What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is that naturally carbonated, tangy probiotic drink that almost everyone is talking about these days.  It is made of sweetened tea (green, white or black) that is fermented over 7-10 days using the culture.  The culture used for fermentation is called a “mother”, “mushroom” or “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).  Scoby looks like a white or beige rubbery pancake and it comes in different sizes as it will grow as big as the jar it is brewing in.

The history of Kombucha is a bit uncertain.  There is one theory that it might have originated in Northeast China and Russia around 220 BC and it was popular for its detoxifying and energizing properties.  Then it was imported to Japan in 414 AD by a physician called Kombu who used it to cure the digestive problems of the Emperor Inkyo.  With such an unknown past, kombucha  has a clear and bright future.   in 2016, PepsiCo purchased one of the biggest kombucha making companies KeVita for approximately $200 million.

All fermented foods have numerous health benefits but the key is to eat or drink a little portion multiple times throughout the day.  The antioxidants and polyphenols in the tea has been fermented (broken down by SCOBY into smaller molecules for easier absorption).  Therefore the health benefits of kombucha is far greater than the tea.  In a poll survey of 122 certified nutritionists done by KeVita, 66% of them believe that consuming daily probiotic is more important than taking daily multi-vitamin.

Kombucha Health Benefits:

* Contains live probiotics which helps balance your gut flora
* Contains enzymes and amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols, Vitamin C and
B Vitamins which are more bio-available
* Increases metabolism and helps digestion
* Alkalizes the gut and balances the internal pH
* Reduces inflammation and joint pain
* Will speed up weight-loss by improving metabolism and digestion
* Can alleviate acid reflux (Tested and proven effective on my husband) :-)
* Different organic acids in kombucha are known to kill H.pylori and candida
* It is even believed to prevent cancer
* Excellent source of essential probiotics for a dairy-free diet

As I mentioned in my previous post, commercial probiotics are usually highly processed and they contain additives, artificial flavors and sweeteners.  Over pasteurizing and over sterilization of our foods and environment has left us with weekend immune system.  Processing and pasteurizing drinks kill most of the good bacteria therefore you might not get the full benefit of a kombucha from store bought brands.  Besides, if you want to drink it regularly 3-4 times a day, it will cost you quite a bit.  Making kombucha at home is very easy and it doesn’t take much time at all.  I spend about an hour a week on all my fermented foods and drinks and I have high quality, clean and fresh supply for my family for the entire week.

Here is what you need:

Boil water, pour 2 tablespoon of loose leaf in a tea pot, add 1 cup boiling water and brew over very low heat for 3 minutes until ready.  Using a strainer, pour the brewed tea concentrate in the glass jar, (don’t let any of the tea leaves to get in the jar), add remaining 4 cups of boiling water.  Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  The tea and sugar mixture should taste like sweet tea.  Wait 15-20 minutes until the mixture reaches room temperature.  then add the SCOBY and the starter liquid to the jar.  (If the mixture is hot, it can kill the scoby so make sure it is room temperature.)  Cover the jar with coffee filter or cloth.  Secure the cloth with rubber band.  Keep the jar in a warm corner away from direct sunlight.  Do not disturb for 7 days.  Just monitor the jar to make sure there is no mold forming.

After 7 days, remove the cloth and gently taste the kombucha.  If it is too sweet, it still needs a couple days to ferment.  The fermentation period depends on many factors like the amount of sugar, the size of your SCOBY, the temperature and the surface area at the top of the liquid.  Keep track of your sugar and liquid amount and after a couple brews, you will know exactly how long it will take for kombucha to be ready.  Keep in mind, in every batch, you will be getting new tiny scobys forming.  So as you get bigger, thicker and more scobys, the faster the fermentation process will be.

Home-made Kombucha Do’s And Don’ts:

To get a high quality Kombucha, you need to use high quality ingredients:

Use organic Tea leaf instead of tea bags.  Studies have shown that most tea bags have high levels of pesticides.  Besides they mostly use the dust and fannings from the broken tea leaves in tea bags so I highly recommend using organic tea leaf for your afternoon tea and your kombucha.  You will notice a huge difference in aroma and flavor.

You can use these varieties of tea: white, green, black, or even yerba mate and rooibos.  Stay away from store bought tea blends as they usually have other ingredients and essential oils for aroma and flavor.  You can create a blend of your favorite tea leaves from above varieties but for the first few batches, I would recommend staying with black or green tea.

Use purified water that is Fluoride-free and Chlorine-free.

Use only wooden or silicone utensils for preparation…No Metal

Use a glass jar, no plastic…Plastic can leach toxins into kombucha during fermentation.

Use a fresh SCOBY not a dehydrated, frozen or stored in the fridge scoby.  There is more chance of getting mold if the SCOBY is not fresh.

Don’t try to make your own Scoby from store bought kombucha unless it is 100% pure kombucha…(most commercial kombuchas are pasteurized and have additives, flavors and added sweeteners).

Always keep 10% of your kombucha to use as the starter for the next batch.

If your kombucha molds, it means your bacteria is dead.  Don’t try to save the scoby.  You will have to discard everything and start with a fresh scoby.  If you see mold, it is probably because your mixture amount was too much compared to the size of your scoby or the sugar content was too low.  The culture feeds on sugar and the antioxidants in the tea so if there is not enough food for the bacteria, they will die and that is when mold will appear.

After your kombucha is ready, using a plastic sieve, strain the kombucha into another glass jar.  Give your scobys a quick rinse with plain water and get them ready for the next batch.

Your kombucha is ready now…you can use it just like that or use other teas, fruits or juices to flavor it.  If you like it to be more effervescent, you can do a second fermentation for 3 days at this point…Add your favorite fruit or juice to the jar and leave the kombucha on the counter away from direct sun for 3 days.  Make sure to burp it everyday so the jar doesn’t explode.  After 3 days, place your kombucha in the fridge to stop further fermentation.  Enjoy it several times throughout the day and you will notice some amazing improvements in your health in a short period of time.