April 16, 2014

My First Fermented Tea: Kombucha

A few weeks ago a friend came to visit and she brought with her a gift for me in the form of a baby SCOBY (or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). They are pretty hearty and I kept mine in the cupboard for a week while I waited for a good brewing vessel to arrive.

Our local grocer carries kombucha on tap and I've been more than a little curious about the recent homebrewing craze. This is my first go at making my own kombucha and so far I like how unfussy and forgiving the process is. At least it seems that way!

SCOBYs thrive in a nutrient mixture of tea, water, and sugar. To create the nutrient I boiled 2 liters of spring water, and steeped 8 bags of black tea for 30 minutes. Then I added 1 cup of sugar and another 2 liters of water and let the nutrient reach room temperature overnight before adding my SCOBY.**

After securing the jar opening with a rubber band over a square of cotton fabric to keep out any little bits of dust or curious bugs, I left it to sit out on the counter for another week or so. (I like that precision is not key to the brewing process.) When I taste-tested the kombucha, it seemed about right—a little tangy but still pretty sweet, with a teeny tiny hint of that effervescence that I love so much.

I could have consumed it then, but I like kombucha best when it is really bubbly so I bottled it up for a second fermentation to give the carbon dioxide a chance to build up for good carbonation. I left this batch flavored plain but next time I think I will try for an easy addition like grated ginger or vanilla extract.

**A few little particulars: High heat will kill the SCOBY (so don't put your baby SCOBY into a hot tea bath) and SCOBYs don't like metal (so no metal spoons or containers can touch the SCOBY or the brew, if the SCOBY is still in it).

Update: On day 2 of the second fermentation, the kombucha tasted great but there wasn't enough fizz. On day four the flavor was pretty sour but the fizz was good. I will try again but this first batch will be repurposed as fruit spray or used for other household cleaning needs.

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