Kombucha: Do you dare?
I’ve been reading a lot about fermented foods lately and I have to admit, I’m intrigued. They’re packed with natural probiotics and aid in our absorption of the nutrients in our food. My personal opinion is that the short cuts on food production and preparation are playing a large role in the general demise of our health and natural food fermentation is one way of getting back to natural food preparation.
It turns out, that if you look for the right things, there are actually a lot of different fermented foods to choose from (but you have to be careful. Some previously fermented foods are now made in a way that doesn’t include the fermentation due to the risk of bad bacteria being added in). I happen to love yogurt and my family uses it almost daily (especially in the hot summer months for yogurt/berry smoothies), but as with most things, in my opinion, variety is the spice of life. Well, unless I wanted to up my intake of wine, beer or authentic sourdough bread, I was pretty much stuck with yogurt for my regular intake.
Enter Kombucha. I heard a lot during it’s rise in popularity a few years back but was always turned off by the price and didn’t have the time to try it on my own. But then, a good friend of mine said that she had just gotten a starter kit, but decided to not keep it going. Would I like it? Uh… yes please! Now to be honest, there’s not a lot of research out there on Kombucha. The general consensus is that as long as it made correctly it’s not harmful, but the health benefits are yet unknown (assuming of course there are some). My interest and reason for going ahead with this project are more spurred on by my general belief in raw/fermented foods (i.e. apple cider vinegar, natural yeast), and my love of making things myself.
So I’ve embarked on my first journey of making Kombucha. I bottled my first batch a few weeks ago (Yum!) and have my second brewing (this time starting with ginger peach black tea to try a new flavor). I also started my “Scoby Hotel” with the extra Scobys that form each time you make a batch. It is amazingly easy to do and you can find wealth of information online (see below). My favorite resource is actually the journal article written up for the FDA (top link under ‘how to make Kombucha’ below).
A few words of caution: It’s tempting to want to refrigerate your unused Scobys, but in all I’ve read it’s actually a good way to weaken your Scoby and risk unwanted bacteria from entering the mixture. A healthy (warm) Scoby will be a good mix of bacteria and yeast and will fight off unwanted bacteria much better than a Scoby weakened by colder temperatures. Also, make sure you’re disinfecting everything you use when making it (by boiling utensils and containers, NOT using actual chemical disinfectant), just like you would when canning, or making jams, etc. If you start with a sterile environment, you’ll be much better off. And in making Kombucha, the most important thing to monitor is pH levels (tea starts at 5 and over the fermentation time should drop to somewhere between 2.5 & 4.2. If it drops too much or too little then you have problems). Finding a way to test at home is a good idea. If you have the correct pH levels, then you’re going to be pretty safe. Of course, you can always go out to the store and buy some… just be prepared for sticker shock (and make sure you look for raw varieties – pasteurization is just a fancy word for making something sterile, thereby getting rid of all that potentially beneficial bacteria).
Next up in the vast world of fermentation… learning to bake using sourdough starter instead of active dry yeast (I’m learning this might make a huge difference in digestion), and finding local raw milk to start making my own yogurt. Wish me luck!
Kombucha/Fermented Food resources:
How to make Kombucha:
For a Scoby Hotel: