Kombucha has been a trending wellness drink for the last couple of years, and while I only recently jumped on this bandwagon within the last year, this age-old, fermented tea drink has been around for centuries. Traditionally made of black tea and sugar, kombucha becomes a powerful health-aid drink containing a variety of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that yield after the fermentation process.
It is said that drinking kombucha regularly can help with the following - liver detoxification, improved pancreas function, increased energy, better digestion, mood improvement (helps with anxiety/depression), nutrient assimilation, and even beneficial for weight loss. Sounds like a magical potion, doesn't it? Perhaps that's one of the greatest marketing schemes of all time, but either way, the kombucha market is doing very well right now and I don't see it slowing down any time soon. Honestly, it's hard for me to judge a lot of it's benefits because I don't have many health issues at my age and don't actively monitor my stats for many of these issues (except weigh loss, which I haven't really noticed a difference). I simply enjoy drinking it, and I think it's just an added bonus that it has these extra health benefits!
I first started picking up a Health-Aid Kombucha Bottle whenever I was at the check out at Whole Foods (Pink Lady Apple is my favorite), and I was surprised by how much I loved it even though I am not the biggest fan of soda or carbonated drinks. But there was something about the fizziness of kombucha that I really enjoyed. There are countless flavors and varieties to choose from that it is almost overwhelming picking which buch to get for the day. And while I treated myself to a bottle once or twice a week, it isn't really the most sustainable spending habit either, especially since a small bottle can range anywhere from $4 to $10 in NYC. Blake suggested in November that we begin making our own kombucha at home after we both discovered our mutual love for it. Actually, he's been drinking it for much longer than I have and I couldn't believe the stash of of 1.4 liter GT's Synergy glass bottles he was hiding in his closet. Seriously, there were like 2 dozen empty bottles lol.
And so the kombucha making began! I'm very happy to finally be sharing our recipe after experimenting with different types of teas and flavorings to make the perfect brew. The process isn't exactly difficult, but it is definitely time consuming and not great if you like instant gratification. There is also a time commitment aspect to making kombucha because you need to follow a schedule for bottling, so if you do travel (for vacation or work, like I do a lot), make sure someone can bottle it up for you.
The following recipe makes about 6 liters of kombucha, which you can store and enjoy for a good 2-3 weeks! I know it seems like a lot of buch, but given the time it takes to make it, you're better off making more at once then splitting them into smaller batches.
What Do You Need?
- Black tea leaves (about 1/2 cup) or 24 tea bags
- Electric or stove kettle
- Stirring spoon
- White sugar (2 1/2 cups)
- Juices/Fruits (of your choice) for flavoring -we personally love Naked Juice Mango Tango and a variety of frozen berries
- Smaller empty bottles (swing tops are the best)
Step 1: CLEAN and STERILIZE all of your equipment and utensils before you begin
Step 2: BOIL 1.5 liters of water and then STEEP black tea for 5 minutes. To save some extra time, we use an electric kettle and brew the tea directly in the pot while its boiling. This technically isn't the proper way to make tea, but it's worked for us and we don't need to transfer the water to another container. We found that using 8 tea bags or about 2-3 tablespoon of lose tea leaves is sufficient. If you do use loose tea, add it straight to the kettle or steep traditionally, but just make sure to strain the leaves out before the next step.
We always stick to using pure black tea, but I have done research that claims a mix of black and green tea also works very well.
Step 3: While the water is boiling and the tea is steeping, FILL your gallon jars with 1.5 liters of filtered water (room temperature is fine).
Step 4: ADD 3/4 cup of sugar to the water. Adding sugar is a very important process in making kombucha because the drink can only be fermented with a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). I will explain more in depth in step 8 about what a SCOBY is and where you can get your hands on it, but the sugar is vital because the SCOBY fees off the sugar during fermentation , consuming over 90% of it. This is why the final result is a very low-sugar beverage. We have experimented with various amounts of sugar because we obviously would prefer to use as little as possible. In our first few batches, we added about 1.5 cups of sugar to each jar, and slowly cut back a bit each time to see how little we could get away with. 3/4 seems to be a good amount after a lot of trial and we have been able to replicate a similar flavor using less than our original amount. Also note that white sugar is best, although we have tried cane sugar in the past, which turned out a bit weird-tasting.
Step 5: Once the tea has been steeped and leaves/bag are separated, POUR the tea into the jar. Repeat step 2 two more times to fill all 3 jars.
Step 6: While the diluted tea is still warm, make sure to STIR the mixtures to dissolve the sugar into the water. A wooden cooking spoon would work just fine, but we just use a simple cocktail spoon.
Step 7: WAIT for the tea to cool down (around 30-45 minutes)
Step 8: ADD equal amounts of SCOBY to each tea jar. Ah, this is the part where I had plenty of questions too. What is a SCOBY? Why are we adding it? Why does it look so ugly and gross? Do I have to touch it?
I clearly didn't do my research when we first started making kombucha together, so I kind of just followed Blake's lead and slowly learned things as we did them. A SCOBY, as I mentioned earlier, stands for a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), It is essentially the living home for the bacteria and yeast in the fermentation process of kombucha making. When you add it to the tea, it will float on top and seals off the fermenting kombucha, protecting it from unwanted bacteria and other pollutants from getting in. You may have heard a SCOBY being called a kombucha "mother" or "mushroom". You can get your very beautiful SCOBY on Amazon (they literally have EVERYTHING, dont they?) for really cheap, and since it's reusable and also grows in size during fermentation, you'll never have to buy it again! You can even give some to a friend who wants to start up their on buch business.
To add the SCOBY into to the jar, you can use CLEAN hands or a spoon or ladle as seen below. If you do use your hands, make sure you've sanitized with soap thoroughly to avoid contamination. Same goes for the spoon
Step 9: We're almost there! The last part of prepping your kombucha for fermentation is to tthe jars with tightly woven cloth/coffee filter/paper towel and securing it with a rubber band. Fruit flies and insects will definitely be interesting in the sweet tea, so you want to make sure you prevent anything from getting inside. Do note that you do not want to completely seal this because you want the tea to breathe.
Step 10: STORE the jar somewhere at average room temperature (70°F) and out of direct sunlight since the sunlilght can prevent the kombucha from fermenting and the SCOBY from forming, Also, make sure to place it somewhere it cannot be disturbed, like in a busy living room.
Step 11: WAIT 10 days-12 days. This part is usually the hardest to be honest, because it sometimes can feel like watching grass grow when you are waiting for your kombucha to ferment day after day. Luckily, I travel during the weeks for works and sometimes on the weekends, so it usually goes by a lot quicker and will be ready by the next time I am back in the city.
Yay! Now the real fun begins. I love the bottling process because this is the part you can really be creative and make your own kombucha concoctions as your heart desires!
Step 12: RINSE and PREPARE you bottles! In order to store your drink, you will need to find or buy empty bottles. We have a mixture of GT glass bottles and also some flip top bottles from Amazon. We find that a couple of large bottles and a few small bottles should be enough to store 6 liters. Obviously do the math here and figure out how many you need!
Step 13: The easiest way to flavor kombucha is to ADD fruit juice and fresh or frozen fruit to your bottles before pouring in the fermented tea. We have tried many different flavors of juices, but our ultimate no-fail choice is Naked's Mango Tango (not pictured below lol). I'll usually add just 1-3 tablespoons using a funnel to each bottle and then try my best to add some frozen blueberries and raspberries with a knife and the same funnel. I would suggest finding bottles that have an opening big enough to easily throw in some fruit for less stabbing work.
Other suggestions are to add flavored simple syrups or make your own juice purees from fresh fruit. We've tried our own concoction of fresh squeeze lemon juice and lavender syrup which turned out really delicious!
Step 14: REMOVE the SCOBY from the tea and STORE it in an air-tight container for future use.
Step 15: POUR the tea into the bottles using a funnel until you have filled all of the bottles!
Step 16: WIPE off the outside of the bottles and STORE them somewhere inside for an additional 3 days. This will allow it to become carbonated and fizzy.
Step 17: PLACE the bottles in the fridge and ENJOY! We usually finish these up in 2-3 weeks but the longer you keep them around, the more alcoholic it will taste.
As you can see based on the snowy picture, I've been meaning to write this post for a very long time! But it also shows my point that kombucha can be enjoyed all year-long and it is very rewarding to consume the fruit of your own labor. Thanks for reading everyone - I hope this has inspired you to try making your own kombucha one day!