kombucha: the what and the how

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kombucha. First of all, what the heck is it? They have it on shelves at whole foods, you hear chatter about it at yoga class, but you’ve never actually understood what kombucha is. Kombucha is naturally carbonated yeast-fermented tea, a drink that has been around for over 2,000 years and is highly praised for its energizing, healing, and revitalizing qualities. Not surprisingly, as with a lot of alternative superfoods these days, there is a lot of controversy surrounding kombucha and it’s benefits, but there is studied proof that this drink, at the very least, offers large quantities of amino acids, antioxidants, B-vitamins, and probiotics. Beyond that, it provides fantastic detoxification support for the liver (and is therefore my all time absolute preferred cure for one two many glasses of red), a kickstart to your metabolism, a natural, caffeine-free energy boost, and some truly amazing gut-healing qualities. In a world full of unnatural toxins, regularly drinking kombucha is a great way to keep your insides healthy and functioning properly. The only problem is that regularly drinking kombucha is in no way a small investment, with bottles of this fermented drink ranging from 4-14 dollars on grocery store shelves. The good news? Kombucha is ridiculously easy, and fun, to make at home, and once you’ve made it, it’s even more simple to keep it going, allowing it to constantly brew in as large a quantity as you want. I can usually be counted on to have five or six jars of kombucha fermenting somewhere around the house, and have started having to warn people ahead of time, as my friend once asked me if I had a jarred fetus in my bedroom. Oops.

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So, pictured above is all you need to make your own delicious kombucha, except for the mason jar and little cutting of cheese cloth needed to cover the lid. The option is available to buy a dehydrated “mother yeast” online, from websites such as Cultures for Health, but it really is just as easy to get your own started from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, and that way you get to enjoy a bottle as you prepare.

To start off, take a bottle of raw kombucha (I used GT Dave’s brand), and start sipping. As you’re making your way towards the bottom of the bottle, bring a pan with 8 oz of water (or as much as desired – amount depends on the container you have to brew in) to boil, adding 2-3 tbsp of sugar once the water hits a boil. Stop sipping your kombucha once there’s about an inch or two of liquid left.. all that weird stringy stuff that floats around the bottom? Make sure that’s still in there. Remove the boiled sugar-water from the heat, and stir with a wooden spoon (very important – do not use metal!) until the sugar dissolves completely. Next, add a bag of unflavored green tea (or two, depending on the strength you want) and let it steep – at this step, I generally tend to wait a while, so that the tea is strongest. You really only need to wait until the water reaches room temperature, but I’ve left it steeping overnight before, partially because I was getting impatient waiting for the water to cool, and it turned out just fine. Once the tea is steeped and cooled, pour it into your glass jar, along with the remnants of your kombucha drink. Cover the top with a cheese cloth, or another light cloth, so that it is protected from dirt in the air but still has room to breath, and place in a warm area out of direct sunlight. Then comes the waiting part… I usually give mine several weeks to brew, but that’s partially because my house is so cold. A thick film will form on the top of the liquid in your jar (that’s creating a new mother yeast, for your next brewing!), and once that starts to get really thick and sink, that’s a pretty clear indicator that your kombucha is ready to drink (see below – jar of kombucha in mid-brew.)

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Once your kombucha finishes brewing, it’s up to you how you want to prepare it! I tend to make a fruit or ginger juice blend (my favorite is juiced ginger and pineapple), mix that in a bottle with the kombucha, and leave it out to ferment on the fruit juices just a little bit longer. You can absolutely drink it, raw and unflavored, right away though. As for that weird floating brain-like thing in the jar? Keep that guy in there, along with a splash of the finished kombucha, and add another jar of sugar tea in with it to start brewing more!

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Lastly, if you’re looking for a way to mix healthy and hip, I’ve found some pretty interesting kombucha cocktails on the internet, my current favorite being the tequila/cinnamon/kombucha blend at the bottom of this article. Probably not something we’ll be seeing served in fine dining establishments any time soon, but who knows? It can never hurt to add a little splash of probiotic to your cocktail. Happy brewing, lovelies!

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want to know more? Check out this, this, and this!

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