Tea Time

At the end of my two days off, I have caved and gone to Taco Bell again. I really wanted pizza, but even going into Round Table seemed too difficult at the time, if only they had drive-thru pizza…

Now, in order to soothe my angry stomach I am sipping on some home-brewed kombucha. Brewing kombucha is a lot like having a pet… you need the proper environment for it, make sure it has plenty to eat, and just keep an eye on the critter in general. This batch I let go for a bit longer than all of the others, so it is a bit more on the vinegary side, but that really only means that it is that much more potent.

The trick to the whole thing is finding a mother. The mother is the bacterial culture that ferments the tea it floats in. To be more specific, it is called a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, or SCOBY – & it is scientifically classified as a  zoogleal mat – yeah, that’s right – zoogleal. (Thank you Wiki, for all of your support!)

What this looks like is a pancake shaped, gelled mass, that will grow to the contours of it’s container. A healthy one will be a fairly consistent off-white color, though streaks of brown on the bottom or sides is normal. If you want good kombucha, you must keep the mother healthy! You begin by brewing a big pot of tea, with a whole bunch of sugar in it, about one and 1/4 cups sugar to 7 tea bags, brewed in a gallon or so of water. Steep the tea for five minutes or so, and stir to get all of the sugar dissolved, and then let it cool to room temperature.

Please do not drop mama in scalding hot water, and also be sure to keep her somewhere sterile while she waits for her tea. It is best to rinse her holding bowl or other container with distilled white vinegar, as it is a substance complimentary to her own nature, you also want to keep her away from anything but glass as much as you can. Some say she can’t touch metal, some say that plastic is the big no-no, I’m not too worked up about it either way, and say to just follow yer gut instincts with the process, & your guts will thank you for it!

This is the other trick to fermenting the tea & appeasing the mother, you have to keep the brew at the right temperature, I would say between 65 to 75 degrees would be best. If it is too cold, then the culture will essentially go dormant and not eat up the sugar. But if it is warm enough, and she does eat her dinner, then she will grow bigger and stronger, and release her various acids. These are apparently the building blocks of her medicinal properties, though there have been no truly conclusive studies preformed on the matter. & there is some controversy over which acids might be the truly beneficial ones, as well as what acids are even truly present in the brew.

The two most obvious points that I can see are; that the beverage promotes alkalinity in the body, and that is contains active enzymes. Internal alkalinity promotes general health for the body-system, and creates an adverse environment for cancer, for example. The enzymes are beneficial to digestion, and that is why I am drinking it right now!

In terms of equipment, I am lucky to have the perfect jar for fermenting the tea, it was a present from a dear friend of mine, Hillary Humphreys, an herbalist that used to work at New Moon. This is a gallon sized jar, made of thick – sturdy glass with a loose fitting lid, so the brew can still breathe, but will be protected from whatever might be floating around in the room. At the bottom, on the side – there is a metal spigot, so the kombucha can be poured out, without disturbing the mother, which floats at the top (ideally).

One of the main problems people run into when home-brewing kombucha is that the mother becomes infested with mold, or fruit flys can lay eggs in the SCOBY if they can find a way in – and then you get maggots! YUCK!! So cover up Mama with ample cheese cloth, at least, and then with another lid as well, if you have one that will sit stably on the container, yet still allow the passage of air – otherwise a quadruple layer of cheese cloth should suffice.

Just be sure you are ready to commit before you begin brewing, and with a little patience and attention, you can have your own potent brew of  kombu, in as little as two weeks! Yes, it really does take that long… at least. But then you can have a replenishing supply of delicious goodness at your disposal, for just the price of tea and sugar, versus the $4 a bottle it will cost you at the store – hmm… To me kombucha is like sweet beer, that you can drink whenever you like, even for breakfast – yay!

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