Originally published 4.18.2021/ Updated 6.22.2021
Note: Since this is National Iced Tea Month, I decided to republish this post on Kombucha with an update.. Enjoy!
I hope you are having a happy and productive week. I am trying to make my week more productive since I lost most of yesterday at the doctor’s office. It always seems that there’s always something else to do, right? Kids, cooking, organization of the house, my parents…I look forward to the day when I get one portion of my life situated—LOL.
On the way home from the doctor, I stopped to get a chai tea latte. I don’t care if it’s hot outside in Texas – I love these drinks! A friend introduced me to it almost 20 years ago in Atlanta – except he made it from scratch. He taught me how to do it as well, but I rarely have time. Así es la vida…
In fact, I’m a fan of most teas. So, when I heard about kombucha and its potential health benefits, I wanted to know more to see if I could add it to my rotation.
What is it? And how do you get started using it? Can you make it yourself? Read on to find out…
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is an ancient Asian drink that has been used for centuries as a health tonic. It’s often referred to as “mushroom tea” although it contains no mushrooms. Rather, it describes the appearance of the tea as it goes through the fermentation process and “blooms.”
Kombucha is made with three key ingredients:
- Some sort of tea, such as black, green or oolong
- yeast, and
As with yogurt, the “starter” kicks off the fermentation process. The tea is then allowed to ferment in a cool place and is then filtered and consumed.
Why Should I Drink Kombucha?
Kombucha is a kind of probiotic drink, that is, one which contains healthy bacteria. The body contains both harmful and healthy bacteria, particularly in the digestive tract. With the increased concern in the West about the overuse of antibiotics, which kill both harmful and healthy bacteria alike, there has been increased interest in fermented foods, including kombucha, to restore balance in the gut.
Should I Buy Commercial Kombucha?
It is possible to buy ready-made kombucha, but it won’t have the same active cultures as the kombucha that you can make at home. It’ll also be way more expensive than making it at home with just a few ingredients.
Can I Make Kombucha at Home?
You can make kombucha at home, but you’ll need a kombucha starter, which is also called a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast – sounds scary, huh?). The yeast is necessary for the fermentation. Having the yeast already included takes the guesswork out of the kombucha-making process.
The starter is used similar to the way a starter is used for yogurt if you make it at home. It is important to buy from a high-quality retailer, because there have recently been illnesses caused by improperly handled or contaminated starters. The Kombucha Growing Kit and The Kombucha Starter Kit both cost less than $50 online and are organic as well. You might also be able to find a starter at your local health food store.
What Do I Need and How Do I Make It?
- A large glass jar such as a canning jar
- An unbleached coffee filter for the mouth of the jar
- A rubber band or canning ring to hold the coffee filter over the mouth of the jar to avoid any contaminants getting in
- 2 to 3 cups of pure water without chlorine or fluoride therefore, not tap water-distilled water will work well
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoon loose tea leaves green or black
- A metal tea ball for placing the leaves in
- The starter you purchased
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- A wooden spoon for stirring
- Start with water hot enough to steep the tea. Add it to the jar. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Note that the bacteria and yeast will feed on the sugar, so add the full amount—don’t try to be diet-conscious.
- Add the tea ball to the hot water. Steep until desired darkness. The longer the tea sits, the stronger the flavor will be.
- Allow the tea to cool to around 68°F to 85°F. It needs to be warm, but not too hot, to start the fermentation process. Too hot, you’ll kill off the bacteria and yeast, so beware.
- Add the starter according to the package instructions. If you’re beginning with a dehydrated starter, follow the instructions for activating it first, then add it to your kombucha recipe. Make sure you have already removed the metal tea ball from the water, so it doesn’t come into contact with the starter.
- Add the vinegar and stir well.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with the filter and secure it with the rubber band or the ball jar ring.
- Store it in a cool, dark place with a temperature between 68°F to 85°F for 7 to 10 days. Note that the longer the tea ferments, the less sweet and more vinegar-like it will taste. It will develop a “bloom” that looks like a mushroom. Use this for your next starter.
A Few Tips…
- Starting with high-quality ingredients will lead to a high-quality result.
- The flavor of the finished product will depend on what type of tea you used to start with, green versus black, for example, and how long you let the tea steep before you remove the tea leaves. Don’t use decaf or tea bags, as they are processed with chemicals.
- Once it is fermented and ready to drink, you can add flavor to it, such as lemon, and drink it whenever you wish for a quick pick-me-up.
Ways to Use Kombucha in Your Cooking
Still others prefer to use it in various recipes. Here are a few suggestions.
Use fermented and strained kombucha as the liquid for your Jell-O. Dissolve the gelatin powder in a small amount of hot water. Then add kombucha to the desired amount for the recipe. Using the instructions for the flavor of gelatin you have chosen, you can also add fresh fruit. Let the Jell-O set in a cold fridge and enjoy it as a healthy dessert.
Use kombucha instead of water or milk as your smoothie base. You can also use any fruit-flavored kombucha you might have made.
Place in molds, add berries and fruit juice as desired, and freeze.
Yeast actually scares me when making bread – I’m always afraid of the bread not rising. But it seems like it would be difficult to mess this up. Manage the water temperature – there shouldn’t be a problem.
Have you had kombucha before or made it? What did you think? Tell us in the comments.
Loving Life—The Reboot!