Most people associate home brew with beer, but there is another home brew that’s attracting quite the following: home brewed kombucha.
The fizzy, slightly tart drink is a healthy fermented tea with a long history in China and Eastern Europe. For centuries they have referred to kombucha as “the tea of immortality” for its health benefits. These include being high in antioxidants and supporting liver and gut health.
Health professionals today tend to agree that kombucha can be really good for you, but just remember, not all kombuchas are made equally.
Dietitian and Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle, Dr Kerith Duncanson, says the antioxidant properties of kombucha depend on the type of the tea used, with stronger black tea having the highest antioxidant potential.
“The microorganism composition of kombucha varies widely, and its capacity to support gut health depends on the concentration, quality, type and frequency of consumption,” she says.
She says in theory, microorganisms in kombucha can promote colonisation of “good” bacterial strains and inhibit colonisation of “bad” bacteria throughout the digestive tract.
“The extent to which this happens depends on survival of the bacteria through the digestive system, existing gut bacteria and the overall dietary profile,” she says.
Dr Duncanson highly recommends learning how to brew a real kombucha for yourself and to avoid any commercial drinks that are highly sweetened. Less than one teaspoon (5 grams) of sugar per serve, with a very short list of ingredients (water, sugar, tea leaves, culture) is her pick.
It’s hard to top the satisfaction and purity of your own brew, so luckily the process isn’t too tricky.
The base of kombucha is tea. You can use green or black tea or even a mixture of both. The tea is fermented by adding sugar, and the most mysterious element, a SCOBY, which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
The base of kombucha is tea. You can use green or black tea or even a mixture of both. The tea is fermented by adding sugar and the most mysterious element, a SCOBY, which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
While a SCOBY has no relation to a mushroom, some say the rubbery disc that floats on the surface of the tea as it ferments resembles one. SCOBYs can be bought online or from other people who make kombucha locally. The Belmont North-based Pura Vida Organics for example, sells SCOBYs to those wanting to make their own brew.
Next, the tea ferments over a couple of weeks in a carefully sterilised jar covered by a breathable material such as cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. During this time the sugar is eaten by yeast, leaving you with a very low sugar brew.
Next the drink is bottled and flavoured. This is the fun part as you can get as creative as you like from fresh ginger and tumeric to sticks of cinnamon and cloves. The choice is yours. Once the flavour is to your liking, you have a refreshing drink that’s a healthier replacement for soft drinks and alcohol.
Home Brew Recipe
Recipe from Wild Kombucha by Ballsy (in Leichhardt, Sydney) Makes 3.5 litres
14 cups filtered water
6 standard-sized tea bags
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup starter liquid (also known as kombucha. If buying a commercially brewed kombucha, be sure to use an unflavoured, and definitely unpasteurised, one)
SCOBY (you can buy these)
Heat four cups of filtered water. The ideal temperature depends on what tea you are using. For black tea, 90°C to 95°C is perfect.
Once the water temperature is correct, steep the tea bags for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags.
Add one cup of sugar to the hot tea water and stir until dissolved.
In a new container add the remaining 10 cups of (cold) water to the hot tea and sugar liquid. (This will cool your brew down – hot liquid would kill your starter and SCOBY).
Transfer all the mixed liquid into your fermentation vessel. Ensure your vessel is clean and sterilised.
Add starter to fermentation vessel.
Gently add the SCOBY to the liquid in your fermentation vessel and place a clean cloth or tea towel over the top of the vessel.
Store your fermentation vessel out of direct sunlight.
In 1 to 2 weeks your brew will be ready for tasting.
Brew to taste – for some taste buds this is two weeks, and for others four weeks or longer.
Remember, the longer you ferment, the more vinegary your brew will become.