Many of my ancestors hail from the rugged Appalachian hills of the Hatfields and the McCoys, so I am fairly certain that some of them brewed their own moonshine once in awhile. This could be why I was suddenly itching to concoct my own brew, although I was hankering for something a lot more healthful than corn whiskey!
For quite awhile I have been fascinated with people who are choosing to brew their own kombucha. (pronounced Kom-BOO-cha!) If you’re wondering what it is, then I’ll let you in on an ancient Chinese secret! It’s a super healthy drink that has been around since the Tsin Dynasty in 221 BC when it was often called “The Tea of Immortality” in China. Here in the states, I’ve heard people call it everything from Kom-BUKE-uh to “that strange drink with the floaters on the top.” All I know is that the first time I tried some about seven years ago, I was hooked!
For centuries, people throughout the world have claimed that drinking kombucha can cure just about anything that ails you. The fizzy, fermented beverage is supposed to enhance the immune system, improve liver function, detoxify the body, eliminate depression and all sorts of other claims. I can’t vouch for any of these health benefits, except to say that I love the fact that kombucha is teeming with probiotics and good bacteria that are fantastic for my gut and that I always seem to feel great after drinking it! However, at roughly $3.50 or more for one bottle at most health food stores, buying kombucha can quickly stretch your budget and one per day could run you more than $100 a month! When I learned that I could make several quarts for as little as $3, (after obtaining a starter mushroom) I decided to try it.
In order to brew your own kombucha, you’ll need to either buy a SCOBY or grab one from a friend. None of my friends happened to have one lying around, so I ordered one online at www.KombuchaBrewing.com for $18.95, learning that a SCOBY is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that is needed in order to ferment the tea. Like most people, I just chose to refer to it as the “Mother” Mushroom!
My “Mother” arrived safely in the mail, packaged carefully in one cup of starter tea. It looked like a cross between a jellyfish and a small chicken breast!
Once Mother arrived, I quickly started gathering up supplies. If you’re going to try it, you’ll need a large glass container that will hold 12 cups or more, paper towels, and rubber bands big enough to fit around your glass container. Do NOT put a glass top or a lid on top of Mother! She needs to breathe! You will also need a stainless steel pot to mix the ingredients, which are:
10 organic black tea bags (any brand you prefer)
10 cups of unchlorinated, purified or filtered water
1 cup of white sugar (I prefer organic sugar)
½ cup brown sugar
To get started, pour the 10 cups of water into the pot. Add the sugars and bring to a boil for five minutes. Next, turn off the heat and add the 10 tea bags. Let them steep for four hours or overnight. I let mine steep overnight because I wanted a stronger, more robust flavor.
Next, according to the instructions I was religiously following that arrived with “Mother,” I took off all my rings and jewelry before preparing the brew. I also thoroughly washed my hands so as not to contaminate Mother. Once my hands were clean, I removed the tea bags and poured the steeped tea into the glass container. Next, I gently added Mother and the starter tea to the batch. She seemed to take to her new home like a duck takes to water!
Next, I covered the top of the glass container with a paper towel and secured it with a rubber band. I left the container on top of the kitchen counter so that it would ferment for 7-14 days.
While I was waiting a couple of weeks for the kombucha to ferment, I contented myself with taking Garden of Life’s Raw Kombucha dietary supplement so I could get the same health benefits.
If you liked those strange, floating sea monkeys as a child, you’ll love watching the Mother Mushroom do her thing! Once she starts feeding on all of the sugar, guess what happens? The same thing that happens to us when we eat a lot of sugar -- she expands! Also, after about five days, a new baby mushroom will start to form at the top of the brewing container. The baby will come in handy later on if you decide to do a double batch.
After about a week, I did a “taste test” and thought the kombucha was too sweet for my liking. Generally, the longer you let the tea ferment, the tarter it will be. I prefer a tangy, stronger taste with a little “kick” to it, so I left the tea to ferment for almost another week. On Day 13, I thought it tasted perfect and I just couldn’t wait any longer to try it!
I already knew I was going to want to make another batch, so I purchased a smaller glass container with a spout. Once again, I washed my hands and removed all jewelry before handling the mushrooms. I took the mushrooms out and placed one in the new container along with one cup of the steeped tea for the second batch. I poured the remaining tea into Mason jars, sealed the lids, and put them in the refrigerator so I could drink the chilled kombucha later on.
The baby mushroom was placed in my original glass container along with a cup of the brewed tea. I brewed up another batch, repeating the same steps as above, and ended up with two more batches that are currently brewing along with three quarts of kombucha from the first round. I have to say that it’s interesting when visitors to my home want to know what’s in the big glass jars. It’s more of a conversation starter than having a goldfish, that’s for sure! As for offering kombucha to guests, serve it in champagne glasses and drink to your health. Some of them might be squeamish about it at first, but others will be asking if they can have your next baby! Baby mushroom, that is!