Making Komboucha Tea

by Wendy


“You’re Really Gonna Drink That???!!!!”

This tends to be the concerned consensus from many when they encounter my jars of komboucha tea fermenting on the homestead kitchen countertop.  Years ago, when I was gifted my first scoby aka, starter, these were the exact words my hubby exclaimed while vehemently shaking his head in disbelief.  If you have ever seen a komboucha starter, or SCOBY, mother, or jar of fermenting tea in action, you know that it looks a bit more like a science experiment, property of a resident mad scientist, or something gone horribly awry and long ago forgotten….however foreign it may look in the beginning, I guarantee you will soon be seeing it in a different light, once you learn what beautiful gifts komboucha has to offer.

We are now a komboucha family, yes, even my hubby who so strongly reacted to the whole idea of it.  Once you try komboucha tea and experience it’s powerful benefits of health and vitality you may soon find yourself a convert too.  So you may be wondering, what in the world is komboucha???  And what is all the fuss about???!

Komboucha is fermented tea.  It is made by brewing black or green tea, adding sugar, and a starter mushroom, SCOBY, mother, culture, organism, (it goes by many mystical names), and allowing it to ferment.  In short, it is magic in a jar.

Magic for your body, mind and spirit.  It uplifts, energizes, and heals on many different levels.  The tea is home to countless probiotics, good bacteria, enzymes, and antioxidants to help support, and balance your body.  It helps me feel clear, uplifted, energetic, and wholly functioning.  It also helps to cleanse your body of unwanted bacteria, organisms, viruses, and imbalance, bringing you into alignment, aiding digestion, and supporting your immunity.

All this in a sip.  Yes, and Amen.

Here are a few of the remarkable health benefits komboucha provides:

  • stabilizes blood sugar
  • analgesic, pain reliever, with antiarthritic  compounds, helping to remove toxins accumulated in joints that are causing pain and inflammation.
  • detoxifying, supports and cleanses the liver
  • assists in weight loss
  • balances digestive system, alleviates IBS symptoms, and heals leaky gut
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-toxin, contains a powerful yeast called, S. boulardii that binds with harmful pathogens within the body, keeping them from binding and attaching to the intestinal walls, and therefore allowing the body to eliminate them without harmful or damaging affects.
  • cancer preventative
  • supports our Immune systems
  • boosts energy
  • kidney stone preventative
  • enhances digestion, protects stomach lining
  • contains anti-biotic resistant probiotics

In short, komboucha tea may be considered a cure-all, or a wonderment in my world.  I have personally witnessed komboucha’s transformational powers within my own body, and those around me.  The general feeling of well being komboucha gives is enough for me to say,

“Yes, YES, I AM going to drink that!!!!!!”

And besides, it tastes delicious.  Much like sparking apple cider, or champagne.

MMMMMMmmmmmmmm…….

I do indulge in stemware on occasion when I serve myself and others komboucha.  I bring it along to gatherings to sip on when wine, or other alcoholic drinks are not speaking to my body.  It allows me to feel festive, vibrant, and clear, and able to toast to an empowered life and healthy body.


Getting Started

Making komboucha at home is a quick, simple process, and all you need are a few basic supplies.

  Gather

  • One gallon glass jar, or crock.  Just be sure your vessel has a wide mouth opening, and if using crockery, it is non-lead based.
  • A wooden or non-metallic spoon.
  • Breathable cloth napkin, paper towel, vintage handkerchief, or a piece of loosely woven cotton or linen fabric to fully cover the top of the jar, and is large enough to easily tie or fasten around the opening of the jar.*
  • Rubber band or twine large enough to fasten around the neck of the jar or crockery.
  • Starter culture (Mushroom, or SCOBY aka, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)

*A quick note about covering your komboucha, be sure that whatever you choose to cover your jar or crockery with is breathable, but not too loosely woven, as fruit flies can become an issue in warmer climates.  Hardware store, or craft store cheesecloth is not suitable as it is too loosely woven and can allow unwanted critters to infiltrate your tea.


Basic Komboucha

Makes 3 quarts

3 quarts non-chlorinated water

1 cup evaporated cane juice, sucanat, or other NON-GMO sugar*

4-5 tea bags, or teaspoons of loose leaf tea, I use black tea, orange pekoe, but you may also use green tea

1 Starter mushroom, or SCOBY

1 cup of fermented komboucha tea (saved back from previous batch)

*I use organic, non-gmo evaporated cane juice, as I feel strongly about the unknown affects gmo’s can inflict upon our bodies.  This is going to be a bit more expensive than regular white sugar, but in my opinion it is worth the investment in your health.  The bulk bin at your local food co-op may have the best price on this type of sugar.  I also do not use coconut sugar, as it is not a sustainable, renewable source of food.  Harvesting of coconut sugar comes from the flower of the tree, and therefore damages the reproductive cycle of the trees in the rainforest, in turn damaging our ecosystem.  It may be fashionable to use right now, but do your research and be sure that you are making a choice that aligns with your values.

Preparation

Wash utensils and crockery with hot, soapy water, dry and set aside.  In a large kettle on the stove, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar, reduce heat to med-high and continue to boil for 5 min.

Remove kettle from heat source.  Add tea bags, or ball for loose leaf tea, steep for 15-20 min. remove tea bags.

Cover, and allow tea to cool to room temperature, this may take several hours or even overnight.

Pour cooled tea into 1 gallon jar or crock.

Add 1 cup reserved fermented komboucha tea to freshly prepared, cooled tea.

Place SCOBY or mushroom, on top of tea, shiny, smooth side up, rough darker side facing down.  If it sinks to the bottom of the jar, or vessel it’s ok, sometimes they do, and other times they stay on top.

Cover top of jar with cloth, fasten securely with rubber band or twine.

Keep komboucha jar undisturbed in a well ventilated, dark place at a temperature from 65-90 degrees for 6-10 days.*  The ideal temperature is 80-89 degrees, so some home brewers choose to invest in a heating belt, or brew belt, which can be obtained from a local brew store, or online.  Understand that if your temperature is much below the 80 degree mark, the fermentation time will be affected and may take longer to ferment.  Keep out of direct sunlight.

Begin checking your komboucha after day 4 of your ferment, especially if your space is consistently warm, near 80 degrees.  Do this by using a straw or a spoon to scootch the SCOBY or mushroom over on the top, to access the tea below.  You may just directly insert a straw to try a sip, as this is the easiest route to sample your komboucha, but a spoonful will also suffice, should you not have a straw handy.  Tea should be tart, not overly sweet, like iced tea, but it should not be over soured, or vinegary.  If tea tastes sweet, allow it to continue to ferment, checking every day or two to monitor the process.

The komboucha tea is ready when it tastes like sparkling apple cider, or champagne, with a slight bite to it.  You may allow it to ferment to the tartness you desire, remembering not to allow too long, or vinegary ferment, as this will contain less health benefits as the good bacterias and yeasts begin to die off over time as the food supply (sugar) is gradually reduced.

Your tea should also be a bit bubbly or naturally effervescent, as the good yeast creates a lovely gentle carbonation full of bubbly probiotics.

When the komboucha tea has brewed to your desired taste, pour it into bottles designed for naturally brewed beverage storage.  You may want to invest in some home brew bottles, or repurpose store-bought komboucha bottles.  Whatever you use, just be sure that it is designed to contain a fermented beverage and will allow for natural pressure release so you do not end up with exploding bottles.  Store prepared komboucha in refrigerator.  It will last up to 1 year or longer, but will eventually turn to vinegar over a long period of time.  The vinegar can then be used as any vinegar, for salad dressings, vegetables and the like.

Save your SCOBY and 1 cup of prepared komboucha tea to start your next batch.  Your SCOBY or mushroom will reproduce, one new culture per batch of tea, growing either on top of the previous SCOBY or floating separately on the top of the tea.  Separate your SCOBYs by gently peeling the top layer off, which will be lighter in color and visible when you look at the side of the mushroom.  If the new SCOBY is floating separately, then simply place it in it’s own fresh batch of sweetened tea and let the magic happen.  You can also share your extra SCOBY with a friend, or continue to increase the amount of komboucha tea you are brewing.  Begin a new batch and continue to enjoy freshly home brewed komboucha tea, either plain or with a second ferment.

Second Ferment

A second ferment of komboucha is a flavorful, quick and easy way to play with the flavor profiles of your komboucha tea.  Most of the commercially produced komboucha tea has enjoyed a second ferment, which adds the color and flavor to the regular komboucha that you see on the store shelves.  It is quick and easy, to do, you may do an entire batch or just a little, whatever suits your fancy.

My favorite way to add a little fun flavor to our komboucha, and is honestly the kids’ favorite way to drink komboucha tea, (especially when they were younger), is to simply add some frozen berries whole or pureed, to the prepared komboucha tea and allow it to ferment another 1-3 days.  Bottle and imbibe with joy!

For more information on using fruit juices and second ferments please visit Donna Schwenk’s amazing website at http://www.culturedfoodlife.com and enjoy the wisdom she shares in her book, Cultured Food for Health.