The Therapeutic Properties of Kombucha
Kombucha is a refreshing, effervescent fermented tea that has therapeutic and restorative properties for the body. Kombucha is produced using a SCOBY, an acronym for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. This simply means that the bacteria and yeast exist together in a supportive network. The SCOBY feeds on the sweet tea and produces a wide range of beneficial compounds. These compounds all play an important role in our body’s metabolism, the task of accelerating the chemical process within the body.
Every batch of kombucha is different and contains various levels of probiotics, enzymes and amino acids. However, there are three components in every batch of this special tea: gluconic acid, acetic acid and fructose.
Other benefits of kombucha are its anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Within 7-8 day growth, it can also produce a natural antibiotic called meduzin, which many say has a healing effect in just 5 days.
Kombucha enhances the activity of the gastrointestinal tract. It normalizes the acidity of the stomach and suppresses decay-causing microflora and restores the intestinal tract with beneficial microflora. It helps to combat constipation and kidney stones and lowers blood pressure. It assists in decreasing cholesterol in blood and can relieve insomnia and arthritic pain.
Kombucha doesn’t heal any disease, but it helps bring the body back into balance, which gets it into the right direction to heal naturally.
A Brief Provenance of Kombucha
It is believed that kombucha tea originated in China between 221-207BC during the Qin Dynasty. It became known as a divine drink that possessed magical powers and was presented to the emperor. As trade routes grew and expanded, the tea spread to Japan, Russia and eventually across Europe. It’s been around for a very long time and still used by many generations of people.
In Russia it was consumed as a refreshing drink and it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that scientists began seeing the medicinal qualities of the tea. Kombucha culture was mostly studied in Russia and went through many name changes: meduza mushroom, Manchurian mushroom, Japanese sponge, tea kvass and later kvass. It is know as chaynyy grib (tea mushroom) in Russia, chájūn in China, kōcha-kinoko in Japan and Kombucha in the USA.
How to Make Kombucha
With a little patience and some love kombucha can be easy to make.
If you don’t have a SCOBY you can either grow it or purchase a SCOBY here.
Grow a SCOBY
To grow a SCOBY you need to buy a bottle of unpasteurized unflavored kombucha drink from your grocery store. This is the starter liquid. This is a one-time purchase just to start your SCOBY. Make sure everything is sterile and clean before you start. Pour the starter liquid into a wide-mouthed container (a 32 ounce glass Mason jar is perfect) and add 2 cups of room temperature, sweetened black tea. (You do not want to use any metal utensils or containers to grow or store your kombucha.) Cover the jar with a paper towel and secure it with a rubber band. Let it sit in a dark, warm place for few weeks. Try not to move the container around and be patient. You will notice a thin, jelly-like film appearing on the surface. This is the SCOBY and it will start to thicken and become opaque.
Check your SCOBY periodically to make sure there is no mold growing on it. It should be a white/ivory and/or tan color. If you use mostly black tea it will be tan while using lighter teas like green tea or white, will yield a lighter color SCOBY. If you see spots of black, green, red or blue, discard the SCOBY and start over. Don’t take any chances with mold. When the SCOBY is about 1/4 of an inch thick, it is ready to brew kombucha.
We drink kombucha everyday, so it goes fast. We use a 2-gallon jar as our vessel and it ensures an on-going supply in our home. Each batch makes 10-12 bottles. It will be up to you to determine how strong you like your tea. It is not necessary to make a strong brew, but we tend to go for a darker tea.
If you read the instructions on how to grow your own SCOBY, this process is similar except this time you are brewing for kombucha. Steep black tea and sweetened it with organic sugar. It may seem like a lot to add, but SCOBY needs sugar to grow. As SCOBY feeds on the sugar the amount of sugar is reduced and you end up with just over 1 percent sugar content per 4 ounces of kombucha. Allow the tea to cool and add it to your jar. Fill the rest of the jar with purified water and gently add the SCOBY. He may sink to the bottom or float vertically. Don’t worry. He will straighten up and float to the top and fill the surface area, but should be submerged in the tea.
Cover the jar with a paper towel and fasten it with a rubberband. The paper towel allows the SCOBY to breathe and keeps the fruit flies, dust and other impurities away. Place the jar in a dark, warm spot and leave it. The fermentation time depends on the room temperature–the warmer it is, the faster the kombucha brews. The process slows down during the colder months.
After 8-12 days the kombucha is ready to be bottled. The tea will be cloudy and that’s a good sign. You can taste test the brew and leave it for a few more days if it’s too sweet. The tea should have a tangy, sweet-sour taste.
Wash your hands before handling the SCOBY. Gently remove it from the jar and put it on a plate or bowl and put it aside. Using a measuring cup with a spout begin transferring kombucha tea into each bottle. We purchased and saved our commercial kombucha bottles before our first batch. The caps that come with the bottles wear out fast and can leak or seize onto the bottle and need to be replaced. The replacement caps work extremely well and provide a better seal without leaking or getting stuck onto the bottle. We highly recommend these caps and they are available here.
Carbonating the Kombucha
Once we fill the bottles we like to let them sit for a few more days to let the kombucha “ripen”. Closing off the oxygen will stop the bacterial growth, but the yeast will continue to be active and will generate carbonation because the gasses from the yeast can’t get out.
Your Next Batch
Always leave an inch or two of old brew in the jar. This liquid will be the starter for your next batch. You will want to have your tea base made so that you can refill the jar and put the SCOBY back in for the next cycle of kombucha.
This procedure may seem long and tedious, but once you get started it is extremely simple and doesn’t take a lot of time. The longest process is steeping the tea base and waiting for it to cool. Between that and the 5-10 minutes it takes to bottle and set up your next batch, it’s easy stuff.
- 12-18 bags of organic black tea, or 12-18 teaspoons of lose organic black tea
- 1.5 gallons purified water, room temperature
- 2 quarts (.5 gallon) for brewing the tea
- 2 cups of organic granulated sugar (do not substitute with other sweeteners or brown sugar)
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Add teabags (or the lose tea) and let it steep for 15-20 minutes. Remove the tea bags (or strain the tea if using lose tea).
- Add two cups of sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Let the sweet tea sit until it is cool or room temperature.
- Add the sweetened tea to the starter liquid and add the purified water.
- Gently put SCOBY into the tea solution.
- Cover the jar with a paper towel and fasten with a rubber band. Record the date.
- Store the jar away from sunlight. You can put it in a cupboard or wrap a dishtowel around the jar.
- You can use your old store bought kombucha bottles with replacement caps like we did. The old caps wear down and will seize when the gasses from the brew force the cap against the threads. You will not be able to open it!
- You can also bottle your brew using 24-ounce glass Mason jars and pour from it.
- Do not use plastic or metal containers.
- 1 bottle of plain, unflavored kombucha (this is the starter liquid)
- 2 tablespoons organic sugar (do not substitute with other sweeteners or brown sugar)
- 2 cups water
- 1-quart wide mouth jar or 1 gallon jar
- 1-2 bags black tea
- Bring water to a boil and turn off the heat. Add tea bags and let it steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove teabags and add sugar. Stir to dissolve.
- Let the sweetened tea cool.
- Add the sweetened tea and starter liquid to the jar.
- Cover the jar with a paper towel or fine weave cheesecloth. Secure it with a rubberband.
- Place the jar in a warm spot out of sunlight and leave it for 7-10 days. Do not move the jar around. Let it be.
- You will see a thin, jelly-like film begin to form around day 5. This is a good sign and the start of your SCOBY. The SCOBY will eventually take up the entire surface of the jar.
- Once the SCOBY is around ¼-inch thick, it is ready to brew kombucha. If the room temperature is warm, around 72 degrees F, the SCOBY will form quickly. During cooler/colder months it may take longer.
- If you see black, blue, red or green mold at any point, toss this SCOBY. You must start again from the beginning.