Sunday, January 9, 2011

My "Kombucha"

Do you drink Kombucha Tea? I'm talking about the organic, raw, fermented bottled teas you can sometimes find in better grocery stores. I say sometimes because ever since I began liking the teas (Lindsay, of "Kiss Me, I'm Vegan" was right -- they are an acquired taste) the north Atlanta Kombucha supply has been slim. Whole Foods does not carry them at all. Sometimes Kroger will have just one bottle left for me to snap up, sometimes nothing. The labels are on the edge of the shelf, but the shelf is empty. Publix? Nope. Something seems to be going on with Kombucha.

I read on a blog somewhere that we can make our own Kombucha, so I googled it. In the list of ingredients is something called a "mother" which is actually a symbiotic collection of yeast molds that work together with a sugar source to create the fermentation process necessary for Kombucha. I wouldn't even know where to start looking for such a thing. It is described as spongy, and after you make a batch, you remove the "mother" and use it again in the next batch. So, you probably think I should go to some health food store and ask about where to get a "mother". No, I'm not gonna do it. I'm just not putting myself through that.

Georgia, I love you, and you have come a long, long way since I asked a store manager ten years ago about where to find pine nuts, only to have him stare at me, eyes wide, and repeat in a thick southern accent, "PINE  . . . . . NUTS?" then shake his head and walk away from me. There are some serious country folk down here, and a lot of them think I'm from Mars.

So an idea popped into my head:  the Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar has, "with the Mother" on it's label. Since I previously didn't know what a "mother" was, I had just ignored it, up 'til now, that is. Next step, I googled Bragg's for a recipe.  On the website is an explanation that recently the FDA has been cracking down on Kombucha sales because of the notion that the tea contains alcohol. I think this is a bunch of baloney -- I can detect the scant amount of alcohol in a non-alcoholic beer, and I think I would be able to tell if Kombucha contained it. It is said that Kombucha can become addictive. Well, maybe, but because of the energetic well-being it imparts, in my opinion, not because of alcohol. So this FDA crackdown is at the heart of the matter of why I can't find my ginger kombucha!  FDA, you are overreaching once again, yada yada . . .

Bragg's response to the Kombucha hullabaloo was to create a variety of Apple Cider Vinegar drinks that are purported to impart similar health benefits to the Kombucha. Of course they don't appear on our Georgia shelves either.  So I just made up my own recipe, which is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself, if not identical to the contraband version. Here it is:

Cheryl's Kombucha Tea
4 cups distilled water
1 kukicha twig tea bag
1 Triple Leaf Detox tea bag, or other herbal tea
8 Tbsp. Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
8 Tbsp. Agave Syrup
4 Tbsp. grated ginger
In a pan, bring the water just to a boil, then pour it over the teabags in a ceramic or glass teapot. Don't use metal anymore after this, since it can stop any fermentation. The teas I chose work well with a long steeping time, so I just left them in the pot until the tea cooled to room temperature. If you choose a green tea, you will want to remove the teabag after about 3 minutes or the tea will become bitter. Once the tea has cooled to room temperature, remove the teabags and add the other ingredients, stirring with a wooden or other non-metal spoon. I handled the ensuing fermentation in much the same way as we make the radish umeboshi vinegar pickles from The Kind Diet. Set the teapot aside, at room temperature, loosely covered with a lid or with cheesecloth for at least 24 hours, and not more than 3 days. Then refrigerate the tea. 

My measurements were based on the size of my teapot, which holds 4 cups of liquid with space enough to add other ingredients. You can tinker with the amounts according to what works for you. Basically, after the tea is brewed, for each cup the proportions should be 2 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 Tbsp. agave and 1 Tbsp. ginger.

I taste-tested my tea as I went along, having some right away -- no bubbles at all, just a flavorful, refreshing iced tea. After about 24 hours the tea was definitely not as bubbly as the storebought Kombucha, but I did detect a slight tingle on the tongue. I will try it again tomorrow, but I will be surprised if the effervescence increases by very much. I have some ancient experience with the idea of creating fermentation (my husband and I used to be master home-brew beer makers back in the day, when time was not such a hot commodity) and I do realize that sugar -- the plain old white stuff -- was crucial to setting up the bubbling process. Come to think of it, so was bottling, hmmm, I need to seal the tea so it stops "breathing!" I'm going to go wash out our empty tequila bottle with a cork and put it to good use! I'll let you know what happens.

Verdict on this homemade kombucha experiment:  Worthwhile. The tea is similar to the stuff that used to be in the stores, but not the same. I cannot claim that it is organic, I can't claim that it is raw -- maybe if I didn't bring the water to a boil? but the agave syrup, how is that prepared? My tea is delicious, refreshing and does impart a calm sense of well being, mostly from the alkalinizing kukicha and vinegar. I'll be making this again. If any of you have experience making kombucha of your own, please share your methods. I'd love to know!

Incidentally, my husband, watching me performing what he called my "witchcraft" said, "You are just like Eula!" he was referring to my grandmother who passed away when I was only 12. He was right. In that moment I was just like that wonderful lady. I'll take the compliment!


  1. You are a braver person than I. I have attempted to drink kombucha and I have forced my husband to drink it too, but as of late, I have n interest. I know I am being a chicken about this, but it is not for faint hearted
    I commend you for making it yourself! What ingenuity~

  2. Yeah, I really hated it at first -- the green flavor -- still don't care for that one, but after I had a couple of the ginger flavored ones, I started to crave! Thanks for reading!

  3. What a kitchen witch you are! ;) (It is indeed a compliment!) I've only hesitantly tasted kombucha, but this is so inspiring, I might have to try making my own!

  4. I love kombucha. I am so impressed that you made it in your kitchen. I have never purchased the ginger flavor so I am excited to make this. Good job!!

  5. Very cool! You go girl! I'm proud of you too :D

  6. Debbie and Jeri -- Thanks! Ginger is my favorite flavor of the bottled kind, and it is probably the easiest to make!