I know what you are thinking. Another person trying to sell me on the benefits of drinking this weird vinegary drink.
And yeah, basically that is what I’m attempting to do today. But with a few twists that’ll spin the wheel in my favor. Or rather… your favor.
As you know, Eclecthical Food Journeys consists of conscious cooking, no matter the recipe.
Maybe if you saw, by means of making it, the amount of sugar and fat that an ice-cream has, you would think twice about binging a complete pint in front of the new season of Euphoria.
The beautiful thing sourdough, a pet, a home garden, and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) have in common is that they are alive. They truly need our care and thoughtfulness to stay in optimal condition. They connect you to the source. Creating something is beautiful, keeping that something alive too.
One of the things I love the most about the fermenting universe is that it also brings you closer to your community. You’ll find that sooner rather than later you will start to develop a social web that is based on trade. The best part is giving a SCOBY in exchange for a jar of kimchi, or sharing some of your homebrewed kombucha for a mason jar filled with sauerkraut in return. Microbiological bliss exchange.
Kombucha brewing requires very little and simple ingredients; water, sugar, black tea (in traditional ways), and a mother (or SCOBY). Although you will find that some people have dared to go to riskier paths (like the Copenhaguen-based restaurant Noma, famous for their fermentation experiments, who have been juggling with kombucha flavors for years).
And the material you will need is very basic as well; a transparent container, something to boil your water in, a sieve, and a bowl. Gloves for handling the SCOBY are recommended but not compulsory.
Before writing this piece, I did a little research on the health benefits of drinking kombucha that has been proven. Turns out most official websites are consistent in that kombucha’s benefits have not yet been properly proven by any scientific trial. Yet, the reason I decided to share with you this ancient traditional beverage recipe is not because of marketing-related health benefits. But because I have tried it, I love it and in my personal experience, brewing kombucha at home has become, if anything, a marvelous therapeutic ritual.
While there are not many verified health benefits, try imagining this scenario in your head: you are thirsty, but the kind of thirsty that won’t be quenched with water. You open the fridge and there are three options: a beer, a can of your preferred soda, and your homebrewed kombucha. I, for instance, believe kombucha to be the better option… hands down.
I especially appreciated the fashion in which Sandor Ellix Katz described the concerns regarding kombucha brewing. He said that while “Kombucha has inspired much-polarized debate… like any ferment, it contains unique metabolic by-products and living bacterial cultures that may or may not agree with you. Make sure you understand the parameters of the selective environment you need to create”. (The Art of Fermentation).
I enjoy the process of brewing my kombucha and caring for my SCOBY because it requires all of my senses to be present. I like to touch the viscosity of the mother, to smell the acidity of the concoction, to taste regularly until I find the sweet spot between acidity and sweetness, to see and hear the gas bubbles once my kombucha has been bottled and carbonatized.
You will start with:
1 liter of water
1 mother or SCOBY
100 grams of granulated sugar
8g of black tea (chose natural, additive-free and organic preferably)
100 ml of previous kombucha (or 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar)
1 big jar or transparent container for fermentation (no metal or stainless steel)
1 wooden spatula
You will start by boiling half of the water. Add the tea and let infuse for 15 minutes. You need a deeply concentrated base to start your brew, so don’t be afraid to let it infuse. Once ready, pass the infusion through a sieve. Dissolve the sugar in the infusion while still hot so it will melt completely. Add the rest of the water and let it cool for a little while.
This step is very important, SCOBY does not survive high temperatures so be patient until your water cools down.
When you have reached body temperature add your SCOBY and the previous kombucha (in the Noma book they call this backslopping). If you do not have kombucha add the tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. This is just so your kombucha’s acidity levels are balanced and the environment is less likely to develop unwanted mold.
As the great mycologist Paul Stamets states in his article on the subject “Of most concern are the species of Aspergillus I have found floating around with Kombucha. I fear that amateurs could think that by merely pulling out the Aspergillus colonies that the culture would be decontaminated, a dangerous, even deadly presupposition. The water-soluble toxins can be highly carcinogenic.” (Stamets 1994–1995)
If you suspect your kombucha brew has developed an unwanted visitor, discard everything and start from scratch. I encourage you to use your senses (funky smell, an off-flavor and a greenish, pinkish color on your SCOBY are alarming signs).
Put your kombucha to ferment at an approximately controlled temperature. A closet or a pantry cupboard will do. The important thing is that you control it regularly, constantly tasting it and observing it closely.
Once you like what you taste (it should be slightly acidic but not too vinegary) filter it to avoid bottling big chunks of SCOBY and leave it to carbonize inside bottles. A couple of days to a week will do, it really depends on the temperature of your environment. I urge you to taste and observe.
There are also interesting experiments you can play around with when it comes to flavoring further your kombucha. Adding chopped fruit, or fruit purés, infusions, or flowers. This is called the second fermentation. I recommend you save a bottle (approximately 100 ml for one recipe) of natural, unflavored kombucha so you can use it for your next brew.
I really hope you enjoy the process of homebrewing this “miracle tea” as much as I do. And don’t hesitate to share your #eclecthicalfoodjourneys with us. We love to hear your success stories in the kitchen.
Because as you well know, if #juliscancook, you can too.
“To ferment your own food is to lodge an eloquent protest — of the senses- against the homogenization of flavors and food experiences now rolling like a great, undifferentiated lawn across the globe. It is also a declaration of independence from an economy that would much prefer we were all passive consumers of its commodities, rather than creators of unique products expressive of ourselves and the places where we live.” — Michael Pollan.