If you haven’t encountered kombucha yet, or a kombucha-preaching friend, you probably will soon. It’s been getting a lot of attention lately, and it’s riding the tidal wave of popularity of homemade throwback fermented purportedly healthy food and drink. Doesn’t ring a bell? That’s okay. We’ve put together a primer to fill you in on the hows and the whys. But we’ll start with the basics: What is it?
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea. It becomes slightly effervescent through the fermentation of bacteria and yeast. There are many claims about the health benefits of the beverage, but scientific evidence is lacking. If you’re making it at home, you should be careful about sterilization and avoid over-fermentation, and it would be best to start by reading up on the approaches of well-practiced kombuchaphiles, as well as common pitfalls and troubleshooting tips.
Want to give it a go? Check out one of the many guides online. Which one to choose is up to you and your preferences, but a good place to start might be the Kombucha Journal, a multilingual site dedicated to all things kombucha, including recipes, history, and details on the chemistry of the bacterial culture. Another good guide is this one by The Kitchn, which takes you step-by-step through the process and includes a section on kombucha safety. Or you may want to visit Kombucha Kamp, which has a deep trove of tools to help you brew your own batch and source the ingredients you need to get going.
Generally speaking, to make kombucha you need water, sugar, black or green tea, starter tea from a previous batch, and a SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Don’t know what a SCOBY is? You’re in for a treat. It’s a big live lump of bacteria and yeast and it resembles a mushroom. You can buy yourself some SCOBY, get some from a friend or make it yourself.
Once you’ve brewed your batch and poured it, kombucha generally takes seven to ten days to ferment. Every brew is different, and you can create your own custom recipe by adding your favourite flavours, like fruit, ginger or juice. The finished product is usually a slightly tart, slightly sweet sipper with a truly unique odour and taste profile. It’s not easy to explain, so the best thing to do is just try it. Find a friend who makes it, buy some in a store, or take the plunge and brew some yourself. Don’t blame us if you get hooked.
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