Why I started drinking Kombucha

I remember the first time I ever heard about drinking Kombucha.  I was visiting my sister years ago for Thanksgiving and she was telling me all about a friend of hers.  “She has this big jug of tea that sits on her counter and there’s this giant mushroom-looking thing floating in it.  It’s so gross.  She always tries to give me some and there is NO way I’m drinking that!”  My sister and I were both grossed out and humored by the fact that anyone could drink anything that had a ‘mother’ and produced ‘babies’!  We both swore we would never drink something like that. Yuck!

How does that old saying go again?  Oh yeah….

Never say never!

Fast forward a couple of years.  I began being a bit more health conscious and much more aware of the foods – and drinks – I put in my body.  I started researching and began reading about Kombucha and fermented foods.  I found great, informative sites like Wellness Mama and Cultured Food Life.  I was very intrigued and wanted to learn more.  Maybe this Kombucha stuff wasn’t so bad after all.

A local organic store offered a Kombucha class earlier this year.  I signed up and, for a mere $15, learned all about how to brew it and brought home a beautiful baby SCOBY to feed and grow.  So, I brought my baby SCOBY home, fed it some sweet tea and waited….somewhat impatiently…..for it to ferment.  I waited 10 whole days and loved the result!  Tangy, tart, delicious.  I’ve been hooked ever since!  Funny how something that I used to be grossed out by is now a daily staple in my diet.

Thankfully, I’ve always been a fairly healthy person so I wasn’t looking for Kombucha to heal me or to be a magic cure.   I just figured that if I could be more healthy, why not be more healthy?  Kombucha is a natural detoxifier, great for gut health, full of probiotics, can increase energy and improves digestion.  And these are just a few of the ways you can benefit from it.  I like to think of my daily dose of ‘booch as my preventative ‘medicine’. 

Speaking of gut health, both of my siblings and my mother suffer from stomach issues.  Indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, etc.  Thankfully, this has not been an issue for me…..yet.  And I’d like to keep it that way!  I’m hoping that by drinking my Kombucha daily and enjoying fermented foods (like sauerkraut and kimchi), that I can keep any of these issues that may be hereditary at bay.  I really wish I would have known more about Kombucha when I was pregnant and living off of antacids!
As I said before, I didn’t have any ailments that I was looking for the Kombucha to heal.  I have noticed some small changes, but the biggest is that my immune system seems to be stronger since drinking kombucha.  Recently, my preschooler brought home the first bug of the year.  In the past, he was always so gracious to pass along any and all sicknesses to myself and his younger sister. Not this time!  I never once had a sniffle, sneeze or cough while caring for them.  Coincidence?  Maybe….but I think I have my daily Kombucha to thank for that.
I’m slowly working on getting my family on board.  My three year old will share a glass with me almost every day….my four year old, not so much.  My husband will take a sip every now and then.  It’s a work in progress 🙂

I look forward to my daily dose of ‘booch and am having fun playing with different flavors.  I love that I can share it with others and hopefully help them down a healthier path. 
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A special thanks to Sara of Great Days of Hayes blog for sharing this great story of her journey with Kombucha.

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What Gives Kombucha its “Fizz”?

What-Gives-Kombucha-its-Fizz

We’ve all been there. We’ve brewed our Kombucha, we’ve added our flavoring, we’ve bottled it for the second ferment (2F), and waited patiently – only to open a bottle, and zilch, noda, nil…not a single bubble! Wait…What happened?? I’ve actually stared at this flat brew with this perplexed look like, who did this? This isn’t right!!

If you’re anything like me, it’s ALL about the fizz!

I love a perfectly carbonated bottle so much that I actually drink it out of a champagne flute!

So what happened? Why didn’t my second ferment have any bubbles? What did I do wrong?

There is a process that happens when you ferment. It’s technical like science! So to break it down in terms that I can understand it starts with the scoby! In order for the scoby to grow it needs 2 main ingredients… yeast and sugar. You know where the sugar comes from, however, you may be wondering where the yeast comes from? The yeast is created by the nitrogen in the tea. There are various strains of yeast and bacteria found in the scoby, mainly: Saccharomycodes ludwigii, s. apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyes, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The strains produced can vary from one scoby to another.

The carbonation or “fizz” is created by the yeast. In a natural process, the yeast eats the sugar and converts it to glucose. If your brew is lacking sugar you’re not going to have many bubbles or it’ll be completely flat.

Your brew should be slightly sweet when you bottle it. If your kombucha brew is too sweet, you run the risk of checking on it and finding it exploded all over the place! We won’t mention any names…but someone has personally experienced this ;)…you can guess, I’m sure. Remember, timing is everything!

If you find your brew leaning towards the sour side, adding a small amount of sugar to your second ferment (2F) will ensure that you’ll have the carbonation you desire.

|Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/scyrene/|

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So you wanna brew your own Kombucha (booch)?

Brew-Your-Own-Kombucha
| 3 week scoby grown from a bottle of Kombucha |

I recall vividly the first time I tried a taste of Kombucha. My hubs insisted that I’d love it!  I’m always open to trying new things, so with gusto I took a huge gulp. And then it hit me; I didn’t know what to do!!  I couldn’t just spew it all over the place, but I had to do something as this glob of slime was assaulting my mouth!  I grabbed a glass and spit it out. He’s shockingly saying, “What are you doing?”  I’m giving him the stink eye, and challenging him to tell me “what the heck is in – this Frog slime??”  To which he informs me “that’s the BEST PART”… really??  Seriously?  I just took a swig of something that my taste buds thought was a little vinegary, only to be completely convinced he was trying to play a joke on me and have me drink frog slime At first I refused to try it again, firmly stating that I was NOT going to drink anything that had a glob of slime in it!  (We’ll get back to overcoming my slime fear later)

This went on for a few months, as bottle after empty Kombucha bottle started to invade an entire cupboard in my kitchen!  When I inquired as to whether I could recycle these bottles, he informed me he was saving them for when ‘I’ learned how to make it for us. Deep down inside, I might have been thinking, “brew your own Kombucha!”.  I don’t know where he got the idea that there was an ‘us’ in the consumption end of learning to make this.  However, the deciding factor that convinced me to make our own ‘brew’ was when I saw the cost of store bought ‘bucha’ and I had $300’s worth of empties!

I have to say; I’m a fairly accomplished cook, I grow and preserve a lot of our food.  I grew up making sauerkraut with my grandmother, so I understood fermenting, and thought. ‘How hard can it be?’ So I did what most people do when wanting to learn how to make Kombucha, I hit the Internet, and googled everything I could find on it.  There were so many sites, and although the directions seemed pretty similar, it also seemed a little overwhelming!

So I’m sharing with you how I went about making it not as overwhelming and scary for me to start. The first thing is to get organized, before you even start growing your scoby!  Source out your jar for fermenting, and your bottles that you’ll use for your second ferment (otherwise known as 2F) my hubs actually went dumpster diving in the glass recycling bins to find our brew jars!  Seriously!!  I scrubbed those jars spotless, and then put them into the dishwasher, cranked up the heat just to ensure I’d disinfected them completely. I also washed all those store bought Kombucha bottles and caps.

In my search of ‘how to’ there were a few options to growing a Scoby, I opted for the least expensive one (not that I’m cheap) I just didn’t want to invest a lot of $$ into something that if I didn’t get it right, I’d have to end up tossing it. I opted to buy a bottle of GT Kombucha, so I searched for a bottle with the most slime in the bottom of it, that ‘frog slime’ was/is a beautiful symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or in booch speak, a ‘baby scoby’.

Although we went dumpster diving for our 4 liter (gallon) jars and I went for the cheapo scoby, I didn’t go cheap on my tea.  Now I’ve read lots about using any old tea out there, I have to disagree; I think the quality of your Kombucha is directly related to how good your tea is. (I’ll discuss teas in a future post)

I personally use different teas now for their different medicinal properties, and often blend teas, however, you should have a few scoby’s going before you jump into mixing tea blends.

As a beginner, I recommend sticking to tea bags, as you go, you’ll be more confident and can use loose-leaf teas. My preferred tea to use is Tetley Pure Ceylon Tea.  It’s a really wonderful Black tea from Sri Lanka. I use 6 tea bags in my starter tea.

Organic sugar or table sugar? That’s a personal preference, you’re scoby can’t tell the difference, it’s more about the pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process. ALL sugar is refined and processed in some way.  There is zero difference when it comes to calories or taste. Regular white table sugar will not harm or kill your scoby, again, it’s completely your personal preference, and both will work exactly the way your scoby needs it to.

Also, your scoby NEEDS the sugar to consume, grow and stay healthy, so you need to add the required amount (it’s not like a cake where we can sub in applesauce, or use less sugar while baking)

When you’ve got all your tools, jars are clean, hands are clean, counter is clean, Kombucha bottle purchased, leave it out of the fridge for the day to warm up.  Brew your tea, add your sugar, allow it to completely cool, add the entire bottle of Kombucha to your sweet tea. Cover, and store in a warm spot out of sunlight (I keep mine in my walk in closet) In 3 weeks time you’ll have this beautiful plump scoby that no longer resembles frog slime it’ll now look like a placenta!!! I think that’s why it’s also referred to as “the Mother.”

Learn how to brew your own Kombucha here!

Growing SCOBY not for you?  Buy a fresh SCOBY here.

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