Have you tried Kombucha?
It is a fermented beverage made from water, tea leaves (usually black or a blend of black and green), sugar, and a special symbiotic colony of yeast/bacteria called a “scooby” or kombucha mushroom.
The scooby reproduces itself continually if kept fed in the tea/sugar mixture. The parent scooby is called the “mother” and the off spring is called the “baby”. They look like a layered cream colored disc of gel. This is a living organism, or I should say millions of living organisms, who live together and form a colony or village, and this is called the scooby.
Kombucha is a bubbly drink similar to a soda. Many people may not even know they are drinking tea instead of soda.
You can either buy it pre-made (see picture of bottle on the left) or make your own (see picture of jar on the right).
Kombucha is sold main stream in every health food store today. It was just becoming main stream when we opened our health food store, Weiser Farms Natural Country Store, back in 2004.
We used to stock several raw and pasteurized brands. The most common brands were GTS, and Kombucha Wonder Drink. But more brands are available these days. We also like the brand called High Country.
Prices vary, but usually range from $2.99 to $4.99 for 16 oz bottles. In the pre-made form, there are lots of flavors to choose from. After fermenting, it can be diluted with any number of fruit juices or supplements to increase the flavor and nutrients.
My favorite store bought flavors are plain, grape, pear, ginger with fruit blends, and goji berry. I have tried many more combinations, but not always as fond of the other blends. The lemon raspberry, ginger, root beer, birch, and aloe blends, have too many salicylates for my system. So I am picky about what flavors I choose.
In my opinion, the best of all is the plain. After buying it, if I want it flavored more, I mix it myself with a little grape juice and crushed ice. Oh it is so very refreshing.
I limit my consumption to 4 oz to 8 oz a day. If I take too much I do notice some side effects. Again I believe it is due to the salycilates. But I tolerate Kombucha better than iced tea so there must be a change in the salicylate content. It may be due to the large numbers of bacterial enzymes that make the B vitamins, which is a sulfation and methylation process, and breaks down salicylates. But I will need to investigate this issue further to know for sure and will blog about my findings later.
Make your own
This was a new to me this year in 2010. I had read about making it for years, but wasn’t brave enough to try, until February of this year, when my sister sent me a scooby.
Instead of paying $3.00 for 16 oz , you can actually make your own Organic Kombucha for $3 a gallon /128 oz and you can make it non-organic for even less.
When my sister sent me a scooby, I started making my own. She is very wise about frugal living and suggested it would be wise, with seven of us in the family, to make it ourself instead of buying it pre-made. Thanks sis! She also sent me starter cultures for milk kefir, and water kefir, and I will write more about making these products in another article.
Very basic directions to make 1 gallon of Kombucha
To one gallon of boiling water, remove from heat and add
5 tea bags (either all black or a mix of black and green)
Remove the tea bags after 10 to 15 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup white sugar, stir to dissolve.
Let tea/sugar mixture cool to room temperature.
Stir again to aerate.
Pour into a glass container.
Add the scooby with about 1/10th of a gallon (12 oz) of previous ferment.
Cover with a breathable fabric or coffee filter. Secure with a rubber band.
Let stand undisturbed at 75 to 85 degrees for 8 days. (may happen faster or slower depending on the temp of your home) Can do a ph test to check the ph level to determine readiness or just taste it and see if it is ready.
Gently remove scooby, and save to use for the next batch. (Have next batch brewing and brought to room temperature before you want to harvest this batch to keep the cycle of brewing Kombucha going).
Bottle it to drink later and refrigerate, or drink it now.
Now you can dilute it if you wish with fruit juice or add powdered or liquid supplements too.
How to make this a wonderful homeschool learning adventure:
The picture above is two different gallons I made with my kids for one of our science classes, using the scooby my sister sent me. I will post a unit study about making kombucha for science in another article.
Before making it, my kids and I spent some time watching YOUTUBE videos and reading several articles. By far this one listed below is our favorite. Very simple and the guy is a little funny too, in a mad scientist sort of way. My son James just laughed and laughed at this guy and wanted me to play the video several times. This was so easy that he is 9 and could repeat every step. Thank you Instructables TV for your easy directions.
Kombucha Video part 1 instructables tv
Kombucha Video part 2 instructables tv
To further enhance the science learning, do a ph test of your water and of the brew before you ferment it and after 8 days and as many days as you plan to do the study (it will eventually turn into a vinegar with a higher acid content).
Measure the growth of the scooby or the offspring.
Chart your findings on paper.
Ph papers are easy to acquire or talk with Weiser Natural Foods about ordering some for you.
Use a refracto-meter to check the sugar content of the brew at different stages.
You can also learn about yeast, bacteria, and symbiosis.
Look at the scooby and the tea under a microscope. Have the children draw and label if possible what they see
Learn about how carbon dioxide is produced and how this makes the drink bubbly.
Learn about how the culture eats the sugar and turns it into other nutrients and so on.
Learn about the effects of drinking kombucha on the human body.
Learn about why the fermentation goes to sleep or dormant when you refrigerate it.
And much more.
There are some cautions when using kombucha.
First don’t use too much. A serving is considered 4 oz. but many people can consume 16 oz to 32 oz a day with no problems.
It is wise to not use with young children under 4 years of age and during pregnancy. Though I used the pre-made kombucha during my last two pregnancies with no problems. Different people react differently. The caution with young children is made to be careful not to give to much for their body weight and because their digestive system is establishing colonies of bacteria and the scientific community doesn’t know if Kombucha can change this process in a negative way. It is unknown, so they say to err on the side of caution.
Also make sure your brew doesn’t get contaminated with a mold. You will see this on the scooby if it occurs. I read this is very rare.
Also some people can get to much acid in their system if their kidneys are not working properly and develop a condition called acidosis. Again there were only two reported cases in the internet search I did and it is reported as very rare. Use at your own discretion.
One of my heros loved Kombucha
When I was in Indiana, I knew an Amish woman, named Rachel, who was very frugal and made her own everything ( I always told her she reminded me of my sister ). She was different from the other local Amish women. Many didn’t like her. She had only recently moved to the area from another less strict Amish group. She didn’t fit in very well.
She had different ideas about things than the other local Amish, such as she home schooled ( a big “no no” with the Amish). Her husband and her were eventually kicked out of the Amish church, because of her home schooling choice. It broke my heart. Yet it led to great freedom in her life, once she made the adjustment to the shunning. What a brave person she is. A real hero for all women and for the Amish women in particular in my eyes!
I liked Rachel very much and learned a lot from her. She is the person who introduced me to the Weston A Price foundation, above Rubies, and several other resources to help me on my journey.
She homeschooled and I didn’t even have a school aged child yet, so she encouraged me in this too. She was friendly and outgoing and would talk about any subject.
She made her own soap, laundry detergent, butter, sour cream, cheese, herbal remedies, sour dough breads, grew, canned/ dried/ or other method to preserve the harvest, raised her own eggs and butchered her own meat foods (chicken, turkey, pork, and beef).
I once asked her about her grocery bill and she practically did not have one except for sugar and salt, fabric to make her clothes, and essential oils for her soaps.
Nothing was out of her scope of creativity in the realm of maintaining her household with nutritious foods and supplies, including making her own kombucha and kombucha vinegar. I was pregnant at the time and didn’t try it when she offered it to me. She used herbal tea and I had read that was not recommended so I did not try hers. But as soon as the pregnancy was over, I went and bought some for myself, and it was every bit as refreshing as she had described.
She was so amazing, she grew her own grains such as wheat, barley, millet, and corn to grind into flour. Grew her own popcorn too. Several times I helped her shell the dried corn off the cob, leach the lye for the soap, and many more wonderful memories.
Her husband had set up a root cellar in their basement and they had fresh garden produce all winter in addition to all the canned and dried produce she had made. They used solar power and a desile generator too. She would cut the grass from the yard with a non-electric push mower, and put it in black trash bags and feed it to her cows all winter. She called it cow candy! Fermented Grass! She had a plan, implemented it, and didn’t have the expense of extra feed in the winter to increase their nutrition.
Potential Health Benefits
I wish I would have learned how to make Kombucha a long time ago and saved a lot of money in the process.
Kombucha has a lot of reported health benefits from its users. Especially improved digestion and energy, because of the consumption of live enzymes and B vitamins in the brew.
The FDA hasn’t proved all of its claims. But several studies have been done and have shown improved immune response to fight cancer, aids, and several other conditions. Specifically, it helps the body raise blood cells that fight these conditions. It is easy to do an internet search and read about these results.
Kombucha can also be allowed to ferment longer and become a vinegar, similar to apple cider vinegar, and used in the same ways and similar health benefits.
Continuous Brew Kombucha
I was recently reading about the benefits of continuous brew Kombucha and hope to try this method in the near future.
Basically after making the 8 day fermented drink, you keep the scooby in it, and continue to add the tea mixture ounce for ounce back into the main container. You need a glass container, or approved plastic container, with a plastic spigot.
As you draw off a cup of kombucha, add back in a cup of tea mixture you brewed ahead of time. Apparently, you gain a better full spectrum of vitamins and beneficial enzymes and bacteria using this method. And you don’t have to clean out your jar and start over every week. Instead, a cup is always ready when ever you desire it.
If you need to acquire a scooby, and don’t have a sister already brewing Kombucha, you can buy them easily over the internet for $10 to $25. And if cared for, they will live indefinitely, and you can share the off-spring with your sister too! You will have a lot you can give away.