I first had kombucha at the amazing Wise Woman Center in Woodstock NY run by the indefatigable Susun Weed. There on the counter was a bucket with this evil looking blob floating in a brown liquid that smelled like vinegar. I thought it was a vinegar mother, the bacteria colony that makes vinegar. But a sign said kombucha. I wondered what kind of cha, or tea in Japanese, could be made from Kombu, a type of seaweed. I sure didn't see anything it that murk that looked like kombu. Susun said it was not kombu but a fermented tea of Red Raspberry leaf and spearmint. It was a thing handed down from grandmother to daughter for at least the last 1000 years and it was good for the gut and the immune system. I could attest that it looked handed down for a thousand years. It was spooky looking. There was this huge, flat pancake looking thing floating in liquid surrounded by tiny bubbles. "Have a sip" she said. I'm not one to shrink away from a challenge and I have always said I'd try any food so long as it was not alive going down my throat, so I said "ok." This batch was aged so it was vinegary. Not unpleasant, just sharp and ever so slightly effervescent. I enjoyed it. On my departure from the center 6 weeks later I was armed with a baby kombucha mother and some Tara grains. More on that later. I kept brewing the kombucha tea at my home. Each batch made a new colony that I gave to friends and co workers at the pharmacy I worked for. One day I got a call at work from the local newspaper. The reporter had heard I was making this weird brew that some folks were calling a health miracle. She wanted to see it and interview me. I made no claims that this stuff was a health tonic. I have always asserted that it was a tasty self replicating brew that has been around for at least 1000 years. This was 1995. I got in the paper and became know as the kombucha woman at the Pharmacy. The next year I moved from WI where I was living to MD then to TX and I gave up my beloved Kombucha. There was no way I could keep up with the upkeep the brew needed in my new living situation. Besides, the FDA was telling folks that Kombucha was dangerous. I knew that it was not dangerous if you didn't drink gallons of it at a time. Moderation. But anyway, my circumstances prevented me from brewing it for the next 16 years.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a bottle of GT Kombucha in the local Whole Foods store in about 2009. I laughed at the price but bought a bottle anyway because I had no idea where to get a mother to brew my own. The GT stuff was good but I liked my stuff better. Then there was a crackdown in 2010. Somehow the word got out that Kombucha was alcoholic. It is fermented but it is not alcoholic, it ferments to Acetic acid, not alcohol in more than .5-,8%, no more than fruit juice sitting in the fridge for a week. After the kerfuffle died down, Kombucha was available in the store but I refused to pay the exorbitant prices for it. In 2014 I finally got in a position to brew my own stuff again. I bought a bottle of the store bought kombucha, forever hereafter known as booch, and let it sit out for a week until a SCOBY or mother grew on it and then fermented my own batch of green tea kombucha. It was like seeing an old friend. I liked the taste but looking online showed me that folks were doing all sorts of cool things with their kombucha brews. There was a second fermentation revolution going on and flavors I couldn't imagine were being created. By adding fruit or spices and herbs to the 2nd fermentation of Kombucha, amazing flavors where being produced. Since Kombucha was always about the taste first and the gut soothing properites of the brew second I was in hog heaven. This opened up a vast new arena with which I could play! And play I have! So far I have only made 2 flavored brews but I have so many ideas floating in my head. Here are pix of my latest creations, truly weird shit in jars.
Kombucha is made very easily once you have gotten a SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. You can google these online, get them from Ebay or get them from a friend. Then you make a super sweet tea solution, add the SCOBY, then wait. It takes about 7-14 days for the SCOBY to ferment the brew. I start tasting around day 6 so it does not get too vinegary. Then I pull off all but 2 C into other bottles. The plain stuff goes right into the fridge. The flavored stuff gets put into bottles( smaller re-used GT bottles) and then sits out for 2 more days then goes into the fridge. When the stuff is cooled off I drink it. Happy tummy and tongue happen.
Kombucha basic recipe
16 C water
2-3T black tea
1C white sugar
2c pre-existing kombucha
gallon jar w spigot (or not)
Boil the water, put tea & sugar in a container. ( I use a plastic gallon pitcher from Walmart to brew). add hot water and let steep for at least 10 min. I let my stuff sit until the water is room temp. If you can't boil the full 16 cups at once boil what you can then fill the rest of the way with cool water to make 16 cups water total. Let this come to room temp. Strain and Pour into brew jug. Add SCOBY and pre-existing kombucha tea. Cover with coffee filter and secure with a rubber band to keep fruit flies and other nasties out. Let sit 7-14 days, Start tasting on day 6 so you can see when you like the taste. Decant into a jar and sit in the fridge. Drink 4-10 oz a day or as desired.
For 2nd fermantation, get smaller bottles. Put fruit or herbs or spices in bottles. fill with Kombucha, let sit at room temp for up to 48 more hours then refirdgerate. Twist open the tops of the bottles every 12 or so hours so that the gas does not build up and explode the jars.