KOMBUCHA

I learned about this cultured tea in 2009 from Kristina’s best friend. She introduced it to me by calling it “medicine.” She said it help with “gut heath.” The Kombucha was made by GT which is one of the most popular commercial brands. GT has several different flavors. I had a sip of the Trilogy- raspberry, lemon and ginger and I didn’t not much care for the taste of it. When I found out it was $3.50- $4.00 a bottle, I thought her hippie drink and unprocessed-whole food diet was: trendy, over priced and unsustainable for a working class guy like myself.

Kristina’s best friend came in from her out of state home 8 months later and was still drinking GT’s Kombucha. She could see I was sick of the standard American diet and told me I could replace pop by drinking a Kombucha a day; Kombucha has a slight carbonated feel. Again, I thought there was NO way I would pay $4.00 for a 16oz bottle of this stuff a day. It made far much more sense to drink Mountain Dew.

At about this same time, in February 2010, I was very interested in an unprocessed- whole foods diet. I started to buy books on fruits and vegetables, learn about organic foods and took my first steps into Whole Foods. I generally go on a serious diet every 9-12 months for a few months. This was the start of a diet.

I slowly started to drink GT’s Kombucha, trying different flavors. By spring I drank a $3.59 Kombucha everyday for months. I was addicted to the stuff. For me it helped with digestion, but it is a great appetite controller. I honestly have less of a desire to eat while I am drinking Kombucha.

In the summer of 2010 there were some “labeling” issues with GT’s Kombucha and they took it off the shelves for several weeks. Due to the fermentation process there are small amounts of alcohol in it. Thankfully I was doing a Daniel Fast, which is: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, good oils, herbs and water. So I was not drinking Kombucha at the time. I can remember being in Whole Foods asking what happened to the Kombucha and thinking- I would have punched somebody if I went in there wanting one and they took it off the shelves. After the Daniel Fast I started to buy other Kombucha’s. There are different makers of the stuff, including a company in Saint Paul.

I then wanted to make Kombucha myself. It didn’t sound as hard as I thought it would be. Most of it was time waiting for the Kombucha mother to grow. The “mother” is a colony of yeast and good bacteria that looks similar to a jelly fish or a pancake. It’s sort of nasty. I found a few ads on craigslist for a Kombucha mother and I went and bought a small one with some starter Kombucha for $5. You need a living mother to make the tea and the mother continues to grow as it ages. It goes from being a very thin pancake to having several layers and being very thick.

My Kombucha mother came in a Ball wide-mouth pint jar. It needs a large surface area to do well. I went out and bought two- one gallon glass pitchers from Target for $20 apiece. The pitchers are very wide and are perfect for Kombucha brewing. My mothers grew and I was getting up-to two gallons of Kombucha a week.

The recipe I used was very basic: make one gallon of sweet-tea, add the mother and wait. Kombucha is normally made in a tea. It typically is black tea or green tea. I would brew the tea, add turbinado sugar, let it cool, put it in the pitcher, and then add the Kombucha starter and the mother. You then need to wait for the tea to age, or ferment, or for the yeast and bacteria to grow- making the tea taste slightly like vinegar. I read GT’s Kombucha is made in 30 days, so I tried to let mine age for that long. I thought that was too long, I normally did 1-2 weeks and then bottled the drink and started over.

Bottling it was difficult. I wasn’t sure what to put it in. I put it in Ball wide mouth jars because that’s what was available, but it didn’t seem to appealing. I went out and bought some beer with swing top bottle and put it in that. That got expensive and I didn’t want cops to think I was drinking and driving. I did use GT’s glass bottles, but I wanted my own.

After a couple months of making the stuff I let it go. Kristina hated the pitchers sitting on our kitchen counter. It takes work to brew tea, let the tea cool, add the mother, clean everything, let it age until it taste good, bottle it and drink it. I do like GT’s Kombucha over mine. For two reasons: I like a consistent taste, mine was not always consistent. Also dealing with that mother- is weird; it’s big and strange looking.

All the reasons you question drinking Kombucha are multiplied when you brew it yourself. You see the mother and you know that tea has sat on your counter a week with that mother. It’s hard to take that first drink of homemade Kombucha. It’s easier buying it in a nice store, in a clean bottle. You also have to be clean while making the Kombucha. The pitcher needs to be clean, your hands and arms need to be clean and you have to protect the tea while it ages from flying insects (you can do that with a piece of cloth over the pitcher.) You worry about the tea “going bad” somehow.

I let my Kombucha sit from last winter to this summer when we moved. Two- one gallon pitchers half full of tea with a very thick mother sitting in them. It was pretty hard-core when I cleaned those things out. The mother was thick and hard. The mother always floats on top, so it covers any smell, when I took the mother out the smell cover the whole house. My anti-Kombucha loving wife said the house was not fit to be in for a good day after I clean out those pitches. I ended up composting my two large mothers.    

I got back to drinking Kombucha. Again I started to question if paying over $3.50 for 16oz drink was ethical. I want a DIY attitude and I had the equipment to make the stuff, so I brewed a gallon. Legit-Good-Stuff! I used a basic recipe for tea and expanded on it. Instead of all black tea I wanted to use some medicinal herbs. I have some echinacea growing in the yard and I some hollyhock roots. I used a half gallon of spring water, brought it to a boil and added the hollyhock and echinacea roots. I let it boil for a few hours. I then added six black tea packets. I pulled the black tea packets out after ten minutes and left the roots in the pot until the tea completely cooled. After it cooled I pulled the roots out I added one cup of local raw honey and mixed that in. I added that to a one gallon pitcher.

This is my second batch

I let a mother age from two bottles of GT’s Kombucha. I bought the Kombucha a month before I made the tea and let them sit in one of the pictures all that time. You don’t need a visible mother in order to make Kombucha, but you need to allow the store bought stuff time to grow.

After combining the tea and the mother in the pitcher I let it sit on the shelf for a week. I bottled it in Ball wide mouth pint jars. I got a full gallon with enough left over for a starter; the starter should be 1 cup of Kombucha per gallon.

This is the finished first batch- Echinacea, Hollyhock and Raw Honey

The taste of the tea is AWESOME! It is by far the best stuff I have made. I didn’t let it age too long; maybe a week at tops. You can taste the honey and the roots. It tastes very similar to apple juice. Since I didn’t let it age that long it is not too vinegary. The tea is a black tea color with strands of the culture in it. It is raw and awesome! It cost about $1 per 16oz and it does help with appetite control. 

I have always been cautious about drinking my Kombucha. I drank 8oz of warm Kombucha while I was putting the rest of it in jars. Then I chilled the rest of it and drank another 8oz the next day. I waited to see if it was going to throw up or shit all over the place…and I didn’t. That means it’s safe to drink. Right?

I canned the tea, set aside the mother and clean out the sediment and crap from the gallon jar. Then I looked around my kitchen for some more tea I could turn into Kombucha and started on my second batch.

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