I recently got hooked on kombucha. I tasted it last year and found it completely vile… but desperate times led me to a 2nd try. I was on my way to work during the Real Food Challenge and hadn’t planned food for the day. I required something local, healthy and “real.” My curiosity around kombucha had also been recently piqued by my friend Briggs. I was ripe for the take-down.
And then I saw her.
No, not the Monkees. This most amazing specimen of a bottle. Look at it! Doesn’t it look like some Super-Duper Elixir? Witch’s Brew? Magic Potient? I’m such a sucker for a gorgeous jar. And thank goodness…as I would have been fairly unlikely to give the ol’ kombucha a second chance!
Verdict from the family? The Ladyfriend thinks it tastes and smells like easter egg dye. The Babylady puckers and says “I like it SO much mimi (what she mostly calls me)!” I guess they are both correct. It is puckery and “vinegar-ish” (though I can’t vouch for the easter egg dye taste…). And, I do like it so much. As an aside, how awesome is a 2-year-old that points out the “Bucha” in the checkout line?! The checkers are usually surprised and utter something in shock. “Did she just say kombucha?! Does she like it?” Um, yes. She is a kale-asparagus-chive-salsa-rosemary-onion-brocoli-cabbage-pickle-fruit-eating-kombucha-swilling toddler. It is bizarro world at our house. And I love it!
As for me? I went in a skeptic. I actually didn’t want to like it. I am hesitant of things touted as “the next new uber-healthy thing” that sound (to me) weird or look gross in any way. It seemed like a crazy-ass-hippie-sprout-spelt-eating thing to me. (How do I always seem to forget that I kinda am that person?!?) Not that there is anything wrong with spelt… it is all just a learning curve. Take these crackers. Incredible! And, all-spelt-all-the-time. I will be blogging about them soon so come on back for some crunchy cracker love.
But….I loved it. Going into the Real Food Challenge I was really jonesing for a Diet Coke. A fountain Diet Coke. I love the cold fizzy-ness. However, since the start of my kombucha obsession, I no longer crave it! Weirdness! I live in Seattle so it will be no surprise that I happily admit to being a coffee snob. I love my morning ritual of getting coffee on my walk to work. The Babylady and I like to go get coffee on my days off. Before there was a dissertation being written by the Ladyfriend, there was a lot of coffee shop-hanging out. But now? I am (rather shockingly) finding I prefer kombucha. Say what!? I would rather get kombucha at my local coffee shop than coffee!? This point actually kind of disturbs me. Deeply.
Seattle is awesome…but it is no Portland when it comes to awesome food and drink culture. Therefore, there is no kombucha brewing on tap anywhere (that I know of) . No hanging out at a “kombucha-shop.” Perhaps that is a good thing though. Stuff is ka-ching pricey! However, I have heard it is easy breezy to make. Tea, sugar, water and SCOBY. Then, ta-da! You are in business.
Enter the SCOBY!
First you need to get a SCOBY which is a gross looking blob that is a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’. Last weekend I was down in Portland for my nephews birthday and made a pilgrimage to the Townshend Tea Shop where I purchased my SCOBY and starter packet of tea. Boy howdy, does this stuff looks NASTY. Think, high school science project. This is apparently not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.
Making it Happen. (Or getting the blob out of your partner’s line of vision.)
I followed the recipe from Communi-Tea– a great local Seattle guy that sells his stuff at the Ballard/U-District Farmers Markets. If you are in the area, check him out. Cool guy.
- A little note: Make sure you clean the heck out of all your supplies- your tea-pot, jars, instruments, etc. Clean, clean, clean!
- Boil 1 quart of filtered water in stainless steel pan or teapot (or to <190°F if you are using green tea).
- Add tea~ about 15 grams or about 5 teabags. You need real (unsweetened) tea with caffeine (camellia sinesis). I used 4 bags of black tea (which, if I did the math correct, was ~ 16 grams.) and 1 bag of herbal tea for flavor.
- Steep ~ 10 minutes.
- Add 1 cup sugar (I put it in the jar first and then added hot tea)
- Add 2 more quarts of filtered water and allow tea to cool to room temperature (below 80°F)
- Pour in to food safe jar (glass, un-lead-glazed crock, etc.) that won’t be affected by acetic acid.
- Add 1-1⁄4 cup kombucha tea from earlier batch to quickly acidify the new batch.
- Add the SCOBY blob.
- Cover with a thin piece of cloth (that isn’t too porous) to keep out bugs, flies and contaminants. I used cheesecloth folded over on itself a few times.
- Keep in a warm place of (76-78ºF). In Seattle, unless it is the middle of a really hot summer our house is never ever that warm. So we used a seedling heat mat to keep it warm. It isn’t supposed to work well at all below 68ºF)
This is the point we are at. It has been on the warming mat for about 24 hours. I haven’t gone further yet, but here is what I plan on doing.
- Ferment about 7 days and then have a taste. When done it will be a little tart and a little sweet.
- Remove the SCOBY-mama and her new wee SCOBY-baby and place on a clean plate.
- At this point you bottle your kombucha. You’ll want to use glass jars/bottles that can be tightly capped and leave 3⁄4 inch headspace. This is when the bubbles happen. And oh yeah, baby, I’ve got a bit stash of those awesome Townshend’s bottles!
- Keep at room temperature for about 2 weeks and then remove to someplace cooler (fridge is great).
Come back in a week and get the rest of the Kombucha Story.