While I’m pretty sure I had had some kind of fermented tea during my Japan days, I can’t really be sure.
So, it has to be said that my first official introduction to fermented drinks was in culinary school. Everyone was drinking kombucha, and everyone was making it. Except for me. Kombucha Brooklyn (especially) provided me with some delicious choices so I never really had to dabble in the art of bacteria breeding. It seemed easy enough. I just never felt the urge or desire to venture down that scary bacteria-ridden road. Frankly, I was relieved.
Then I moved to the UAE. Suffice it to say that there is no Kombucha Brooklyn here. But what I did find was an incredibly friendly community of bacteria breeding foodies eager to share their knowledge and SCOBYs. When you suddenly find yourself in a place where every assumption is challenged, every belief is toyed with, every conviction slightly to drastically changed, you realize you are a bit more capable of whatever it is you weren’t before. So, bye-bye fear and hello bacteria.
What was I afraid of? Well, bacteria! What if I didn’t “grow” it right? What if it gets moldy? How will I know if it tastes right? Will I get sick from a bad batch? There’s nothing like a good experiment to put all those questions to rest. That and support from the previously mentioned community of just as crazy as I am health nuts. Who knew I’d fit in so well here?
So, everyone in culinary school was drinking it because it is incredibly nutritious, and it’s the same reason everyone here is, too. It is known as ‘the immortal health elixir’ and the biggest reason is kombucha’s unique ability to detox the body. Kombucha has many acids and enzymes beneficial to the detox process, already produced in the body. This alleviates the work of the pancreas and liver and helps them do a better job. Glucuronic acid (GA) is the key word here. The main function of GA is to bind to toxins and escort them from the body. And, the GA in kombucha is very effective. It is even effective at eliminating several environmental toxins. (Think plastics, pesticides, etc.) Studies show that GA has also been linked to cancer prevention¹. Read that sentence again because it’s amazing.
Other health benefits include a very happy digestive system. Food and drink that have been fermented have, in a manner of speaking, been pre-digested. The bacteria formed during this process not only aids the gut by populating it, but also helps you fully digest. Kombucha is a true probiotic (which from the Greek means “for life”). It helps rid your body of excess candida, helps keep allergies in control and does wonders to boost immunity. It actually does all those things.
It starts as a quest for better health but soon you begin craving that slightly vinegary, yet subtly sweet effervescence. Trust me, you will.
And trust me, it’s worth the experiment. But just so you know, it’s a bit like opening Pandora’s box. There is no end to what you will learn and no end to the myriad ways different drink and food can be fermented. It’s a wild, bubbly ride!
2 T loose Earl Grey tea (or 6 tea bags)
2 qt (or litres) water
1/2 – 3/4C organic sugar
1 Kombucha SCOBY* (SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. You can get one from a friend or if you are the first brave soul of your circle of friends, you can get a starter here or here.)
about 1C of kombucha (which will have come with the SCOBY)
2 qt glass jar (sterilized), clean kitchen towel or a couple of layers of cheese cloth and rubber bands
1. Boil your water and remove from heat.
2. Add tea and sugar and let steep until water is cool. I usually let mine sit for a few hours, mostly because by the time I remember that’s how much time has passed. Tastes great still!
3. Add the tea to the jar and then add the 1C kombucha. Let this mix of teas get acquainted and then introduce the scoby.
4. Cover the jar with the kitchen towel (or cheese cloth) and secure the rubber band around the mouth of the jar.
5. Keep the jar in a safe place where it won’t be moved or jostled, where it’s room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
6. Let ferment for about a week, untouched. After a week, give it a taste test to see where you are. Don’t be surprised if another scoby has begun to form at the top of the jar. This is good and is a sign that your kombucha is healthy.
7. When you’ve finished about half of the kombucha, you can add another quart/litre of fresh (cooled) tea to the batch. This is called a continuous brew.
*Disclaimer: There are plenty of sources that recommend NOT using Earl Grey tea for kombucha because of the bergamot essential oil. It is thought that the oil could compromise the health of the scoby. However, many people have used Earl Grey and had successful batches and beautiful scobys. I am now part of that list! The beautiful thing about fermentation is experimentation! Brew away! And if you’ve got a great flavor working for you, please share it!