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01/19/2015

Brewing Kombucha

I first tasted Kombucha, a bubbly fermented beverage about 7 years ago. The strong taste surprised me. I expected it to be sweeter, more like a soft drink.

Kombucha is an ancient Chinese beverage that has become trendy in the US recently.  The most well-known brand is GTS. It is available in many health food stores and grocery stores in a variety of flavors. It is an expensive beverage.

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea for a week or more. After this time a second fermenting can be done adding fruit or juice or other flavorings.

Kombucha is living or raw beverage that is said to have health and healing benefits such as aiding in digestion, detoxification and boosting immunity. I don’t know if these claims are true or not. It has healthy live bacteria much like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods.

You will have to see for yourself if it improves your health. It is probably best to drink it more as a tonic than as a replacement for soda or juices.

I heard about people making their own kombucha. I decided to give it a try.

SCOBYFirst I needed to have a SCOBY or a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria And Yeast. This is a living organism that is responsible for the fermentation process. It is used many times in successive batches and grows thicker over time.

If you want to make your own Kombucha, here are the steps. It may seem a bit complicated but once you get started it is really pretty easy.

You will need:

  • A large, wide mouth jar-½ or 1 gallon
  • Tea bags or loose tea
  • Sugar
  • A SCOBY
  • Optional flavorings
  • Plastic spoon

The SCOBY

To obtain the SCOBY. You have three choices. Purchase one, get a “baby” from a friend who makes Kombucha, or start your own. SCOBYs are available online.

I wanted to grow my own. A friend on Facebook mentioned she makes her own SCOBY. I asked her what she did. I tried it and it worked! I am now nearing the end of my fourth batch.

Starting Your Own SCOBY

GTs_Orginal_Kombucha_TeaPurchase a bottle of unflavored or Original GTS Kombucha. Look for one that has “floaties” in it. These are remnants of the mother SCOBY or signs of new SCOBY growth.

  • Pour the kombucha in a very clean wide-mouthed jar.
  • Cover it with a coffee filter or paper towel, secured with a rubber band.
  • Place it in a warm and dark place.

Now wait… and wait…. Do not shake the jar or disturb it. Take a peek at it from time to time to see what is happening.

My SCOBY took a good month to grow. At first it was a thin, clear coating on top of the liquid. After a month, it wasn’t very thick but it was a SCOBY non the less. It looked like a white or cream-colored waxy substance floating on the top of the liquid.

Brewing Your Kombucha

There are a few tips to remember.

  • Make sure your supplies are all very clean and all soap residue is rinsed off.
  • Use only glass jars.
  • Use organic ingredients
  • Avoid using metal spoons.
  • Use unflavored tea. Source I found recommended English Breakfast Tea, Green Tea, Rooibos Tea but not flavored tea. Use decaf tea if you want to avoid caffeine.

I highly recommend going to http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-kombucha for great information on brewing and flavoring your kombucha.

  • Choose a 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon wide-mouthed glass jar as your brewing jar.
  • Boil filtered water and fill jar up to two inches from top.
  • Add tea bags - For ½ gallon use 4 tea bags. For 1 gallon use 8 tea bags.
  • Add sugar. For ½ gallon use ½ cup sugar. For 1 gallon use 1 cup sugar.
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  • Let the tea cool to room temperature. You can leave the tea bags in or remove them after 10-15 minutes. To speed up the cooling, place jar in an ice water bath.
  • Once your tea is cool, remove the tea bags.
  • Add kombucha from your last batch (or your starter batch). For ½ gallon add 1 cup.  For 1 gallon add 2 cups.
  • Gently add the SCOBY. It may float or may sink to the bottom. It may be sideways. This is all fine.
  • Cover with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
  • Place in a warm dark place. (I wrap mine in a towel and leave it on my kitchen counter.)

After 1 week start tasting it until you get the balance you want. The longer it ferments the less sweet and more vinegary it tastes. You can taste it using a plastic spoon or by sticking a straw under the SCOBY, holding your finger over the other end and pulling out a bit to taste.

The SCOBY may stay floating on top, it may sink down. It may look a bit frothy or bubbly. It may even get brown in areas. As long as it doesn’t smell rotten or bad or grow mold on it, it is fine. With each batch the SCOBY will get thicker. A new baby will form. You can share these with your friends or keep them all together.

flavorKombuchaFlavoring Your Kombucha

Once it is fermented to your liking you are ready to flavor your Kombucha if desired. I divided my batch in half and flavored one with blueberries and the other with lemon and ginger.

  • Remove the SCOBY and set it aside along with 1-2 cups of the liquid. This will be what you use to start your next batch.
  • Pour your kombucha into bottles with tight-fitting lids.
  • Add the flavorings of your choice.
  • Place the cap on the bottles and set it in a warm dark place for up to a week. (I saved a bunch of GTS bottles).
  • Then store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Carbonation may build up over time. Open bottles carefully as it may fizz out.

Flavorings:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup crushed berries
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh fruit juice
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • Fresh herbs

I would love to hear about your kombucha experiences. Do you have any tips to pass on? Have you seen any impact on your health from drinking it?

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Ama Opare
Lifestyle Coach, CEO at Opare Institute
Supporting you by bringing you flavorful and satisfying vegan and raw vegan recipes, inspiration and online training and one-on-one coaching to help LOVE YOUR VEGAN LIFE! I am an educator and revolutionary who has teamed up with my physician/dietitian husband, Nana Kwaku Opare, MD, MPH, CA, to address the growing health problems in the Afrikan/Black community by building a Nation of Black Vegetarians and Vegans.

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