This fizzy, probiotic packed drink may seem like just another overhyped hipster beverage, but it can actually be traced back over 2,000 years to the Tsin Dynasty in China, where it was known as, “The Tea of Immortality”. We can’t promise that this slightly bubbly brew will grant you eternal life, but fermented foods support healthy gut bacteria and digestion. A bottle of store bought ‘buch can run anywhere from $3-8, which is just plain silly because it couldn’t be easier to make your own.
The good news is kombucha doesn’t require a lot of ingredients at all. The bad news is the most important ingredient looks like a 4th grade science project gone terribly wrong. Meet SCOBY, the gelatinous disk of germy goodness that brings all the bacteria to the party! SCOBY stands for ”Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria”, but I suggest you name yours because, in my experience, it’s harder to kill something once you name it. Ours looked like a Kevin.
The SCOBY (we bought our original one on Amazon)
4 organic tea bags (black tea works best for your first batch)
½ cup of sugar
large gallon-sized glass jar
one bottle of unflavored, organic kombucha
a piece of fabric or cheesecloth big enough to cover the mouth of your jar
Kombucha starts with boiling water and letting the tea bags steep for 5-10 minutes. Add the ½ cup of sugar and stir until completely dissolved with a wooden spoon (just make sure you don’t use anything made of metal). Wait for the sugary tea to cool down to room temperature.
Once the tea is completely cool (hot water kills SCOBYs), add the SCOBY. The SCOBY will eat up all the sugar, but since this is your first batch, you can help get things going by adding a cup of organic, unflavored kombucha. Each time you make a new batch, you’ll save 1-2 cups of your old brew. When making any type of fermented food (like yogurt or sourdough bread) you need to save part of your old batch to make your next one. Your kombucha is a living thing that is constantly growing and developing a deeper flavor, think of it as your new house pet!
Take a piece of loose-weave fabric (a dish towel or cheesecloth work too) and cover your jar with it.Your ‘buch will need oxygen for the fermenting process, but you want to keep flies and other critters out. The warmer the room, the faster your brew will ferment, so find a cozy spot for your new roomie.
Give the brew about two weeks to grow. The SCOBY may fall to the bottom of the jar, don’t worry about it. You’ll notice some brown stringy bits floating around, that’s yeast, and proof that your SCOBY is getting to work. By this point, a NEW SCOBY will have spawned covering the top of your tea. Each time you brew, a new baby SCOBY joins the party. It’s the circle of life, people.
Take a straw and gently poke it under the SCOBY Version 2.0 that has grown at the top of your jar, and take a sip. If the tea is still sweet, let it brew for a few more days. If it has a tangy, tart, bubbly kick, you’re ready for the second round of fermentation.
The second fermentation is where you get to really customize your ‘buch. Now that the tea is fermented, it’s time to flavor it, and the combinations are endless. Decant your ‘buch into small glass bottles, but make sure to save 1-2 cups for your next batch!
Put about ¼ cup of any fruit you’d like into each of the small bottles. This fruit will give your fermented tea a new serving of sugar to feast on, giving your ‘buch a flavor and more bubbles. Pineapple, ginger, lemon, any type of berry, apple, orange...you can’t go wrong here. Strawberries and pomegranate seeds create a lovely pink hue. Fresh herbs like basil or rosemary can add a nice complexity. You do you.
Let these babies hang on the counter for 3-4 days to infuse your ‘buch with fruity goodness before sticking them in the fridge. The cold will basically put your ‘buch to sleep, and the fermenting process will pause (if it goes on for too long, you’ll have vinegar). Pour over ice and never pay for pricey bacteria again! Repeat for #gutbacteriagoals and don’t resist the urge to hold your SCOBY like baby Simba and sing “The Circle of Life” to it.
(Black tea works best for your initial brew with your scoby, the tannins in the tea help the fermentation process.)