Have You Ever Brewed Kombucha Tea?

Do you drink kombucha? It's a fizzy, sour, fermented tea that has a huge and active cult following. Drinking the probiotic-laden brew purportedly brings all sorts of health benefits: increased energy, improved immune system, better digestion, and it's even been reported to help people recover from cancer.

I am dubious about the health claims, but I do drink it — I just really like the taste! I am brewing my first batch, and I am curious: have you ever tried to brew kombucha?

Kombucha has traditionally belonged in the hippie and health-conscious underground, but lately it's been popular in wider circles. People get hooked by its sour, fizzy taste, which is really very refreshing. It's a great change from too-sweet juices and sodas, and its sugar content is minimal.

I personally was quite skeptical of the "mushroom tea" when I first read about it. It's brewed, after all, with a mushroom-like cloud of bacteria and yeast, hanging down into the tea like a cloudy jellyfish. Scary! But my husband bought me a bottle when I was sick last winter, and I immediately loved the taste. Sour, fizzy, refreshing. I promptly developed a habit of GT's ginger and citrus flavors, but the bottles are $4 apiece at the co-op. Surely there is a cheaper way!

The kombucha brewing underground is also a huge and well-networked place. If you look on Craigslist or Google on kombucha you'll find all sorts of helpful people willing to give away a starter. The starter looks like a flat, white mushroom, and it's called a mother. When you brew the tea with a mother it usually produces even more of the starter, a baby.

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I decided to go an even easier way, however, and start a batch from a bottle of raw kombucha. I had read that this was just fine; it just might take a little longer to get started.

So I boiled about a gallon of water with what seemed like a ton of sugar, steeped some black tea bags, let it all cool to room temperature, and dumped in a bottle of GT's ginger flavor kombucha, also at room temperature. I put it all in a big clean glass jar, covered with a paper towel, and let it sit.

A week later there is a serious layer of spent yeast on top of the liquid, and there is the characteristic fizziness of kombucha. It is still working, though, and the bacteria and yeast are still forming and eating up all that sugar. I am hoping that it turns out well; I will give another update next week!

Until then - have you made kombucha, and do you like to drink it?

Related: What's the Deal With: Kombucha?

(Images: Faith Durand)

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