Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Homemade Kombucha Tea

I have been reading a lot about the health benefits of Kombucha tea and was interested in trying some. I purchased a bottle of the raw Kombucha tea and really liked the flavor but not the price. One bottle is $2.65 but I wanted to make sure I liked it before starting on the adventure of making my own. Fermented foods are highly prized to have amazing health benefits, unfortunately I don't care for sauerkraut, or other fermented veggies. I've been looking for DIY fermented foods and so I came upon Kombucha. Komucha tea has tons of probiotics, enzymes and organic acids that are healthy for the colon and because of the acids formed in the tea it is very cleansing. It is a fermented black tea and sugar drink that is an overall body detoxifier. The caffeine from the tea and the sugar are almost completely gone from the fermentation process. The organic acids bind to toxins in the body and are removed through the kidneys.

So, I decided to give it a try. I bought a Kombucha culture aka scoby or mother mushroom and started my first brew. Black tea always has to be used in the fermentation process because of its tannins but you can use green tea with it. Herbal teas are not recommended  as they can damage the scoby. The first brew I did just black tea and organic evaporated cane juice. I didn't want to use  bleached white sugarbut, white sugar has to be used. You add some starter tea that you can get with the scoby or white vinegar to bring the pH down so the culture stays healthy and no bad bacteria forms. It is supposed to culture and brew for seven to thirty days. I liked it after the first week. It gets stronger and more like apple cider vinegar the longer it ferments. The recipe is different based on how much you make at a time.

Basic Recipe:

4 bags of black tea
2/3 c starter tea
1/2 c sugar
3 quarts water

The water is heated to a boil and then shut off, the tea is added and steeps 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add the sugar and stir till mixed in. Let cool to room temp. put in a glass jar add starter tea and scoby. Cover jar with tight weaved cloth and rubber band. Let this sit in a 70 degree area or so undisturbed,  for a week. There will be bubbles starting and a white film over the top, this is the new scoby forming. The longer the culture ferments the thicker the culture will get. If the mother and baby adhere to each other you can leave them that way or separate them after the brew is done and use the new scoby for another batch. The mother can be used forever if kept healthy. The recipe also includes a higher amount of starter tea because it doesn't take as long to ferment then. I usually have a new scoby in 5 days instead of seven.

The dark areas on the sides here and there are just thin areas where the tea is showing through. The mother should stay a nice beige color. Pink or grey is mold and the culture and tea should be thrown away. Also, you will see some strands of brown or beige in the tea.  These are normal and are just beneficial yeasts. The mother never needs to be washed or rinsed just make sure the containers and your hands are clean. When making a new batch just remove the scoby with your hand and place in the next container. The finished tea can be strained of the yeast strands if desired.

After I made the first small batch I knew I wanted bigger amounts so I bought a 2 gallon glass container from Walmart for $9.99. The scoby will also form to the size container you culture your tea in. I now have two of these containers going and plan on buying another container at the end of the month. So my cost is closer to five dollars for this amount of Kombucha instead of $25.00+. When I make the larger amounts I do a concentrated tea with the sugar in 1/2 gallon water on the stove and let it cool a little.  Then pour that mixture in the container on top of the other gallon of water, it usually is then cool enough to add the starter tea and scoby. With this process you don't have to wait for the concentrated tea to cool for several hours and it only then takes me about ten to fifteen minutes to make Kombucha.
FYI the only containers that kombucha should be fermented and stored in is glass just to be on the safe side. The acids can leech metals and toxins from other containers. The lids I used above never come in contact with the tea; I leave a good head space. The tall containers are from the other kombucha's I bought and  saved the bottles for this use. Also many people do a second ferment of the tea to get more bubbles etc. You have to be sure the container you seal it in won't burst under the pressure. Then you let it ferment in the new container another day before refrigeration. I don't do the second ferment just to be on the safe side.
Homestead tip: Look for someone in your area making Kombucha since they will have a baby you can have instead of purchasing one. Many places sell them if you can't find a person to help you out. Cultures for Health, Amazon and even E-bay sell scobys.

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