Kombucha

Christine Kennedy (ButterBelle)

Christine Kennedy (ButterBelle) › Christine has been interested in health and nutrition (with a special emphasis on cooking!) since grade ...

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The Ultimate Liver Cleansing Elixir

With all this talk about detoxification around here lately, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you all to a wonderful traditional beverage that my family loves!  It is called kombucha, and it also happens to be a great detoxifier!  I’m sure that many of you already know about this wonder drink, but for those that don’t, please allow me to share with you all the numerous benefits and a simple recipe to start making your own.

It wasn’t until I discovered traditional foods and picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon that I had even heard of this strange drink.  Because it was so strange, by name and by looks, I wasn’t all that excited to try making it as I was to try everything else.  It is a fermented beverage, not unlike traditional wine or beer,  and uses a culture called a mushroom, or scoby, that looks like a thick pancake.  And, it has little floaty pieces of yeast in it!  Despite all that, kombucha is a beverage that is gaining in popularity.  Most traditional foodies have heard of it, and most of them probably make it too.  It is now popping up in health food stores for your convenience, but it is not cheap!  In Ontario, you can expect to pay over $3.00 per 500ml bottle!

Kombucha is essentially a sweetened and fermented tea.  Thought to have come from China, the recorded history of kombucha began in Russia during the late 19th century, according to Wikipedia.  Legend has it that the word Kombucha came from Japan around 400 AD, when a physician named Kombu served it to the emperor.  The doctor’s name was then combined with “cha,” meaning tea.  This drink reproduces itself, similar to kefir, and contains live friendly bacteria and yeast.  Ironically, it is made from black caffeinated tea, white sugar, and a bacteria/yeast starter culture.  Starting a batch is as easy as finding a starter culture. The starter is a called a mother, or SCOBY – symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  So, if you are asking yourself how there could be any benefit to consuming a beverage with these seemingly “unhealthy” ingredients, well, let me, or should I say, Sally Fallon explain!  “The scoby acts on the sugar and tea to produce both acetic and lactic acid, but also a potent detoxifying substance called glucuronic acid. Normally this organic acid is produced by the liver in sufficient quantities to neutralize toxins in the body — whether these are naturally produced toxins or poisons ingested in food and water.  However, when liver function becomes overloaded, and when the body must deal with a superabundance of toxins from the environment — certainly the case with most of us today — additional glucuronic acid taken in the form of kombucha is said to be a powerful aid to the body’s natural cleansing process, a boost to the immune system and a proven prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases.” (Source – Taken from pg. 596 of Nourishing Traditions)

Health Benefits and Reported Claims of Kombucha Tea:

  • Immune system booster
  • Body detoxifier
  • Provides friendly and beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeast
  • Prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases
  • Active enzymes and amino acids
  • Contains B-vitamins
  • Aids digestion
  • Increases energy

But how does it taste you ask?  I tell people that it tastes like a slightly sweet and sour, fizzy apple cider.  It’s delicious, and refreshing.  The kids absolutely love it!  It is a great replacement for pop or sports drinks, and is a great thirst quencher, even better than plain water in many cases.

Here’s the basic recipe for Kombucha:

Ingredients:

1 cup organic white sugar 

5-6 organic tea bags (black, green, or white tea – basically any type of camellia sinensis tea)

1 gallon filtered water

1 kombucha scoby/mother + 1/2-1 cup of starter liquid from a previous batch

Method:

1. In a small pot, boil a couple cups of water (out of your total 1 gallon).

2. When the water comes to a boil, add in sugar and stir to completely dissolve.  Remove from the heat.

3. Toss in the tea bags and allow to steep until the mixture has fully cooled. Remove and discard the tea bags.  This will be your concentrate.

4. I prefer to use a gallon size glass jar to ferment my kombucha in.  You can also use a very large glass bowl.  Be sure not to use plastic or metal as the tea may leach chemicals and or react negatively with the bacterial culture.

5. Put your scoby and starter liquid into the jar or bowl, and add the cooled sugar/tea mixture (concentrate).  Fill the rest of the jar almost to the top with your filtered water.  Stir all together with a big wooden spoon.  Cover the jar with a coffee filter or clean cloth and a rubber band.  You want the culture to be able to breath, but keep out the dust and bugs.

6. Place the jar in a warm spot in your kitchen, out of the way, and away from direct light.

7. Do not disturb for at least 7 days!  After this time you can test your kombucha by drawing up a sampling of liquid with a straw.  It should no longer taste like very sweet tea, but slightly sour with an apple cider flavor.  If it is not ready, allow to ferment longer, testing every few days.  In the summer, fermentation will be faster with the warm weather, and slower in the cool winter weather.  Also, multiple scobies in your brew will speed up the fermentation.

8. Once it is done brewing, you can now filter the kombucha into smaller jars.  If you are fine with tiny pieces of yeasty strings, don’t bother straining.  They are harmless to consume.  Be sure to leave at least 1/2-1 cup of fermented liquid in the original jar, along with the scoby to brew the next batch.

8. At this point you can do a second fermentation, after the kombucha has been filtered. Tightly cap your jars and allow to sit out at room temperature for another day or so.  This will build up the gases in the jar and create some fizz that most people enjoy.

9. If you are feeling extra creative, feel free to add some flavorings to your second ferment! Try some ginger or citrus slices, frozen fruit such as berries, pineapple, or mango, herbal tea bags, or even some concentrated fruit juice like grape!  The choices are endless.

10. Brew another batch right away in the original jar, or give it a rest for a short time, somewhere in a dark cupboard.  Just be sure to leave enough tea in the jar to feed the scoby. It will continue to ferment and grow off of the tea in the jar, eating up the liquid.  You will not be able to make another batch if there is no liquid left!

Side Notes

You may be wondering why we are using white sugar in this recipe.  Interestingly, it is white sugar, rather than honey, maple syrup or any other unrefined sugar and black tea (rather than flavored or herbal teas) that give the highest amounts of glucuronic acid.  And, did you know, that kombucha that has been long-brewed, is legal on the full GAPS diet!

Each time you make a new batch of kombucha, a new baby scoby will form on the surface of the liquid, usually on top of the mother scoby.  You can keep the babies attached to the original mother, or peel them off and start giving them away.  Eventually, you will end up with more scobies than you can handle!  At that point, you can feed them to your dog, the chickens, or the compost pile!

Warning:  Kombucha is so good, you might want to start drinking a lot of it right away! However, please go slow!  Start by drinking about 1/2 cup per day and slowly build up your tolerance from there.  It is powerful stuff and can have a detoxifying effect (I can attest to this from personal experience!).

Are you willing to try your hand at making kombucha?  Do you make and love it already?

This article originally appeared on butterbelle.ca. It is re-posted here with permission of the author.

Photo Credit: Zeevveez | Flickr