Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is gaining popularity in North America. Known as tea kvass in Russia, it’s been used as a tonic for centuries in other cultures. Kombucha, similar to other naturally fermented products like sauerkraut, is said to have health benefits related to digestion and your immune system. Kombucha, in particular, is often a part of detox or cleanse programs and may contain organic acids (like gluconic and lactic acids) and enzymes that can be beneficial for your liver.
A lot of ferments start by using the yeasts and bacteria from your surrounding environment along with a food source to start the fermenting process. Kombucha uses a “mother” (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts) that you add to a sweetened tea mixture to produce a fizzy, sour-tasting drink that is surprisingly delicious.
The first time I tried a kombucha, I wasn’t prepared for how sour and fizzy it would taste after learning that it was made from tea. After trying it a couple more times, I found that I really like it! It must be a bit of an acquired taste. A friend from NutritionAlberta has given us a mother to start our own kombucha – every time you make a batch, a new mother is made that you can pass on to other kombucha aficionados.
The mother is a gelatinous, mushroom-like blob that will float on top of your kombucha and turn all of the sugar and tea into the acids and enzymes that make up the tonic.
3 litres filtered water
1 cup sugar
4 tea bags or 4 heaping teaspoons of organic black tea
1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture
1 kombucha mother
Boil the filtered water adding sugar until it dissolves completely. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep until the until the water has completely cooled (I have let mine steep overnight). Remove the tea leaves and pour into a 4 litre glass bowl and add the kombucha from a previous batch and place the mother on top.
Cover loosely with a tea towel (adding a line of tape across the bowl can help to keep the towel from falling into the bowl) and keep it in a warm, dark place. Depending on the temperature that it is stored at, it should be ready in 7 – 10 days.
It is ready when it tastes sour and fizzy and no longer has any tea flavour remaining. It may be a good idea to try a commercial bottle of kombucha so you have an idea of the taste before you make your own. I recently had a home-made kombucha at a health-food restaurant, but you could tell that it hadn’t been fermented nearly long enough as it still tasted very much like a sweet tea and had very little fizz or sourness to it.
When the kombucha is ready, your mushroom will have grown a second spongy pancake. This can be used to make other batches or given away to friends. Store fresh mushrooms in the refrigerator in a glass or stainless steel container-never plastic. A kombucha mushroom can be used dozens of times. If it begins to turn black, or if the resulting kombucha doesn’t sour properly, it’s a sign that the culture has become contaminated. When this happens, it’s best to throw away all your mushrooms and order a new clean one. From Nutrition Alberta
Note: White sugar, rather than honey or any other sweetener, and black tea, rather than flavoured teas, give the highest amounts of gluconic acid. Non-organic tea is high in fluoride so always use organic tea.
Just make sure that your mother isn’t contaminated – brown stringy things coming from the bottom of the mushroom are okay, blue/white/green mould on top of the mushroom is not!