enough liquid to begin a new batch…all I had to do was add that to the cool sweet tea and leave it to rest for four to ten days. Totally do-able. right?

I brewed the tea and measured the sugar (I didn’t have any real cup measurements, so I took the mug that had an owl on it thinking it was a wise- looking cup) Already my mind was wandering…can I use coconut sugar…I wonder if yerba maté would work, or maybe Earl Gray, I love Earl Gray…

No, no! Back to the recipe, my firm mind told me.

I waited for the tea to cool and added the slippery, slimy scoby to the jar with the brownish liquid.

Of course, my mind was asking me: how on earth is this really good for your guts? Alas, in my research for the perfect recipe, I had come to read that yes, this odd looking liquid was indeed good for friendly bacteria and that it actually tasted great…I would soon be able to tell.

Four to 10 days? What did that really mean?

To me, looking for an exact recipe (so that my scoby didn’t end up in my compost pile) this was a pretty wide time frame. So I decided on day seven—smack bang in the middle—and hoped for the best.

I removed the rose quartz crystals that I had surrounded the jar with (looking for any extra love and comfort that I could find to fool my scoby into believing I knew what I was doing) and I strained the liquid from the scoby that had grown somewhat in size and was floating in the top of the jar. I reserved a cup of this batch to add to my next one and placed the scoby in this new little home while the new batch of tea brewed and cooled.

I poured myself a sample of my first batch of homemade kombucha.

Fearing the worst, I took a small sip only to delight in the knowledge that it was good! It was sweet but not too sweet, a touch vinegary but not too vinegary. I added a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped ginger and I was even more impressed. It was a success!

I have managed to keep my kombucha alive and thriving for six months now and I have come to realize that it is fairly indestructible (lessening the thrill of my initial success, but still reassuring to know!)

I have left my batches for shorter times or longer times, left the scoby in the fridge for periods when I didn’t have time to make a new batch, and broken the scoby into new ones to gift friends when it grew too large and separated.

I have come to flavor the mixes with lemon, mint, blueberries, apple, turmeric and other odd combinations, most of which have been lovely. I have however stuck to the initial sugar and black tea recipe….for now.

And how do I feel? Great! The first few sips of kombucha always lift me and give me a little high. I feel it refreshes me, rejuvenates me and gives me energy, especially on hot summer afternoons.

So if you’re on the fence about good old kombucha, give it a go.

Research has found that the oldest living cultures around the world all have some kind of fermented food in their diet.

Find someone who can start you off with a scoby of your own, follow these simple instructions and start your own adventures with kombucha.

I assure you it’s not as scary as you think it is.

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Editorial Assistant:  Terri Tremblett/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Author’s own

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