For years, I’ve been buying bottles of kombucha at the health food store for an afternoon pick-me-up—usually a green variety, but sometimes ginger or chai, if I feel like spicing things up a bit.
What always surprises me about this tasty drink is how good I feel afterwards. I feel kind of lighter, a bit more joyful and energized—not the way coffee charges me, but charged to go on with my day in a happier manner.
Describing kombucha is never easy. The starter used to make the fermented drink looks like a slimy thick jellyfish or a smaller white version of a placenta (I know this doesn’t make it sound very appealing). But the mystery of kombucha starter is also what makes the drink so fun.
Kombucha starter is more precisely referred to as a SCOBY or “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” The SCOBY, often referred to as the “mother” (isn’t that beautiful?), is used to ferment sweet black tea and turn the tea into a sour, fizzy tonic.
In his book “Wild Fermentation” (which is amazing and you must get it!), Sandor Katz explains:
“Kombucha is thought to have originated in China and has been popular at different times in many different lands. It is beneficial to health, like other live fermented foods.”
Now that I’m running a home business, my days don’t include trips downtown and I’ve been missing my weekly kombucha fix.
That’s why I decided to make homemade kombucha. It’s just as delicious and inspiring as what I was purchasing and it’s also crazy easy to make.
The first task is to find a “mother.” Like the little bird in the children’s book that goes around asking everyone, “Are you my mother?” you’ll need to ask friends, family and health food stores for a kombucha “mother” to give or sell you. The “mother” doubles with each batch of kombucha made, so anyone making kombucha regularly should have an extra to give out.
When you get a “mother,” ensure that it’s in some kombucha liquid itself. Just like with making yogurt, each new batch of kombucha needs a little starter from the last one, so always set aside a little of the drink for your next batch.
Once you have a “mother,” you’ll need a large gallon-size glass jar. Fill it with strong black or green tea. Sweeten the tea with sugar or honey. You can experiment with amounts, but for a gallon jar, half a cup to a cup of sweetener and at least four tea bags should be fine. You can also flavor it with herbs, ginger, lemon or whatever meets your fancy.
Let the tea completely cool before adding the “mother.” Then cover the jar with some cheesecloth or a tea towel, secure the cover with an elastic band and put the jar in a warm spot for a week, tasting it along the way to see if it’s ready.
I like my kombucha fizzy, so when a batch is done, I funnel it into a plastic pop bottle and screw the lid on tight. Two days later, it’s bubbly and as delicious as what I was buying.
When your kombucha is done, you’ll have two “mothers.” You can start two new batches, give the new “mother” to a friend or just compost it.
Taking control of our food is empowering. For a long time now, we’ve been dependent on corporations for our nutritional needs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the best ways to get intimate with our own health is to create our own tasty healing remedies.
I hope you give kombucha a try and it makes you as happy as it makes me.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Evan Yerburgh