I have to admit, that I never tried Kombucha until last Christmas. I knew the name, but I had no clue what it really was. Kombucha was one of the things, my osteopath advised me to drink though. She told me, that vegans sometimes have a hard time getting enough probiotics and that a lack of them might cause candida, inflammation or digestive problems. Kombucha was just one thing on a list, that also contained kimchi (I prepared a really bad one) and kefir (I did a nice vegan version, but I find it difficult, to drink it on a daily basis). Luckily around that time my friend Anna gifted me with a kombucha culture commonly called SCOBY ( symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
Kombucha is basically fermented black or green tea, that tastes slightly acidic, sweet and has a fizzy mouthfeel. For the fermentation the use of a SCOBY is necessary. This “culture” looks like a jellyfish and consists mainly out of cellulose and different bacteria and yeasts. Curious: Science is still not sure, what a SCOBY is and how it works! Like others yeasts and microorganisms (the ones in kefir, yogurt, beer or wine) the mother culture basically transforms sugar into fructose and glucose. Besides tea and fructose/glucose Kombucha consists out of amino acids, lactic acid, B-vitamins and vitamin C. Kombucha also contains small amounts of alcohol (bottled orange juice and kefir contain alcohol as well, still I would not recommend it as a drink for recovering alcoholics).
There is very little science about the benefits and even about the history of Kombucha. The fermented tea, that was probably invented in East Asia seems to offer a lot of advantages for the digestive system, the immune system, muscular tension and the general well-being. Important: Every fermented good (Kombucha, kefir, kimchi) works, when you consume it raw. Heat, that is being used during pasteurizing the food, destroys some microorganisms and basically makes the positive effect of Kombucha disappear. There are reasons for pasteurizing Kombucha though. Especially products, that are sold in a larger scale need to be pasteurized and sterilized, in order to avoid bacteria contamination.
Since I really want to benefit from the probiotics in Kombucha, I would never buy a bottled and pasteurized kind. That’s my personal risk and I would not offer Kombucha to an infant or to a person with an auto-immune disease. But the same goes for people, who consume honey or raw milk. Since these products are not pasteurized, they are not considered to be safe for everyone.
First of all I really like to drink Kombucha! It is a tasty, fizzy drink, that feels like the perfect refreshment for a hot day! Besides that, I can feel, that it really improves my digestion (especially, when I am stressed my stomach is easily irritated). I enjoy mine in the morning on an empty stomach (wanna know more about fasting?), since it energizes me and boosts my digestive system.
The base for Kombucha is green tea, a SCOBY and sugar (note: use real sugar, no sweeteners!). The process is quite simple. I usually boil 3,5 liters of water and add five to seven bags of green tea and one cup of sugar. I let the tea sit for around ten minutes. After that, the tea needs to cool down. That can take some hours. So don’t start brewing, if you have little time! When the tea is cold, put your SCOBY in the tea. Important: Never touch it with metal! Cover it with a clean paper tissue and use an elastic ribbon to attach the tissue to your jar or bucket. Don’t use a lid, since the tea produces gas during fermentation.
Put the jar in a dark place and wait at least five days. Around five days later you might notice the typical Kombuch smell. Since I want to avoid contamination, I keep my jar closed during fermentation. No matter how curios I am, I try to smell just through the paper and never open it. When you notice a change in smell, it is time for the second fermentation. Put the SCOBY aside and cover it with a little liquid. Take your Kombucha and pour it in jars or bottles.
Now the fun part begins! Take apples, ginger, peaches, strawberries, lemon, sage or whatever you want to use and cut it into small pieces. Infuse your Kombucha with the fruit, herbs and flowers and close your bottle or jar. For the second fermentation, the container needs to be completely airtight, since you want your Kombucha nice and fizzy. Close the container and let it sit for another one to three days. Enjoy it chilled.
I got my SCOBY from my friend Anna, who experiments a lot with fermentation and even serves it in the restaurants, where she cooks. I think that is usually how it works. Stores are very unlikely to sell “living” yeasts or ferments. You can check on the internet though. SCOBYS are known to grow super fast. Mine got a baby within the first two weeks, that already ferments around two liters of tea. That doesn’t mean, that your SCOBY will expand endless and rule the world on a certain point. SCOBYs go “bad” after a while. Once you notice dark edges on your SCOBY, carefully separate them from the rest of the culture. Also, wash your SCOBY with clean and cold water, every time before you use it.
If you have to many SCOBYs, just store them in tea. You can change the liquid from time to time, since it will become very acidic. Tipp: Just use it as Kombucha vinegar! The whole process will take you around two months, but the result is really worth it!
Questions, ideas or you just wanna say hi? Leave a comment below or write a mail!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.