First, find your mother. No, not a woman. Like traditional vinegar, komucha is produced by a ‘mother’ floating in liquid. Ask around food swap circles, sustainability groups, or advertise in your local paper or Facebook food site. The kombucha mother is thick jelly substance known as a SCOBY – Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast. She’s a strange looking thing, but she makes wonderfully healthy fizzy drinks. Because this liquid is fermented, it’s great for your gut, and it tastes delicious too!
Now you have to feed your mother. You can feed her with any sweet liquid – I use sweetened black tea. The sugar will be converted to acid, becoming less sweet the longer you leave it. The mother will come with a little mature kombucha liquid, in a jar.
You’ll need a large glass jar to brew the kombucha in. Keep a big pickle jar, ask around, or check out second hand stores. Wash well before using.
1 L water
1/4 C sugar
1 T tea leaves or 2 tea bags 1/2 C mature kombucha
Heat water and dissolve sugar. Add tea, steep until completely cool (hot liquid will kill the mother). Strain tea or remove teabags. Pour sweetened tea into a large, wide glass container. Gently pour the mother into her new home, along with the small amount of mature kombucha drink.
Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for about a week before tasting. It will become bubbly as it ferments, then flatter as it matures.
You can drink it after a week, when it is still sweet, or leave the sugar to fully ferment for about a month, or any time in between. After that it will taste like vinegar (then you can use it in salad dressing). When you like the taste, pour it out into clean bottles and store in the fridge to stop it fermenting further. Leave a little in the jar with the mother, to start the next batch. Mothers don’t like to be lonely.
With each ferment, a new layer of mother will grow on top of the liquid and the old mother will thicken. You can gently peel the latest layer off with clean hands and then pass it on to a friend, start multiple batches, feed it to chickens, add it to compost, or chop it up and eat it like jubes. Or just leave it to thicken. It’s a good idea to keep several mothers, in case one dies. They will last for several months in their fermented liquid without feeding.
Once you have mastered the basic brewing process, you can try flavouring it with passionfruit pulp, rhubarb, curls of lemon rind and juice, pieces of apple, raspberries, grapes, chunks of ginger, stevia and mint leaves, or anything else you can think of. Put the fruit into the jar or bottle with the finished kombucha. I use old apple cider vinegar bottles or glass milk bottles to store the different flavours. Coloured fruits will leach their colour into the kombucha, making wonderfully bright elixirs. I keep these flavoured kombuchas in the fridge, so the top layer doesn’t go mouldy.
For more information on kombucha health benefits, myths and science, I found this page interesting: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/03/25/kombucha-myths-vs-truths/
What’s your favourite kombucha flavour?