I remember the first time I was introduced to the drink known as Kombucha. It was 2015 and I was visiting a friend who was a specialist in gut health and ran workshops to help people learn the importance of consuming fermented foods and show them how to brew their own kombucha.
It was a hot summers day (around 40 degrees celsius) so she asked me if I would like a cold refreshing drink, to which of course I replied "yes". However when she showed me the jar where the drink had been fermented, with a large alien like looking tongue was growing, I changed my mind.
After a small lecture on the many health benefits of consuming fermented foods and drinks, despite being horrified by this alien looking thing in the jar where the drink had been brewed, I succumbed and took a drink. I was instantly hooked.
It was fizzy, tangy, a little bit sweet and had amazing floral flavours from the herbal tea bags she had used in the brew. It was delicious! I learned there are many ways you can serve kombucha. On ice, with some lemon or fruits. Mixed with some soda water and some have been known to even use it as a healthier alternative for mixing with Gin or Vodka. (So I've heard)
Sai said a couple of things which really stuck with me and made me realise how important fermented foods and drinks are. She said, your gut can only absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat, IF it has a healthy gut microbiome. Meaning a good mix of good bacteria and flora. Even if you have the best diet, if your gut health is not good, your body can still be undernourished. The second thing she told me (and I have researched the benefits of good gut health extensively since) is that 70% of our bodies immunity, comes from our gut. So many sicknesses, even depression can originate from our gut and heling increase good bacteria in our guts, can be as simple as having a drink of delicious kombucha every day or eating some fermented foods like sauerkraut or kim chi.
I wanted to brew my own kombucha, but found that it was not possible unless you have a "SCOBY". A scoby is an acronym for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. If you have ever bought a bottle of apple cider vinegar and seen a swirly white cloudy thing in there, that is also a type of scoby.
My friend Sai, peeled off a scoby from the large one in her jar and gave me some of the old kombucha so that i could get a brew started at home. On the way home, i bought a large jar and started to brew my own kombucha.
But what if you don't have a friend to give you your first scoby? Well, you can get started with just a few simple things.
First you are going to need a vessel to start your brew. Ideally, buy one with a tap which will make your bottling much easier.
I usually start a scoby in two litres of tea mixture and then transfer the scoby to a larger jar.
This is what you will need to make two litres:
1. Two black tea bags
2. Two green tea bags
3. Two flavoured herbal tea bags (Stay away from Mint flavours which don't tend to taste very nice)
4. 1/2 cup sugar. Can be brown or white
5. Two litres of boiling water
6. 300 - 400mls of store bought Kombucha
To make the first brew/scoby:
1. Make sure the vessel is clean. Wash with hot water and then rinse with vinegar, then rinse once more.
2. In a bowl, add your tea bags, sugar and boiling water and stir.
3. Allow the brew to cool till luke warm. Keep covered so no fruit flies get in.
4. Pour the store bought kombucha into your vessel.
5. Remove the tea bags from the bowl and then pour the tea mixture into the vessel with the store bought kombucha.
6. Cover with some cloth what allows the kombucha to still breathe but keeps fruit flies out. Seal with a rubber band.
7. Place vessel in a dark place that is no hotter than around 20-24 degrees centigrade max
8. Check the mix every few days until the scoby is formed and around 5mm thick. When your scoby is about 5mm thick, you are ready to brew your next batch.
To brew your new batch, your first drinkable kombucha:
1. You will need 100ml of the starter brew per litre of new brew. So if you are going to brew five litres, you will need 500ml. Pour that amount into a bowl and with clean hands, place the scoby in the bowl and cover. Discard the remaining fluid.
2. In a large pot, add one black, one green and one flavoured herbal tea for each litre you are going to brew. So in this instance, brewing five litres, would require 5 of each.
3. Add 1/5 - 1/4 cup of brown or white sugar per litre. So in this instance I would add around 1 - 1.25 cups of sugar.
4. Pour in five litres of boiling water and allow the tea to brew. Stir so that the sugar dissolves.
Once the tea has cooled, pour into your vessel. I recommend using a vessel with a tap to make bottling easier.
5. Add the scoby with the 500mls of starter brew and cover the vessel with cloth.
6. Set aside in a dark place (a cupboard that doesn't get used much is a great place) and check after 4 days, then every day until the brew starts to taste less sweet and starts to get a bit tangy. It is important to bottle the brew as soon as it tastes still a little sweet, before it turns vinegary. It can turn very quick so don't forget to test the taste regularly.
7. IMPORTANT! Make sure you leave enough fluid for the next brew!
When you have bottled your brew, you can do a second ferment by adding some fruit to the bottle, capping it and leaving it in a dark place for another day before refrigerating the bottles. The brew effectively eats the sugars from the fruit and flavours the kombucha. You can try adding ginger or turmeric powder too, which adds additional healing qualities to the brew.
Don't be scared, give it a go and be sure to let me know how you go!