Have you hopped on the Kombucha train yet? If not, it’s time to get on board! Fizzy Kombucha can be found at just about any market these days, crafted from interesting combinations of green or black tea, often combined with herbs, spices, flowers and fruit to create unique taste profiles. If you’re trying to kick the soda habit, kombucha is a great alternative.
THE BASICS: Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from tea. Basic Kombucha is made with simple green or black tea sweetened with sugar or honey and fermented with a living scoby. What’s a scoby? A scoby is a rubbery, disk-shaped symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Sounds gross, but what a cool way to create a slightly sweet and fizzy drink. The scoby sits on top of the liquid below and eats up the sugar, leaving behind the added benefits of gut-loving probiotics and active enzymes.
FUN FACT: This healthy drink is known as the “Tea of Immortality” by the ancient Chinese and has been around for over 2,000 years. Everything old is new again!
Kombucha has exploded in popularity in recent years, and it’s one of those foods/drinks to which people attach all sorts of (often wildly extravagant) health claims. It is indeed high in B vitamins and detoxifying acids; it’s also a wonderful source of natural probiotics and antioxidants giving the drink a major cancer-fighting kick. Store-bought kombucha is pretty pricey: you can spend a small fortune on it at the health food store. If you, too find yourself frequently emptying your wallet to purchase kombucha, you’ll be happy to know that DIY’ing it is a cinch: all you need to get a batch fermenting on your countertop is loose-leaf organic black tea, sugar, and a “SCOBY.” You can get a SCOBY from a friend or from a reliable retail source. Each time you make kombucha, you’ll “grow” another SCOBY: pass extras on to friends (a SCOBY in a small glass jar with some finished kombucha is a wonderful gift for someone eager to get started making their own) or store in the refrigerator immersed in finished kombucha (or apple cider vinegar) for future batches. If you end up with far more than you can use, you can compost them.
Though many who drink kombucha use it as a soda replacement, it’s probably best if you sip it in small amounts rather than guzzling a lot at a time. Drink a small glass along with a snack in the afternoon or before eating dinner.
WHY KOMBUCHA: Kombucha is wonderful at supporting the body in various ways. It isn’t some magic pill or silver bullet, but it helps the body function well by supporting:
- liver detoxification
- improved pancreas function
- increased energy
- better digestion
- improved mood (helps with anxiety/depression)
- kills Candida (yeast)
- helps nutrient assimilation
- weight loss
IMPROVING DIGESTION: The research is still out on the specific way Kombucha affects digestion, but we do know that kombucha contains probiotics, enzymes, and beneficial acids and these have been researched for their benefits. Harvard Medical School explains that a healthy gut will have 100 trillion + microorganisms from 500 different identified species. In this sense, we truly are more bacterial than human. There has been a lot of emerging research on the dangers of an overly sanitary environment and how overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial soaps and products is literally changing the structure of our gut. Drinks like Kombucha, Water Kefir, Milk Kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut contain billions of these beneficial bacteria, enzymes and acids that help keep the gut in balance.
NATURAL DETOX AND LIVER SUPPORT: The liver is one of the body’s main detoxification organs. Kombucha is high in Glucaric acid, which is beneficial to the liver and aids its natural detoxification. As Kombucha also supports healthy gut bacteria and digestion, it helps the body assimilate food more easily and provides quick and easy energy without caffeine.
IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOST: Kombucha is naturally high in antioxidants and supportive of the immune system. Again, there is no magic pill or silver bullet when it comes to immune function- it is best to support the body in its natural immune process. It contains a compound called D-saccharic acid-1,4-lactone (or DSL for short) that has amazing antioxidant properties. This compound is not present in unfermented teas (though many teas are high in other antioxidants). DSL has been specifically identified as beneficial for cellular detoxification.
Recipe for Homemade Kombucha
Although the process can be a bit lengthy, homemade kombucha is a great way to save some money and have a little fun in the kitchen. During the fermentation period (which typically lasts a week or a bit more), the yeasts and bacteria in the SCOBY convert the sugar and tea into beneficial substances (the aforementioned detoxifying acids).
Finished kombucha, therefore, doesn’t contain much caffeine or sugar. Green or herbal tea may be substituted for black tea. Raw honey or molasses can be used instead of sugar, but your kombucha may take longer to ferment (and the flavor will be different). Though you’re welcome to experiment, most sources state that other sweeteners will not work well.
You’ll need a 1-gallon glass jar to make this recipe.
- 13 cups water, divided (use filtered water, if possible)
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 teaspoons organic loose-leaf black tea
- 1 cup finished plain kombucha (from a previous batch, a store-bought bottle, or from the liquid the SCOBY comes in)
- 1 kombucha SCOBY (purchase from reliable retail source)
- Boil 3 cups of water in a stainless steel pot. Add the sugar, and stir until it has dissolved. Remove pot from heat and add loose tea. Allow to soak/cool for about 30 minutes.
- Pour sweet tea through a fine mesh strainer into your fermenting container (a 1-gallon glass jar with a wide mouth works well…don’t use metal or plastic). Compost or discard the tea leaves. (Alternatively, you can place your loose tea into a muslin tea bag and simply remove the tea bag after steeping.)
- Add the finished kombucha and the SCOBY to the jar with the sweet tea, then add the remaining water (10 cups). Cover the top of your jar with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band.
- Leave undisturbed for 7 to 10 days in a warm, dark place. (As your kombucha ferments, a new SCOBY will grow attached to the original one to the width of your container.)
- After a week, sample your kombucha to determine if it’s ready to drink. It should be a bit bubbly and taste both sweet and sour without much hint of the tea. If you’re pleased with the taste, use clean hands to remove your SCOBY (and carefully separate it from the new one) and store as directed above.
- Transfer kombucha to glass jars for storage (swing-top bottles work well), leaving about 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Allow bottled kombucha to sit at room temperature for a day or two to ferment a bit more/build up carbonation, then place in refrigerator until ready to drink.
Kombucha will last in the refrigerator for up to three months, but it’s best if consumed sooner; Mastering Fermentation recommends drinking it within a week of opening a bottle.