by Chris Herbert
Kombucha tea, or 'The Immortal Health Elixir' has been brewed and enjoyed for over 2000 years, and with these simple instructions, you too can reap the benefits of this traditional fermented health beverage, at a fraction of the cost in stores. It's as simple as making sweet tea, but after cooling, you add a particular mushroom, or really, a "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast", aka SCOBY, then leave it alone for a week. Sounds strange, and looks stranger, but once you try it, you'll be a believer.
Before you get to brewing, let’s look at the health benefits, and why you should start consuming kombucha daily. For starters, it’s a probiotic drink with helpful bacteria that support digestion and absorption of nutrients, and it’s widely known that a healthy digestive tract is imperative for good health. Kombucha is also really good for the immune system, containing loads of antioxidants to help you fight off free radicals. If that weren't enough, it also contains enzymes, amino acids, polyphenols and substantial amounts of glucuronic acid, which is an incredible detoxifier of the tissues.
How to Brew Kombucha:
1. Obtain a SCOBY and some kombucha tea: You can ask a fellow brewer for part of theirs, order one online, or start one from a store-bought bottle of plain, unflavored kombucha with a piece of the 'mother' in it. Wash up real good, and make sure that your pot and jars are clean and free of soapy residues before you begin.
2. Make a gallon of sweet tea: Bring 1 gallon of filtered or distilled water to a boil, add 8 organic tea bags, stir in 1 cup of organic sugar, then turn off the heat. Let the tea steep for around 10 minutes. I have brewed with Black, Red and Green teas, and even Yerba Mate.
3. Once the sugar has dissolved and the tea has steeped, remove the tea bags and let your tea cool to room temperature.
5. Once cooled, add tea to a wide mouthed gallon glass jar, then add the SCOBY and 1-2 cups of previously prepared kombucha tea (if this is your first in-home batch, you can use the liquid from a friend’s SCOBY, or from a bottle of plain, unflavored store-bought kombucha)
6. Cover jar with a paper towel (or cotton cloth napkin) and rubber band, to keep out fruit flies and contaminates, but allowing the tea to breathe.
7. Store in a warm (70-85 degrees), dark place, where it won't be moved or disturbed for 7-12 days, like the back of a kitchen pantry or cabinet. The longer stored, the stronger the vinegar taste, the less sugar left, the higher the beneficial properties, and there's slightly more alcohol content. If you want a sweeter tea, stop fermentation closer to 7 days. My wife and I like it around day 10.
8. When the taste is to your liking, remove the SCOBY and reserve 1 cup of the kombucha tea for starting your next batch.
9. At this point, you can pour finished kombucha into glass jars with plastic lids and enjoy as is, or mix in a little juice to flavor it. I enjoy pomegranate juice, but the sky is the limit with fancy fruit and herbal combinations! Ginger, lavender, cardamom, lemon, pineapple, and spirulina are all great options. Have fun, and experiment!
10. Use these instructions again to brew another batch with your reserved SCOBY and kombucha tea. As your SCOBY grows, share a portion with a friend or family member to help them get started with in-home fermentation. From now on, you'll cringe at the thought of paying upwards of $3 at the store for a small bottle, when you can make a gallon at home for less!