Kombucha Tea

I was reading a book that explained how to use fermentation in order to preserve foods for longer periods of time without canning or freezing. The section about fermented drinks and Kombucha caught my eye because of it’s purported health benefits. It claimed to be able to tame acid reflux and other digestive problems. A friend of mine has an 18 year old son that has had 3 surgeries on his stomach to fix the problems that his acid reflux are causing it interested me. I wondered if it could help him so I researched more.

In the beginning of my research on the claims of this fermented tea I remembered where I had heard the name kombucha before. Back in the early 90’s my mother had this slimy mushroom thing in a bowl with tea on the counter in the kitchen. She called it Kombucha Tea. I called it home made vinegar. She drank a glass every day and said that she treated it like medicine. Down the hatch! Needless to say, it wasn’t suitable for sipping. Now that I brew it myself I think she may have been letting it ferment a little too long.

What is it?

Basically, it is fermented tea. The fermentation process adds a beneficial, probiotic bacteria to the tea. There are claims that it originated in China or Japan over 2000 years ago and made people immortal. The ingredients are regular tea (so far I have only used black tea, the same stuff you make iced tea from), sugar and a SCOBY. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony Of  Bacteria and Yeast. They sit in a jar together for 5 – 7 days and ferment.

What makes it beneficial to my health?

From www.kombuchacamp.com:

Benefits:
*Probiotics – healthy bacteria
*Alkalize the body – balances internal pH
*Detoxify the liver – happy liver = happy mood
*Increase metabolism – rev your internal engine
*Improve digestion – keep your system moving
*Rebuild connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism
*Cancer prevention
*Alleviate constipation
*Boost energy – helps with chronic fatigue
*Reduce blood pressure
*Relieve headaches & migraines
*Reduce kidney stones
*High in antioxidants – destroy free-radicals that cause cancer
*High in polyphenols
*Improve eyesight
*Heal excema – can be applied topically to soften the skin
*Prevent artheriosclerosis
*Speed healing of ulcers – kills h.pylori on contact
*Help clear up candida & yeast infections
*Aid healthy cell regeneration
*Reduce gray hair
*Lower glucose levels – prevents spiking from eating

If you do more research you will probably be able to add to this list.

What does it do for me, you ask? For the first few weeks I could feel a definite energy boost and mental clarity, especially if I drank it first thing in the morning. I am sparing the details for you but it does affect my liver and bowels in a positive way. My wife also feels the energy boost and clarity but there are more benefits for her. She does not have a gall bladder anymore due to the most wise opinions of a doctor when she was younger. (I may have not conveyed the sarcasm heavily enough in the last half of that sentence. Please, know it is meant to be there.) Therefore, she is prone to constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and other most unpleasant side effects from having unrefined bile secreted directly into her stomach. The kombucha tea seems to help regulate her guts better than any of the pharmaceutical options do and it usually tames her heartburn within 5 minutes.

You can find more solid info at Wikipedia also.

I have also found some warnings on the use of kombucha for people with certain conditions.

Where do I get it?

You can buy it at health food stores for $2 a bottle if you would like. I have never tried it because I am not going to spend $2 a day for something I can make myself for $2 a week. Plus I would think that the pasteurization process would kill the beneficial bacteria, thus rendering the healthy tea in to regular tea. In order for you to produce your own you need to find someone who makes kombucha already to get a SCOBY from. There are people advertising online that will  send you a SCOBY and some starter tea for $20. I put an ad on Craigslist once a month for two months and a lady called and said she could help me. I met her and she gave me my first SCOBY. Side Note: She also told me that she brewed and fed the tea to a friend with cancer and within 6 months she was cancer free. Make sure you get some fermented ‘starter’ tea with your SCOBY. This helps give the fermentation process a jump start.

How do I make it?

While you are on your quest for a SCOBY you can gather all of the many things you will need to start brewing. Make sure everything you use in the process is very clean. If you introduce a different type of bacteria it could kill your SCOBY or taint your tea.

  1. Preferably a glass jar at least 1 gallon in size. I use an old crockpot from Goodwill but people say that the acidity of the tea could leach paint from the ceramics… blah, blah, blah. When I find a glass jar big enough I will switch.
  2. Cheesecloth to keep bugs out and let air in.
  3. Uh… Hmmm.  I guess that is it. You will need some regular kitchen stuff for making the gallon of tea and transferring SCOBYS but nothing you don’t already have on hand.

One thing you can not use: METAL. Nothing metal should ever touch the tea once you add the SCOBY and never store the fermented tea or SCOBYs in metal. It might be able to leach paint off from ceramics but it can eat metal which will taint or kill the bacteria and harm you.

The actual process goes like this:

  1. Boil 1 gallon of water
  2. Add 1 cup sugar
  3. Add 5 bags of black tea and remove from the heat
  4. Remove the tea bags after 10 minutes or so and let it cool to room temperature
  5. Pour your tea into your fermenting container
  6. Add your SCOBY and the starter tea.

After 5 – 7 days it should be done. Some people get technical and test the pH levels. I dip a plastic or wood ladle and taste mine. If it is still sweet let it ferment longer. After you brew 4 or 5 batches you will get the hang of it and you will be able to tell by the taste alone.

When I think it is done I pour it from the crock into a pitcher and then into a washed out juice bottle. I also save a cup or two with the SCOBY as starter tea for the next batch. The tea is now very carbonated so when you pour it you should have a big head similar to beer. Some people will pour it into individual serving, sealed glass jars and let it ferment for another few days. They say it will make it more effervescent, but I am not there yet. It is ready to drink now or this is also the point where you are able to add flavors. My wife likes to add fresh grated ginger with a few slices of lime and let it sit for a few more days. We have tried strawberries, blueberries and next I want to try mint leaves. There are lots of kombucha recipes on the internet for you to experiment with.

During the fermentation process your ‘mother’ SCOBY will create a ‘baby’ SCOBY on top. The baby is another layer of bacteria and can be peeled apart from the mother. Then they both can be used in separate batches or given away to others you tell about how good it makes you feel. You should always keep an extra SCOBY for back up in a large jar covered in tea just in case you have an accident with your current batch. Do not ever store a SCOBY in the refrigerator as it will go dormant.

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