And now for my latest Adventure in Fermentation. This one courtesy of our friend Richard, who was kind enough to repay my gift of kefir grains with a gift of a kombucha scoby.
If ‘kombucha‘ and ‘scoby‘ are new words for you, it’s actually very simple. Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea drink. The scoby is a rather scary-looking jelly-like disc – a Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts – or scoby for short – which enables the sweet tea to ferment.
Armed with the scoby and the small amount of kombucha in which it arrived (in a small jar), brief instructions, a quart kilner jar, a teapot, some black tea, some sugar, and a small amount of trepidation, I made my first batch of kombucha. A week later I was able to taste it.
Readers, I love it. It makes the perfect hot-weather cold drink. I now make a litre each week, and once made I keep it in the fridge and drink it diluted with cold water (usually carbonated water made at home).
An added twist is to add some flavouring to the finished kombucha. Oldest son has been making it from a scoby I gave him, and the batch to which he added grated and strained root ginger was delicious. There are all sorts of other flavourings you could add, just experiment a little and see what you like. I’m guessing an addition of lemon zest would be good.
Like many fermented foods, one of the nice things about this is that the scoby naturally increases in size, and in time you will be able to pass some on. It cries out for neighbourliness and generosity. You will also probably discard some layers as they become less effective – mine are just added to my compost.
So. Yet another fermented food (drink) added to my diet. I wonder what will be next? I’m thinking probably fruit (apple?) vinegar. Another option would be yoghurt, but that doesn’t fit well with my wish to reduce the amount of dairy producets I consume.
If you want to try it yourself, first find someone who can let you have a scoby. Maybe ask at work, or try your local Freegle group.
Ingredients and equipment
1 litre teapot (or other container with a spout); tea strainer; equivalent of 4 tea bags (I use about 5 teaspoons of leaf tea); 80-100g sugar; 1 quart container; piece of muslin or other cloth to cover the container, with rubber band or similar to hold the cloth in place
Instructions – I am writing this mainly to give you a sense of just how simple this is. I suggest that you read something more detailed before you get started.
- Make a litre of tea. The instructions suggested using 4 tea bags, but I have been using loose tea since I realised that most tea bags contain plastic. Fortunately I already had a beautiful large (1 litre) teapot with its own internal filter (into which I put about 5 teaspoons of tea).
- Add 80-100g sugar (while the tea is still hot and brewing).
- Leave to stand for 30 minutes, then remove the tea leaves or bags.
- Leave the tea to cool, then pour it into the quart container (which I assume could be any large un-porous container) in which the scoby is already sitting. You will find that the scoby probably floats to the top.
- Cover the container with the muslin (hold in place with rubber band).
- Leave it to sit at room temperature for 7-10 days.
- When you’re ready to try it, pour the kombucha into a bottle or jug, leaving the scoby and a small amount of liquid in the container.
- Keep the jar of kombucha in the fridge, and enjoy drinking it.
- Start all over again to make a fresh batch. Or if you’re not quite ready for that (or maybe are going away for a while), just leave the scoby and the small amount of kombucha in the covered container at room temperature until you’re ready to use it again.