Nowadays, most probiotics are derived from animal products - a no go if you're a Vegan! Here, I introduce a wonderful and freaky alternative to animal based products - Kombucha!
I first came across Kombucha; which is fermented tea, while I was researching Vegan probiotics. I quickly realised that there are very few options available for Vegans and Kombucha intrigued me.
What we eat and drink can play a significant role in how we feel physically but also mentally too. I am a strong believer in the importance of maintaining a balanced, healthy mind and body. One of the many ways we can help ourselves physically is by consuming things that help promote good bacteria in our gut which in turn helps to combat candida (yeast overgrowth) which can be responsible or contribute to an array of health problems.
Kombucha is viewed as an ancient elixir and the legend has it that a cute Chinese house wife made tea one day and due to a busy household, she put the tea aside and completely forgot about it. Some days later, she remembered that she had made the tea and upon inspection found that it had formed a thick layer on the top now called a ‘zoogleal mat’ (or mother). She tried the tea and found to her surprise, that it tasted amazing.
The tea had fermented and this is where the tradition began. There are many other stories documenting how Kombucha first began and also mixed views on whether it really is healthy. I did my research and decided that I believe it is healthy but as always you should make up your own mind by doing your own research and deciding what is best for you! The final product is believed to contain a blend of beneficial bacteria and probiotics as well as certain acids and enzymes that aid digestion, detoxify the body, and promote health.
Kombucha is very easy to make, although the one salient ingredient that not everyone has lying around and which is crucial to making Kombucha is a Kombucha culture known as a SCOBY. This stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. You can purchase these SCOBYS online to help get you started (I am based in the UK and purchased my SCOBY from the company -Happy Kombucha). SCOBYs also reproduce as they are living organisms and the ‘mother’ will have ‘babies’ so you shouldn’t have to buy another SCOBY once you start making your own Kombucha. You can even give these SCOBYs away to friends and family to help them get started making their own Kombucha brew and spread the healthy and freaky Kombucha vibe J.
Equipment you will need:
- A 2 litre (or larger), glass jar or glass vessel
- A large container/bowl
- Weighing scales
- Elastic band
- Wooden spoon
- Glass bottles
- One SCOBY to every 2 litres of tea
- 6 organic teabags or 6 teaspoons of organic Green, Rooibos or Oolong tea
- 160-200 grams of organic unrefined cane sugar
- Hot water
It is very important to ensure that your SCOBY and finished product does not come into contact with any metal utensils. The following instructions are based on making a 2 litre brew of Kombucha and I recommend you start out with this amount.
Add 6 teabags of your chosen tea or if using loose tea, 6 teaspoons to a large bowl or container. Then weigh between 160-200g of sugar and add this to the bowl. You can use any amount of sugar between these quantities it’s up to you. The sugar is what feeds the SCOBY.
Boil a kettle (preferably with filtered water) and pour this into the container with the tea and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to mix all of the ingredients together and then set aside until it has completely cooled. I like to make Kombucha with green tea as it gives a subtler flavour. I have also made it with Rooibos/Redbush tea, however, the flavour of the end product is quite strong and vinegary for my particular taste.
Once the tea has cooled, remove the teabags/loose tea (you can also remove them before this time just so long as they have had long enough to steep) and pour it into the glass jar and carefully add the SCOBY (with the light side of the SCOBY facing upwards) into the jar along with its starter juice. (This is just juice that the SCOBY comes with that has already been fermented and which also helps the SCOBY to grow in its new environment). The SCOBY can sink or float, either is fine. Then, cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and an elastic band.
Then you can leave the tea to ferment which can take between 6-14 days if you have made a 2 litre batch. It may take longer if you have used a larger amount of liquid (you will need one SCOBY to every 2 litres of tea). It is best to set the jar somewhere away from strong odours and preferably in a warm environment and out of direct sunlight to help the fermentation process. If you don’t have anywhere warm to place it just make sure it is put in a place that is of average room temperature.
You can check the progress of your Kombucha brew by tasting it every couple of days. When tasting it, if it no longer tastes like tea but instead tastes fruity then it is ready. Once you are happy with the taste of your Kombucha, you will need several glass bottles in which you can transfer the Kombucha brew into. At this point, you can also experiment and flavour your Kombucha. You will need a funnel and a measuring jug so you can smoothly transfer the brew into the bottles. If you would like to flavour your tea, then add the ingredients you will be using into the bottle first before you pour the Kombucha in, or just pour the Kombucha straight into the bottle for a plain drink.
If it's your first time making Kombucha, I recommend leaving one bottle plain so you can taste the flavour of the Kombucha in its natural form. You can use anything to flavour your Kombucha from fruit, to superfoods, herbs and spices. When transferring your Kombucha, you must leave the SCOBY sitting in the glass jar with enough liquid to cover it. While you are not making any Kombucha, your SCOBY will need to be preserved in the jar until you are ready to start brewing again. If you will not be brewing another batch for quite some time, just keep an eye on the liquid level and if needed, make some more sweet tea (adjust quantities) in order to keep the SCOBY immersed in liquid. Or you can just brew another batch following the same instructions above. Your SCOBY would have given birth to another SCOBY during this process. I suggest you keep this attached to its ‘mother’ for at least a few batches to help it grow into a strong SCOBY. Once you feel like it is strong enough, you can carefully separate it and use it to make a larger batch of Kombucha, a separate batch or you can give it away.
Once you have bottled your brew you will need to store the bottles in the fridge. Storing the Kombucha in the fridge will turn the Kombucha into a fizzy beverage. The longer it is left in the fridge, the fizzier it will become. Therefore, Kombucha is also a good alternative for those who enjoy unhealthy fizzy drinks.
From the website I purchased my SCOBY from (Happy Kombucha) they mentioned that if you are a diabetic you must not drink Kombucha without seeking the medical opinion of your doctor first. They also state that if you are taking any ‘heavy’ medication then it may be wise to seek advice as to whether Kombucha is suitable to mix with the medication.
Lastly, it is important to introduce Kombucha into your system slowly. It is recommended to drink a small glass daily to begin with which can then be increased to a larger glass and so on. This is so you can give your body a chance to adjust to the probiotic goodness you will be consuming.
I hope you enjoy brewing your own Kombucha! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. There is also plenty of information on the internet in case you get stuck.