What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is an ancient fermented tonic made from sweetened black tea. Once cultured, this beverage contains a host of beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and acids from its mother culture, referred to as a SCOBY. It is a delicious drink, loaded with probiotics, enzymes and vitamins!
The Key to Kombucha: The SCOBY
The process of making kombucha all begins with a SCOBY. The SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is one of five ingredients involved in the process of brewing kombucha tea. Within it, bacteria and yeast strains live together in a harmonious, mutually supportive and co-dependant relationship. Due to its appearance and slimy texture, it is often called a “mushroom”.
Various SCOBY’s contain different strains of bacteria and yeast, but they all act in a similar way. The SCOBY multiplies itself in the process of creating kombucha and both mother and baby cultures can be reused multiple times. Even after the main culture is removed, the kombucha drink remains full of living yeast and bacteria, which continue to ferment slowly on their own. Therefore, idle kombucha will eventually form a new baby culture!
How Is It Made?
The process of making kombucha is rather simple and requires an active SCOBY, bottled spring water, organic cane sugar, plain real black tea, distilled white vinegar (for first few batches) or starter tea, as well as certain accessory materials such as a glass jar, coffee filter/weave cloth, rubber band, thermometer, measuring cups and spoons. Note that white cane sugar is the best food for a kombucha culture. While honey can also be used, it may yield inconsistent results.
As mentioned, the SCOBY itself is made up of a symbiotic culture, where bacteria and yeasts co-exist in harmony. The SCOBY is a living thing and needs food and a proper environment to thrive. Its food source is cooled, sweetened black tea and when placed within in, it consumes the sugars and produces acids, forms a “baby SCOBY”, and ferments the tea, producing kombucha. This can take roughly a week in warmer temperatures and up to a month in a cooler environment. It is recommended to taste the kombucha at various stages (once a week or so) until desired acidity level is reached. Once it is completed, kombucha can be flavored and bottled. Retain the SCOBY and some liquid from the bottom to use as starter tea for the next batch!
The by-products of the kombucha brewing process include organic acids (i.e. gluconic acid, acetic acid - which give the drink its tang), a variety of multiplied bacteria and yeasts, carbon dioxide (hence why kombucha is a carbonated beverage), a trace of alcohol, and B vitamins. Although kombucha starts as sweet tea, through the brewing process it becomes more tart. The longer it brews, the less sugar and more organic acids it has (giving it a more “vinegar” taste). Due to the nature of kombucha, it is not possible to state an exact culture composition. Note that as black tea is used as the original source, there is some caffeine in the final brew, though many consider it to be a very low amount.
How Do I Get a SCOBY?
- Purchase a SCOBY in a dehydrated state and activate it at home.
- Get a ready-made SCOBY with ½ cup of starter tea from a friend who is willing to share!
- Grow a SCOBY from a bottle of raw, unflavored kombucha.
OR…if you are short on time and want to experience the health benefits of this amazing drink, purchase a bottle of ready-made, deliciously flavored kombucha from your local health store!
How Can I Use Kombucha?
- Drink it by itself or use it in beverage mixes.
- Add chia seeds to kombucha and create a “jello” type snack!
- Use instead of vinegar in dressings, condiment, marinades.
- Blend with fruit to make smoothies or popsicles.
- Soak grains overnight in kombucha and water to help break them down for further cooking or baking.
- Combine with water and pour over rinsed hair!
- Note that it is possible to chop up the SCOBY and eat is as candy, jerky or blended in smoothies!
Recipe: Base Kombucha Salad Dressing Recipe (Adapted from Cultures for Health Website)
- 1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ Cup Kombucha
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Add any combination of the following: Dijon mustard, dried or fresh herbs & spices, raw honey, etc.
Whisk ingredients together and taste!
This column is sponsored by Good ‘n’ Natural in Steinbach