It is fermented tea.
I love it.
It's a fizzy, zippy, refreshing drink with bite. It's brimming with good-for-you organisms like probiotics, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants and other things that are difficult to pronouce and spell. It is considered a "live," raw food---also good for you. It comes in cool flavors, like raspberry chia, lavender, ginger-pear, multigreen, and spiced apple, to name a few. I would drink it every day if I could, but it is expensive.
Then I found out from a friend that you can brew it yourself at home.
So I'm now makin' my own moonshine!
|Kombucha in the process of brewing|
(see the "mushroom" floating on top?)
Read this excerpt for a quick overview, without having to read piles of research papers: (taken from http://www.seedsofhealth.co.uk/fermenting/kombucha.shtml)
Kombucha is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the kombucha culture. The result can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use. It's not what you'd imagine fermented tea to taste like.
The origins of Kombucha have become lost in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in the Far East, probably China, and has been consumed there for at least two thousand years. The first recorded use of kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as "The Tea of Immortality."
It has been used in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan for several centuries. It's from Japan in 415 AD that the name kombucha is said to have come. A Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, "Kombu" and "cha" meaning tea. Russia has a long tradition of using a healing drink called "Tea Kvass" made from a "Japanese mushroom."
My friend brought me my kombucha culture in a jar. I set aside an evening to brew my first batch. From the reading I had done, it looked as though it would take about an hour. I got out all the ingredients and supplies and my camera so I could record everything for my blog. This was going to be fun! I felt like a real "Earthy."
Step 1 was to wash everything. Your supplies must be scrupulously clean...and your hands, too, or you'll contaminate your brew and then you'll be brewing trouble with your tea! I must admit, I was/still am a little scared about this part of it.
|Clean jar, clean sink, clean hands!|
So I washed everything, double rinsed, air-dried and then set up my work space. Then I washed my hands again and carefully poured the kombucha "mushroom" into my clean jar.
The water, sugar and tea go into the jar first. Then after the sugar is dissolved, the tea is steeped and the water has cooled, you slip the mushroom into the jar. Okay.
|Fresh filtered water brought just to a boil|
|Organic cane sugar is the best sugar choice|
I poured the mushroom back into the original jar and re-washed, re-rinshed and re-dried my kombucha jar. Then I started the tea kettle and measured the sugar into the jar. Right before the water reached the boiling point, I carefully poured the pre-measured water into my jar full of sugar. I heard a very funny sound. "Tick." Uh-oh. That was the sound of glass cracking! I cautiously turned the jar very slowly, inspecting it for cracks and found none. I stepped back, still uncertain, eyeing it warily. Suddenly, with a soft "pop," water gushed out of the bottom of the jar and spilled over the counter top like a waterfall, down my cabinets and all over the floor---1 gallon of sugar water! "Nooooooo!!" I cried out in disbelief. I could do nothing but watch it pour. I sent my daughter running for beach towels and then began sopping up that sticky mess. The whole bottom of my jar had blown out! I don't know why...my jar was already hot to begin with from having just washed it and I didn't even let the water come to a boil. But why or why not didn't matter. I would have been pretty irritated if it hadn't been for the saving grace that I could blog this! So I pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures while my daughter shook her head at me and rolled her eyes every so slightly. Not only was the syrup running over my counters and down the front of my cupboards, it was inside my cupboards! My pitchers and platters were full of liquid, as well as the pull-out drawers. Oh, what a mess! So after I had a sink full of sticky, wet towels, I threw them into the washing machine and began all over again...for the third time!
|A sugary water fall!|
|Sticky floors and cabinets!|
|The drawers, pitchers and platters that were filled with sugar-water|
|The blown-out bottom of my glass jar|
This time I was a little smarter...I put my jar in the sink when it came time to fill it, and I added the water slowly. Everything held together. But my slippers kept sticking to the floor if I stood too long in one place. I knew it was going to take a few times with the mop before I'd get that sugar clean! (Four times, to be exact...plus wiping down the counters, cabinet fronts, cupboard interior and drawers, and washing all my platters and pitchers that were stored inside!!).
|We are so much smarter the second time we do something!|
|This slimy-looking blob is the kombucha culture...|
also called the mushroom, the scoby, or the mother
|Pouring the mushroom into the sweet tea|
I washed my hands yet again and then poured the mushroom into my tea. You must be wondering if I'm talking about a real mushroom. No, of course not. Here's another excerpt to explain:
The Kombucha culture looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake or mushroom. It's often called a 'scoby' which stands for ' symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.
As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.
So, I covered my jar with an unbleached coffee filter (to keep it clean but allow it to breathe) and then set it in an out-of-the way corner of my dining room to ferment for the next week...or weeks....or even month, depending on the taste I'm looking for. The longer it ferments, the less sugar there is and the more vinegar-y it will taste. That's another reason I like this drink...there is only about 2 grams of sugar in a serving, which is nothing compared to soda, which carries a whopping 36 grams. So my little mushroom fed off that yummy sugar and grew a little bit bigger all week.
And today is tasting day!
|See, underneath the mushroom it just|
looks like a pitcher of iced tea!
I carefully peeled off the filter and sniffed...it had a sweet, vinegary odor, which was good. Then I slipped my blue straw underneath the mushroom and cautiously took my first sip. It was delicious! I said right out loud, "Oh, it's good! It tastes good!" My son says to my daughter, "Who's Mom talking to?" My daughter replied, "Her kombucha." So they came to check out the excitement. But they weren't nearly as excited as I was. "Gross," my son said when he saw it. "What is that thing?" He wouldn't taste it, no matter how I glorified its attributes. I guess on that point, like father, like son! I didn't care. I bubbled on enthusiastically and took another sip. Then trotted off to the kitchen to wash my bottles and mix by first batch of finished kombucha. Pomegranate and lime!
Soooo good! I made everyone take a sip. Justin pronounced it, "Good, okay," with a slight shrug. Jeff screwed up his whole face and said, "Ewww." Kate also screwed up her whole face, and then said, "Oh." Her face relaxed and she said, "It's weird."
|Bottled blueberry-pomegranate Kombucha on the left|
and a glass of lime kombucha on the right
And I took that lovely kombucha and poured it into a glass over ice with fresh pomegranate seeds and a splash of lime. I am very pleased with my first attempt of making kombucha...so pleased that I went into the kitchen and started up a second batch!