Kombucha is all the craze as of late, but what many people forget is that Kombucha as well as many other fermented foods + bevs have been around for centuries! We are finally getting on board with a more simplistic way of thinking about our health and wellness by going back to basics.
I have been brewing Kombucha for years! It all began because I once had plans to open a Kombucha business. That dream has since evolved and I now continue to brew for the benefit of my own health and the health of my loved ones. I have had a lot of people ask me about the in’s and out’s of Kombucha. How to make it, what it’s good for and how much is too much. So… I figured it was time for me to put my years of brewing into writing for all my past, present and future buchers out there.
So what even is Kombucha?
Put simply Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage with a slight vinegar-y taste that is a tad fizzy.
Kombucha is thought to originate in China or Japan.
It was said to be invented in the Qin Dynasty (220BC) for the Emperor Qinshi Huangdi. The Chinese are famed for their quest for longevity which can be seen through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Always looking to nature to cure what ails them. At that time it was called “The Tea of Immortality.” Chá (茶) is the Chinese word for tea, but it’s name has developed over the years from “sea treasure” to “red tea mushroom”. During the Cultural Revolution, every household had a pot of Kombucha brewing, but it has fallen out of the daily routine of the modern Chinese lifestyle and like many things has continued to gained traction in the western world!
Other origin stories go on to say that the warriors of ancient Japan kept the tea in wine skins as it gave them energy for battle.
Kombucha is made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to black or green tea, then allowing it to ferment for a week or more depending on the size of the batch. During this process, bacteria and yeast form a mushroom-like film on the surface of the liquid. (Hence why kombucha is commonly known as "mushroom tea.") This bologna-looking blog is known as a SCOBY or a living Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, and is used to introduce beneficial bacteria through the process of fermentation. Without getting to “science-y” …. The fermentation process produces acetic acid (also found in vinegar) and several other acidic compounds, trace levels of alcohol and gases that make it carbonated. A large amount of probiotic bacteria is also introduced during fermentation. The process of fermentation all stemmed from an evolutionary place of preservation as fermented goods have a much longer shelf-life than non-fermented goods (up to 6 months). The benefits were discovered much later when we began studying the effects of probiotics on modern health. Probiotics provide your gut with healthy bacteria. These bacteria can improve many aspects of health, including digestion, inflammation and even weight loss. For this reason, adding probiotics foods like kombucha to your diet might improve your health in many ways.
We’ve all heard these buzz words right? Fermented….Probiotic…. Beneficial bacteria…. But what does it all mean??
Getting a probiotic in your diet daily is key to healing, maintaining and sustaining a healthy life! We are often told to look for probiotic supplements that contain a CFU (Colony Forming Unit) of 10 billion - 100 billion. That means that there are 10-100 billion different strains of bacteria present. Now, this may sound like a lot, but fermented food items like Kombucha and Kefir can contain as much as 150 billion CFU per tablespoon. (source) If I had known this in the first few years of my health journey, I would have saved a lot of money on unnecessary probiotic supplements. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything, but GEEZ LOUISE!
Kombucha has an incredible amount of health benefits from the obvious to the not so obvious.
Here are the top 3:
Kombucha is a great source of probiotics and has been known to kill bad bacteria.
Kombucha contains antioxidants (source)
Kombucha can help protect against + prevent chronic diseases such as Cancer (source), Type 2 Diabetes (source), and Heart Disease (source)
I am not a huge fan of blanket statements, but when it comes to Kombucha too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. There will always be things to be cautious of when implementing probiotics into your diet, especially for the first time.
Kombucha contains lactic acid, and there is some thought that, in excess, drinking kombucha could cause lactic acidosis, a build-up of lactic acid in the blood stream that can be life-threatening. But as long as you’re not guzzling bottle after bottle, the risk is pretty slim.
Watch out for added ingredients like sugar (aim for kombucha with 5 grams of sugar or less). Just like anything else you ingest, if there are ingredients present that you wouldn’t be able to find on the grocery store shelves, there’s a good chance you don’t want to put that in your body.
If you are pregnant, nursing or wish to become pregnant, consult with your doc/dula/midwife/obgyn before consuming!
Home-brew is obviously less regulated, if you are brewing from home be sure you are taking the necessary precautions to avoid mold, excess exposure to outside bacteria and pathogens. Don’t let this sway you from brewing at home! Home-brew can be super rewarding, delicious and nutritious when made correctly.
Enough of all that boring science, now onto the fun part!
1 gallon (4 liters) purified or bottled chlorine-free water
4-6 tea bags or 4-6 teaspoons loose leaf tea (I like this one)
1 cup (200g) raw cane sugar
Kombucha Mother Culture – SCOBY (get one from a bucha brewing friend or click the link to buy online)
1-2 cups (250-500ml) strong starter liquid (well-fermented Kombucha or Apple Cider Vinegar)
pot or tea kettle
brewing vessel at least 1 gallon in size ( I use a big glass mason jar)
stirring spoon (wooden, never metal)
tight weave cloth cover (no cheesecloth) and rubber band
bottles with tightly closing lids
Boil 16 cups (4 liters) of purified water.
Add hot water & tea to pot or brewing vessel.
Steep 7-15 minutes, then remove tea.
Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Check to make sure the sweet tea is body temperature or below. A clean finger is the perfect tool!
Once it is, add SCOBY and starter liquid.
Cover with cloth cover and rubber band
Place the container in a warm, ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 7- 21 days (depends on taste). 75-85°F (24-29°C) is the best range, 80°F (27°C) is ideal. It may or may not get fizzy. The SCOBY may rise to the top or sink to the bottom, doesn’t matter, the new culture will always form at the top.
After 7-21 days, or when you are ready to taste your brew, gently insert a straw beneath the SCOBY and take a sip. If too tart, then reduce your brewing cycle next time OR add more sweet tea. If too sweet, allow to brew for a few more days. Continue to taste every day or so until you reach your optimum flavor preference. Your own Kombucha Recipe may vary.
Set aside your SCOBY(s) and starter liquid (2 cups if possible) for the next batch. This is called a SCOBY HOTEL! Simply store the scoby in the liquid in a warm, dark place. Be sure the liquid covers the scoby!
Flavor your kombucha (optional).
If you decide to flavor:
When your kombucha tastes like it could continue to ferment for 2-4 more days ( a little tart + a hint of sweet) It’s ready for flavoring.
Take whole fruits and puree them in a blender. Add 1 inch of fruit to the bottom of your jar of choice.
Add any herbs or flowers of your choice
Let this mixture sit out like a normal Kombucha batch for 2-4 more days.
Put in the fridge until ready to drink.
Strain and enjoy!
There you have it folks! The in’s and out’s of Kombucha, its history, benefits, and brewing how-to.