Is it a cure-all, a probiotic health elixir that combats digestive issues? Is it an expensive and over-hyped panacea? Is it – a drink that’s fermented by adding a slimy symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast to sweetened tea – just a little bit weird?
You’ll have to decide for yourself, but one thing is for sure: kombucha is delicious, and despite the high cost of buying it in health food stores, it’s cheap and easy to make at home.
Kombucha is created by adding a culture, called a SCOBY, to caffeinated, unflavoured, sweetened tea. As the SCOBY eats the sugar, the tea becomes tart and fizzy — the longer it’s left to ferment, the tarter and fizzier it becomes, eventually turning into vinegar. Once the initial fermentation is complete — in anywhere from five to 14 days — the kombucha can be enjoyed as is, or flavoured with fruit and herbs, and fermented a second time for a naturally fizzy, flavoured drink.
All you need are clean glass jars, sugar, plain green, white or black tea, and a SCOBY, and you can easily be making this bubbly, trendy brew at home. The easiest way to grow a SCOBY is to order one online or get one from a friend. Each new batch of kombucha will produce a new SCOBY, so one is all you need to get started. SCOBYs can sometimes be grown from a bottle of store-bought kombucha, although this method is less consistent.
If you’ve never tried kombucha before, it’s a good idea to sample a few varieties first. Kombucha is infinitely customizable, and knowing how you like yours is the starting point for delicious flavour experiments.
Kombucha can be brewed in large continuous batches for an everlasting supply (continuous method) or in smaller batches (batch method). Although the supply list and method can seem a bit daunting for first-time fermenters, it’s actually quite simple once you get into the swing of things.