For the last few months I’ve been brewing kombucha at home. For those unfamiliar with it, kombucha is a fermented tea product. It really just stems from sugar, tea and a SCOBY (we’ll get to that soon). At its roots, it’s simple, which is what drew me in – along with the fact that I love tea.
Many people drink kombucha for the touted health benefits, including improved digestion and detoxification. (You can read more about kombucha and its possible health benefits here.) I drink it because I generally like how it tastes — although there are almost endless flavor possibilities — and it makes my stomach feel better than when I don’t drink it.
I wanted to start brewing from scratch, meaning I didn’t want to cut any corners. But in order to brew your first batch, you need a SCOBY. What is a SCOBY, you ask? Good question. It’s an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (yum!) and this is what one looks like.
The purpose of a SCOBY is to digest sugar and turn it into vitamins, animo acids, enzymes and probiotics. I won’t even pretend like I have a grasp on all of the chemical reactions that take place within a ‘bucha brewing jar, but essentially, that’s what a SCOBY’s job is.
But how does one obtain a SCOBY? You either buy one or make your own. Since I wanted this process to be as authentic as possible, I decided I was going to make one. Off to Google: “How do you make a SCOBY?” It turns out that approximately 99.99% of valid directions on how to make a SCOBY involve using existing kombucha tea. Is it possible to grow one without the help of kombucha? Possibly, but it sounds like a LOT of work and I didn’t seem to have the resources to even try going that route.
So I gathered my ingredients: 6 bags of organic black tea, 1 cup of raw beet sugar, a few cups of water and 1 bottle of raw kombucha (purchased at Wegmans). After boiling the water, I used the 6 tea bags and sugar to create a small batch of very strong sweet black tea. Then, after it came down to room temperature, I combined both the tea and the raw kombucha into a mason jar and tied a coffee filter around the top (to let the gases that occur during fermentation escape). Then I waited. And waited…..and waited. Growing your own SCOBY is not for the impatient. It took me about a month to grow a thick, healthy specimen. Since I used black tea and green kombucha, the color was a little funky, but the color doesn’t affect the brewing capabilities. Bubbles and irregularities don’t either.
I’ve gone on to produce five gallons of kombucha, some winners, some not so much. I just recently brewed a super sour batch that I could only stomach by drinking one part ‘bucha and one part cranberry juice. My favorite flavor that I’ve produced so far is Strawberry Maple, although Apple Cinnamon is a close second.
‘Bucha brewing can be a fun hobby, and can help your body feel better! If you’re willing to put the time in (and deal with touching SCOBY’s) , you can reap the rewards!