Often referred to as a mushroom, kombucha is actually a living culture composed of yeasts, bacteria and cellulose living in a symbiotic relationship. During the fermentation process the kombucha culture is introduced to a medium (black tea sweetened with white sugar), and over time the yeasts break down the sugar and the bacteria digests yeast byproducts, resulting in kombucha tea.
Kombucha tea has a 2,000 year history as a tonic or elixir and is believed to have originated in China. According to anecdotal reports, kombucha tea offers many life enhancing and healing qualities including:
- Increased energy
- Clear skin
- Improved hair and nail quality
- Weight loss and reduced fluid retention
- Arthritic pain relief
- Improved digestion
- Allergy reduction
- Assists with addiction
- Speeds healing
- Improved mental health
- Regulation of blood glucose
- Reduces PMS
- Improved immunity
Like many other alternative therapies, I have not found a formal study on the health benefits of kombucha consumption, so there is no “proof” of its healing qualities. In my own practice I drink about 4-6 ounces of kombucha in the morning and afternoon, and I believe it has enhanced my digestion and overall health. I don’t think of it is a cure-all but rather a component of a whole foods diet.
While mass-produced kombucha tea products are increasingly available at natural food stores, you’ll save money and enjoy a better product if you brew it at home. The first step in the brewing process is to secure a kombucha culture or “scoby” (pictured below). Kombucha cultures naturally regenerate throughout the fermentation process, so if you know someone who brews kombucha at home they will often have an extra culture to share.
Here is what you will need to set up your kombucha tea brewery:
- 4 quart stainless steel pot
- Glass measuring cup
- Wooden spoons
- 4 quart glass container
- 1 clean cotton dishtowel
- Rubber band
- 4 24-ounce ball jars with lids
- 4 organic black tea bags
- 3 quarts of filtered water
- 1 cup organic white sugar
- 1 kombucha culture
- ½ cup starter liquid
- Create a clean work area and thoroughly wash your hands and brewing equipment.
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a low boil and then stir in the organic white sugar.
- When the water has come to a boil, turn of the heat source and remove the pot from the burner. Add organic black tea bags and steep until cool
- Remove the tea bags
- Pour the tea into the glass container and add the starter liquid (kombucha from previous batch or the liquid that arrived with the culture).
- Place the kombucha culture on top of the tea with the smooth shiny layer facing up.
- Cover the fermentation container with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band or string.
- Place the fermentation container in a warm, quiet, dim place and brew for 7-10 days (depending on the ambient temperature).
- Remove the white cloth from your glass container. Your “mother” culture will probably produced a “baby”; remove both cultures from the bowl and separate the baby from the mother by pulling apart gently. Put both cultures in a separate glass bowl and add newly harvested tea to cover.
- Pour the remaining kombucha tea from your glass container into ball jars and store in refrigerator.
- Allow kombucha tea to chill and it is ready to drink. The kombucha tea will continue to ferment while in the ball jars (at a slightly slower speed if refrigerated) so the taste will change over time.
- Start the process again right away in order to preserve the cultures (you can make two separate batches with the “mother” and “baby” cultures).