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It's not likely that Kombucha will replace the two current leaders for fizzy drinks.  We Americans are too set in our ways when it comes to our fizzy water and we are almost equally divided into two camps when it comes to caramel-colored carbonated sugar water.  It’s remindful of our approach to politics.  During the recent presidential election many of my friends complained to me that neither candidate was acceptable.  “It’s too bad we don’t have other choices on the ballot.”  The fact was that just like with Pepsi and Coke, we did have other choices on our ballot for president:  A libertarian candidate and a Green Party candidate, not to mention independents and several write-ins. In a democratic society it’s up to the people to create the change.

Kombucha, due to our national proclivity to only expose our palates to the familiar, is highly unlikely to become competitive with the established brands for carbonated sugar water.  No doubt the two major soft drink corporations will be able to maintain their gigantic market share.   Still it is interesting to learn more about what Kombucha offers us.

When I was in Southern California over the summer, I bought my first bottle of Kombucha and tried it.  I thought it was great.  It reminds me of the energy drinks that a lot of folks are addicted to—although I’m told Kombucha is far healthier for you. 

What does Kombucha taste like?

Kombucha is a fermented tea and the taste depends on what the person who made it flavored it with.  For example, if it is flavored with apples and cinnamon, it will taste like sparkling cider.  If it is flavored with lemon or orange zest, then it will have a citrus flavor.  The possibilities for flavor are almost endless.

Why drink Kombucha?

Kombucha contains probiotics and antioxidants.  It also appears to have strong antibacterial properties against infection-causing bacteria. One of the main substances produced during the fermentation of Kombucha is acetic acid which is also abundant in vinegar.  Acetic acid is able to kill many potentially harmful microorganisms.

CAUTION: if you or someone in your family is an alcoholic, you may want to consider purchasing Kombucha in the store as homemade Kombucha may contain up to 3% alcohol.  Commercial products are good and considered alcohol-free, as they must contain less than 0.5% alcohol.  Avoid brands that are high in added sugar.

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You can make Kombucha. 

At a recent Loving Garland Green meeting, one of our board officers, Anita Opel, provided a demonstration of how to make Kombucha.  I now have a gallon pot brewing in my kitchen.  As with any food preparation such as canning in the home, caution is strongly advised when making your own Kombucha.  Using clean utensils is one of the top priorities.  One of the best ways to know if Kombucha is good is to taste it.  If it doesn’t taste good, or if it smells bad, or if mold is on the SCOBY—THROW IT OUT.

Still, at an average price of about $4.00 for eight ounces in the grocery store, you may want to consider making your own Kombucha in case you find that you have a taste for it. Although sugar is an ingredient, the sugar is consumed by the culture leaving a delicious tart drink—thus Kombucha is ideal for diabetics.

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BASIC KOMBUCHA

Materials:

1. One SCOBY* in one cup of fermented tea (Kombucha)

2. One 1-gallon glass jar with a glass lid that leaves a little air space for breathing (or you can put a cloth tightly bound over the top)—No metal or plastic containers should be used and all containers should be clean.  [I bought a clear glass gallon cookie jar with a glass lid at Wal-Mart for about $8.] 

3.  Three quarts filtered water (not distilled)

4.  1 cup Sucanat, white sugar, or coconut sugar

5. 4 to 5 tea bags (organic green tea or organic black tea—not herbal tea)

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia 

SCOBY

SCOBY is actually an acronym: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  SCOBY is the name of the starter for Kombucha.  Like all fermented foods, such as sourdough bread, a starter is needed to begin the process. This rubbery blob is a mix of cultures of bacteria and yeast present during production of Kombucha.

At the end of this process, you will have created another SCOBY. Make sure to keep this—along with one cup of the Kombucha you’ve made—to use as the starter for your next batch. You will need to keep it in your fridge until you are ready to use it to make a batch of Kombucha. 

A SCOBY is constantly renewing itself and a new layer of SCOBY will grow on the surface of the old one every time you brew a batch of Kombucha.

As for the Mother SCOBY: There is no limit to the number of brews you can get. Some say they have used the same mother for months of continuous brewing.  

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 PROCESS

1. Bring the filtered water to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat.

2. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the sugar and continue to boil for 5 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove the tea bags, and let the tea cool to room temperature.

4.  Pour the cool tea into the 1-gallon container.

5. Add the SCOBY, placing it so that the smooth shiny surface faces up.

6. Add the fermented Kombucha tea. 

7, Place the cloth over the opening of the container and secure it with the rubber band. This keeps dust, mold, spores, and vinegar flies out of the fermenting tea.(I put the glass lid on my cookie jar and then covered the entire jar in a dishtowel and left the jar on my counter top.)

8.  Let the covered container sit undisturbed in a well-ventilated and dark place at a room temperature between 65° and 90°F for 6 to 15 days.

9. Taste test every couple of days, starting on the fourth day. The tea should be tart, not sweet. However, it should not be overly sour or vinegary. If the tea is sweet, the sugar hasn’t been fully converted. If it tastes like sparkling apple cider, it is ready to drink, unless you want it more tart. If the vinegar taste becomes too prominent, it’s probably fermented a bit too long. It won’t hurt you to drink at this point, but provide as many health benefits because the healthy bacteria die off over time, since the food supply is constantly being reduced.

10, When the tea is brewed to your taste, pour it into glass bottles, cap them, and then place the bottles in the refrigerator where the tea can be stored for one year or longer. It will eventually turn to vinegar, which you can use as you would any vinegar.

The finished Kombucha can also be second fermented with various juices but it’s also delicious as is.

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Second Fermented Kombucha

This process enables the brewer to add different flavors to the basic Kombucha mix.  These flavor additions range from fruit juices to coffee and various recipes can be found on the Internet.  Some folks even add bits of fruit such as apple--but I'm not fond of stuff floating in my drink so I won't be doing that.

MATERIALS:

1. Six, one-pint bottles with swing-tops that clamp down. You can repurpose beer bottles with swing tops such as those from Grolsch, or you can buy new glass bottles that are specifically designed for brewing.  

?2. One recipe Basic Kombucha

3. 1 to 2 cups fruit juice, any flavor

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1. Pour the brewed Kombucha in six 1-pint bottles, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top of each bottle.  (I will strain the Kombucha through a coffee filter to help prevent another Kombucha culture from forming.  There is a limit to how much live culture I can look at when eating.  As far as I’m concerned, the less I see floating around in my drink, the better.)

2. Add 1 to 2 ounces of fruit juice per 12 to 13 ounces of Kombucha, leaving a little headspace at the top of each bottle.

3. Clamp the caps closed. Let the bottles sit in a dark place for 1 to 3 weeks.

Note:  Check the Kombucha every few days to make sure it is fizzy enough for you.  Once the Kombucha meets your taste expectations, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator.

Kombucha can be stored in the sealed bottles in the fridge for up to one year, but it will turn to vinegar over time. Also, once opened, the carbonation will start to decrease—just like regular store-bought soda.

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WHERE CAN YOU ACQUIRE A SCOBY AND A CUP OF KOMBUCHA?

I was lucky enough to know someone (Anita) who provided me with a SCOBY and a cup of Kombucha.  However, even if you don’t know anyone who has a SCOBY to share with you, you can still obtain one by growing your own.  The Internet abounds with recipes for growing your own SCOBY.  All the recipes are similar and include using commercially purchased Kombucha, tea, water and sugar.  Just search under “create SCOBY.”

 

WHERE CAN YOU ACQUIRE MORE INFORMATION ON CULTURED FOODS?

www.culturedfoodlife.com

Seven Reasons to Drink Kombucha Every Day

Health Benefits of Kombucha

 

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