By Jordan Champagne, Happy Girl Kitchen Co.
Yields 1 quart
Many folks have had an experience with this mysterious beverage. It’s slightly fizzy and tangy, so unique and alive tasting that you know it must be good for you! Thought to have originated in China, this elixir of health has traveled the world since then, taking root in Russia alongside kvass and finally starting a craze here in America in the mid-1990s. Kombucha is sweetened black tea that is then cultured with a “mother,” or starter, fermenting into a sour, living tonic. The mother is a symbiotic colony of yeasts and beneficial bacteria that reproduce themselves while each batch is made, giving rise to a new gelatinous mass and the production of organic acids, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants and polyphenols. “These nutrients help harmonize and revitalize each individual’s unique condition for optimal health,” explains my friend Adam, who produces thousands of gallons in Santa Cruz through his company, Kombucha Botanica.
- 1 quart pure water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon loose black tea (or two tea bags)
- ½ cup kombucha mother (kombucha starter)
- Bring water and sugar to a boil, mixing thoroughly in a cooking pot. Turn off heat, add the tea and steep approximately 15 minutes. Strain the tea and let cool to body temperature.
- Transfer to your fermentation vessel. Glass seems an ideal container, so you can enjoy the mysterious SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts). Using a container that has a wide top compared to depth allows a larger culture to grow on the surface. Having a bottom spout allows you to easily drain off tea.
- Add the kombucha mother, with the opaque, firm side up, along with the liquid it is stored in. Cover with a cloth and let mature in warm location, around 70–85° F. Taste the liquid after a few days to 1 week, depending on temperature. A skin will develop on the surface—the new mother is taking shape. The tonic becomes more acidic the longer it ages. When it develops the sourness you prefer, it is finished. Take out the mother and store in a jar with a bit of liquid (up to a couple months) until you’re ready to make another batch.
- Store the finished kombucha tea in the fridge; you may leave it there for a month or so. Flavor it to add depth or sweetness as you like—ginger juice to add zing, pomegranate juice, maple syrup, orange juice or others.