How to make Kombucha Tea at home!
By Phillip Koh
Kombucha is a fermented Tea that is said to have originated in Manchuria (China) around 220 BCE. I first tried Kombucha tea while living in California, where it is much more popular than Florida where I live now. It has a level of mistique about it, and I remember first trying it in California either in Santa Cruz or San Francisco, where Kombucha is relatively popular and well-known, especially to the health-conscious and all-natural / & organic foods-loving crowd. It is popular especially because it has billions of Probiotics which are live bacteria and yeasts that is helpful to health, especially for one’s digestive system.
Kombucha is an acquired taste I must admit, and at first it may throw one off a bit in terms of its taste. Typically the drink is fizzy, due to natural carbonation created by fermentation process. Usually the carbonation is mild and not to the degree of a canned-soda. It also may throw someone off because it can have a bit of an off-taste and even could have some (gassy, sulfury) odor, especially while brewing in room temperature. Once Kombucha is matured enough in fermentation process and has been chilled, one should largely be able to enjoy it without it having a significant odor, and should be barely noticeable if at all. Kombucha tea typically has a tart taste mixed in, and the level of tartness / sourness depends on the level of maturity of the tea. These two factors, possibly off-putting slight odor plus the unusual taste, along with the psychological factor of trying out something like this – that is ‘alive’ and have been fermenting at room temperature for days or even weeks – can be somewhat daunting to the uninitiated. I was a bit scared, or at least a bit nervous to try it, and even more nervous to make it at home later. I did get used to the taste after a few tries and started to actually enjoy the flavors that is unique to the mysterious and intriguing drink that is Kombucha. I think it does help me digest, so when I have had a big heavy meal, I usually drink it right afterward and it seems to really help with digestion. Also, when I have eaten a heavier meat-centric meal, my body automatically sort of calls for a glass of Kombucha. Thus I drink like a half glass of Kombucha afterward and my body really likes it. Even here in the East Coast where it is less widely consumed, you can find them still relatively easily in a health food stores in the likes of Whole Foods supermarket or Trader Joe’s, and often even at a standard grocery stores if one looks hard enough. I was able to find a commercially produced Kombucha at a local Publix supermarket in my neighborhood some time ago and thought to myself, what if I can make these at home? They are or can be $3-4 or more per 12 to 16 oz bottle at the store or Farmers Market, and once you get over the initial investment of purchasing a kit, and maybe reusable bottles, the ongoing cost for brewing Kombucha goes way low per bottle, not to mention the convenience of having plentiful amount of high-quality Kombucha ready for consumption at any time at home.
I did some research and found out that Amazon sells a few different brands of Kombucha Starter Kit that has everything from the big glass Jar, to the bag of organic sugar and high quality organic leafy black tea, and the essential ingredients such as SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) and instructions, etc. that is required to successfully start and brew the first batch. Since the real crucial ingredient in the kit, or for any beginner is the live SCOBY culture, which looks like a white/yellow colored mass normally in a hockey-puck or disk-like shape, you can get the same type of Starter Kit with everything in it, or purchase SCOBY seperately and get the other ingredients seperately. But the first starter kit was really good and super convenient, and I was able to make my first batch of Kombucha, well at least start brewing it, in a pretty short amount of time, little amount of labor and easy with the kit. Once I made the first batch, I didn’t have to buy the kit again, I just started ordering high quality leafy black tea from Amazon.com and I use the organic cane sugar I bought in bulk from Sam’s Club I am a member of. I also personally use my laser temperature gun (you can just use the temperature gauge strip that comes in the starter kit usually) to check that the temperature had come down within brewing range after first making the hot sweet tea before going into fermentation. I personally use an electronic ph-level tester which gauges acidity (once brewed/matured Kombucha ph level should be apx. between 2.5-3.5) The starter-kit should come with a small book of disposable ph-level tester-strips which produce a range of different colors according to the ph level so you don’t need the electronic gauge, but I love using it, since it’s more accurate and quick as well as convenient and reusable with battery, and it is worth it for me personally because I brew batches of them regularly now. After making a couple of batches, I also purchased a beverage dispenser so I can use what is called the Continuous Brewing method and I just dispense the amount I want to bottle, and fill them up through spignot (usually through a funnel) at the bottom and fill up the top of the dispenser with fresh sweet tea when the level of kombucha tea in it goes too low. This is great method for more experienced brewers and for those who drink kombucha regularly like I do. If you are not ready for the Continuous Brewing method, no need to worry, you can just use the gallon+ size glass jar (same one that comes in the kit) and use batch-method (brew each batch seperately) re-using SCOBY from the initial batch. From fresh sweet tea to mature kombucha will take anywhere from 7-21 days or so, (and generally shorter for continuous brewing method) and when you consume it will depend on your tastebuds and how tart you want it (or how sweet you want it, if you want it sweeter) etc.
I also purchased a Kombucha book that has everything one needs to know about Kombucha, and I did use that as the main reference that and continue to refer to it as needed since I finished my first batch with the starter kit.
So there you go, all you need as an interested beginner is the convenient Starter Kit, and a little bit of additional knowledge (and perhaps a book to support it) to continue brewing this amazing drink. At first I was skeptical, then I made myself try it a few times, and I started liking it, and now I am addicted to it. I really do feel like it helps clean out my digestive track as a general long-term maintenance measure as well as help out greatly in temporary digestion especially after a heavy meal.
*caution* make and consume Kombucha tea at your own risk. If you know somewhat what you are doing when making them, and don’t contaminate them in obvious ways, it should be fine in my opinion and in my experience, but Wikipedia do warn consumers and potential consumers of dangers and risks of Kombucha: Read the Wikipedia Description Here I recommend consulting your doctor or health professional if you have any doubts, or totally scared but still interested in trying it, but for those that are willing to take the risk – real or imagined – now you know what to do! Cheers! 🙂
Above is the video of me trying the First glass of the First batch of Kombucha that I made, it was really good! 🙂