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The Kombucha Revolution

With health clearly being more important than ever and having personally experienced the many health benefits of drinking Kombucha, I wanted to share why it has become increasingly popular in recent years and why many of the worlds leading health guru’s refer to Kombucha as the “tea of immortality”.  I’ll also provide you with a step-by-step guide to making your very own batch of Kombucha.

What is kombucha?

It’s a slightly carbonated, fermented, sweet, yet sour drink believed to have originated in China or Japan. Kombucha is made of sweet tea and a yeast-like culture called a ‘scoby’. S.C.O.B.Y. is an acronym for ‘Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeasts’ and it acts similarly to a sourdough starter – once you have created a scoby, you can use it to make kombucha thereafter. When these bacteria and yeasts are added to sweet black or green tea, and allowed to ferment for a week or more, they convert sugar into ethanol (alcohol) and acetic acid (the main component of vinegar). It’s actually the acetic acid that gives kombucha its signature sour taste, and the gases released make it fizzy. As a slightly sour cold drink, kombucha provides a refreshing change from the usual overly-sweet soft drinks, and it can also be used in cocktails.

What’s so good about kombucha?

• Green tea. Kombucha that’s made from green tea has similar healthy ingredients – bioactive compounds, powerful antioxidants like polyphenols – and benefits. It has been proved that regularly drinking green tea improves cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar, increases calorie-burning, and reduces belly fat, with some studies showing reduced risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers, amongst other benefits.

Antioxidants.  Kombucha contains antioxidants that fight free radicals (reactive molecules that damage your cells, causing aging, cancer and other diseases). Kombucha (especially green tea) apparently anti-oxidises your liver. Regularly drinking kombucha, even made with black tea, could reduce liver toxicity by at least 70%.

Probiotics. Kombucha is probiotic-rich and has many potential health benefits. Kombucha contains a number of lactic acid bacteria species that have probiotic functions. Probiotics provide healthy bacteria in your gut, offering numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, reduced inflammation and weight loss.

• Reduces cholesterol/heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, globally. Studies show that kombucha greatly reduces bad LDL and good HDL cholesterol, within 30 days. Vitally, tea, and green tea especially, protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation, preventing heart disease. Green tea drinkers have around 31% less risk of heart disease, which might also apply to kombucha.

Any drawbacks?

Kombucha made at home could contain 3% alcohol, whereas commercial drinks must contain less than 0.5% alcohol (alcohol-free). Read the ingredients, though, because some brands have a lot of added sugar. Making kombucha is a cheap and popular alternative that gives you control of what you put in it, but you need to prepare it hygienically and carefully. Kombucha that has been over-fermented or contaminated can make you seriously ill and even kill you! So, you need to either buy it from a reputable source, or make it well, keep it refrigerated and drink it fresh.

Where can I get kombucha?

Kombucha used to be only available in health shops, but you’ll find it now in supermarkets, newsagents, bars and cafés all over the UK and abroad. But sourcing really good kombucha is more difficult. Different brands are sometimes too weak, or too sweet, and the good ones are expensive, making it a costly health habit to have. This is why many people are making their own: you know what’s going into it, and although it might take some time and patience, it works out more cost-effective to ‘brew your own’.

How To Make Kombucha Tea at Home

It is easy and affordable to make. Most ingredients are available from supermarkets, no specialist kit is required and you can experiment, especially in the second fermentation – with different tea, fruits, herbs or spices.

You’ll need a SCOBY, either shop-bought or homemade. There’s a recipe below. SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is the ‘mother’ of the kombucha, which provides the bacteria and yeast needed to ferment the sweet tea, providing a loose seal to protect it from contaminants, and keeping some carbonation inside. You can buy SCOBY online. Or make your own, as below. Things to bear in mind:

• Don’t use metal or plastic containers. Metal would react with the acid of the kombucha and damage your SCOBY. Plastic can encourage nasty bacteria that can harm you.

• Keep scrupulously clean. Keep your hands and equipment scrupulously clean throughout! You might be growing bacteria, but it needs to be the right bacteria! Otherwise, it could ruin your batch – and make you ill.

• Keep an eye on the temperature. Room temperature is ideal, but that can vary. Fermentation happens quicker in warmer temperatures, and slower in colder. But too hot, or too cold will kill the yeasts and bacteria.

• No mould! If you spot any mould growing (green, white, or black) – on your SCOBY or in the tea – throw your whole batch away. It’s bad.

Making a SCOBY

Miss out this stage if you have bought a ready-made SCOBY. If you want to make your own SCOBY, the equipment required is:

• 1 large glass or ceramic container or jug holding at least 1 gallon (3.7 litres). Or 2 jars holding at least ½ gallon (1.9 litres) each. (If you have a glass Mason jar with a built-in spigot, it will make pouring out the kombucha a lot easier).

• Muslin or some tightly-woven cloth or paper (napkins, cheesecloth, coffee filters, kitchen roll or paper towels)

• Rubber bands or string.  

Ingredients:

• 6 litres water

• 100 g white sugar

• 4 bags black tea (or 1 tblspn loose tea)

• 235 ml unpasteurised plain shop-bought kombucha

1 – Make the tea: Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it. Add the tea and allow it to steep, until it cools to room temperature.

2 – Add Starter: Pour the sweet tea into your jar/s. Pour shop-bought kombucha into each.

3 – Ferment: Cover the top of the jar with a few layers of the cloth or paper, and secure with string or a rubber band. Set it somewhere dark at room temperature (70-75 degrees F, 21-24 C) for 1 to 4 weeks, until a ¼ inch (½ cm) SCOBY has formed. It will be a thick, almost rubbery, brownish layer.

4 – Collect Scoby: Keep SCOBY in its original tea until you’re ready to brew your first batch. With really clean hands, gently remove your SCOBY from the tea and place it on a clean plate. The SCOBY should be able to live and grow for years if treated with love. But the tea you used to make the SCOBY is very vinegary and should be thrown away. Don’t use this tea as the starter for your first fermentation!

5 – Rinse out your jar(s). Prepare to make kombucha.

Notes when making SCOBY:

• Only black tea. It doesn’t grow as well with green or fruity teas. By all means, once your SCOBY is big and strong you can use green tea in the next fermentation stages, but for now, stick with black.

• No decaf: The SCOBY will not grow properly if fed decaf!

• No honey. Honey can contain botulism bacteria which can be dangerous when grown exponentially, as bacteria and yeast tend to do in the SCOBY and first fermentation. You can use honey in the second fermentation when there are greater numbers of good bacteria to fight off the bad, But stick to sugar till then.

• Don’t disturb it! There will only be a few bubbles in the first few days. But later, a thin, translucent layer forms, eventually thickening into a proper SCOBY. If it floats sideways or sinks, leave it. It’s fine.

• Leftover Scoby? Never throw your SCOBY away. Save it for next time. Give it to a friend, or make it into gummies. 

Once you have made or bought your SCOBY, the other ingredients are fairly easy to get. And you can use the same equipment to make your kombucha.  

To make kombucha

Equipment

• A measuring jug

• Weighing scales

• A pan

• A fine sieve

• A piece of muslin cloth or kitchen roll; string or rubber bands

• 2-litre Kilner jar and a flip-top bottle

• Often you can buy all of the required equipment bundled in a kit like this one.

 

Ingredients

• 1 litre of water

• 60g caster sugar

• 3 Earl Grey tea-bags (or other black tea of your choice)

• 2 ‘Ordinary’ breakfast tea-bags

• 1 SCOBY

• 100ml of kombucha liquid – which should come with the SCOBY when you buy it. Or, you can use shop-bought kombucha (or some liquid from your own previous batch, if you’ve made kombucha before).

 

Method

1 – Heat 1 litre of water in a kettle until it’s just boiled.

2 – Pour the hot water and the sugar into a pan and heat it up, stirring it until the sugar is dissolved.

3 – Add the tea-bags and leave them to infuse for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the tea bags and leave the liquid to cool completely.

4 – When cooled to room temperature, pour into a large glass jar, along with the SCOBY and kombucha liquid.

5 – Cover the top with muslin or kitchen paper, and seal it with string or a rubber band.

6 – Leave it in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks. At about day 6, start tasting the tea (gently draw some out with a straw), to check when it is right for you.

7 – Taste it every day, until it tastes good to you. It should be slightly acidic and funky, but not too sour. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar molecules are eaten away, and the less sweet it will be.

8 – When you’re happy with the taste, you can remove the SCOBY and 100ml of the liquid – this will be your ‘starter’ for next time. The rest of the liquid is your homemade kombucha! (Or you can just leave your starter liquid in the jar with the SCOBY/s ready for next time) and pour off the rest of your kombucha to drink.

Drink your kombucha within a couple of days, keeping it in the fridge. Or, ferment it a second time using the recipes belowSweetener

 

Second Fermentation

You can add different flavours, or just some form of sweetener, and make a richer taste with a second fermentation.

E.g. raspberry kombucha:

• 150g frozen raspberries

• 2 tbsp runny honey (fine in the second fermentation!)

• 750ml kombucha

Put raspberries and honey into a pan. Heat gently and stir until collapsed and a sauce.

Push through a fine sieve. Leave to cool completely.

Mix the raspberry purée with the first-fermented kombucha. Pour into flip-top bottle/s and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for between 2 days and a week, tasting each day until it’s sweet, sour, and slightly carbonated. Then chill. Drink within a week.

 

Finally

Health is wealth. And in this day and age, true success cannot be achieved without creating positive balance within our lifestyle and physical body. What we eat and drink has huge part to play in that. As within, so without. To achieve prosperity in the external world, you have to cultivate the correct environment internally, too – and consuming health-giving drinks like kombucha goes a long way in doing that. Drink to your success.

 

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