Kombucha is not everybody’s cup of tea. Some compare it to drinking vinegar, which is closer to truth than fiction — both require a mother to ferment, and kombucha does have an acidic kick. It also happens to smell a whole lot like apple cider vinegar. I’ll be the first to admit, I did not like it the first time I tried it.
So, you might be wondering why I bothered to make this icky-looking concoction. The thing is, I did my undergrad at hippie-infested UC Santa Cruz, where kombucha flows like beer at most college campuses — it is literally on tap at most of the grocery stores in town. After a few years of watching my friends enjoy the stuff, I finally got used to this strange fermented tea, and even grew to enjoy it.
If you’re new to drinking kombucha, I recommend buying a bottle at the store before you make your own batch. And while you’re at it, choose one of the fruity ones — a couple of my first favorites were Synergy’s guava and mango flavored brews.
If, on the other hand, you already love kombucha and are tired of paying upwards of $3/bottle for the stuff, follow my lead and make your own at home. You simply have to purchase a starter culture. I got mine from Running Bug Farm’s store on Etsy for about ten bucks including shipping.
Kombucha’s historical roots are hazy — though its recorded history dates back to late 19th-century Russia, some claim that it originated in ancient China or Japan. Regardless of where it came from, the fermented tea comes with a host of health claims — depending on who you talk to, the stuff will do everything from “detoxifying” your body to curing cancer. All I can tell you for sure is that it contains:
- as much caffeine as regular brewed tea
- a small amount of alcohol (0.5-1%)
- probiotic bacteria
- about 30-50 calories per cup
And so, a glass of kombucha will likely give you an energy boost from the caffeine, a (probably undetectable) buzz from the alcohol, and possible, unsubstantiated health benefits from the probiotic bacteria.
Now, onto actually making the stuff — it could not be easier to brew your own batch of kombucha. I like that Running Bug Farm sells a small, 1-quart jar-sized SCOBY (i.e. a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast), as I am not keen on brewing a gallon of kombucha tea at a time. Their recipe produces about a quart, and once the tea is brewed, a new starter appears on top of it, so you’re left with two SCOBYs instead of one. You can give the new one to a friend, brew twice as much kombucha on your second go-round, or store it, sealed with a small amount of the tea for a couple weeks.
makes about a quart
1 quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar
1 coffee filter or 5″ square of cheesecloth
3 C. water
1 Tbsp. loose leaf tea (green, white, or black) in a tea-strainer
1/4 C. organic cane sugar
1 24-oz bottle with stopper or lid
1. Place your SCOBY in the bottom of the mason jar, along with the tea it was stored in. Set aside.
2. Bring the water to a boil and brew your tea of choice in a quart-sized, stainless steel bowl. I have used both green and white teas to good effect, and I like to brew mine for 2-3 minutes. After the tea is fully brewed, remove the
3. While the tea is brewing, prepare an ice water bath in a larger, stainless steel (or plastic) bowl. Don’t use glass bowls for this, as they would be likely to crack!
4. When the tea finishes brewing, remove the tea-strainer and put the smaller bowl of hot tea into the big bowl of ice water. Stirred occasionally, the tea should cool to room temperature in about 5-10 minutes. You may also skip the ice water bath step and wait for the tea to cool on its own, but I am far too impatient for that.
5. Pour your now room-temperature tea into the jar with the SCOBY. Cover with a layer of coffee filter paper or cheese cloth, then close with the rubber band.
6. Store the kombucha in a dark, room-temperature place (I put mine in the storage space under the stairs — a dark pantry would work too) for 5 to 7 days. You’ll know when the kombucha is ready because it will smell like apple cider vinegar, and the new SCOBY growing on top will be about 1/8″ thick.
7. Decant all but about a cup of your kombucha into a bottle, then seal and refrigerate. I used a large glass beer bottle with a reusable, rubber wine-stopper.
8. Use the remaining kombucha and starter to a.) store your new mother and/or b.) brew another batch.