Friday, May 15, 2009

Make it or buy it: kombucha, pt. 1

I take back the mean things I said about kombucha. Debra brought over a bottle this morning and I actually tolerated -- even enjoyed -- a small glass. It was fizzy and tangy, much tastier than remembered. Maybe my early bad experience was due to the the shock of kombucha when I was expecting Snapple. Deb pays less because she buys in bulk, but a 16-oz bottle of Synergy Kombucha costs $3.99 from Organic Direct, a price I'm sure we can beat with homemade. That is, if it doesn't kill us.

We made kombucha according to Robin's recipe. First you boil 4 quarts of water, mix with 1 cup of sugar and 4 tablespoons of loose tea and steep for 15 minutes. (We used green tea, although Robin recommends black.) Strain. Cool to room temperature. 

At this point, you add 1 cup of prepared kombucha (bottled or homemade) and a so-called "mother" to the cooled tea. The "mother" may also be called a "scoby" which is the acronym for "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast." I don't know how I feel about that. There's a video here about how to grow your own mother from scratch; now I'm worried because we used tap water in our kombucha and these guys say you shouldn't. So does this story. Shoot. Anyway, we were lucky enough to have a mother donated by Robin,  which was flat, shiny, and slippery, like a large squid without tentacles.

 Here is the mother lurking just beneath the surface of the cooled tea:
We covered the whole bowl with a cloth, put it in the back of the pantry,  and will reconvene next Friday to see what has developed. If we did everything right and the tap water didn't screw us up, the tea should be "tart and zingy" and there will be two mothers in the bowl. 

Here's the ingredient list on the Synergy Kombucha bottle: 95% G.T's. organic raw kombucha, blueberry juice, fresh pressed ginger juice, and 100% pure love!!!


  1. i think they say not to use tap water because the chlorine in city water CAN affect the growth of the microbes that ferment things. i use well water and so it's not an issue. you probably don't have enough chlorine in your house water to bother the bugs.

    btw i love making kombucha with earl grey tea.

    also, i tape pieces of masking tape across the top of the bowl of kombucha then place the dish towel across the top of the bowl. this is so the towel doesn't fall into the sticky stuff as it sits and cures.

  2. oooh, this recipe scares me! I get weird about having to let things sit without refrigeration.

  3. helltoupee -- i tied the cloth very tightly around the edge of the bowl, almost like a drum. was that too tight?

    LK -- it's scary to me as well. bad bacteria, good bacteria, i get confused. . .

  4. hi tipsy, no. that's fine. the wrapping cloth thing won't hurt. the brew simply needs to breathe without nasty bugs dive-bombing the stuff.

    as for the scary health considerations, one quickly learns to distinguish "strange new smells" from "bad unhealthful smells."

    also it has rarely happened to me, maybe twice in four years?, that a ferment has gone bad (and i'm not terribly careful) but when it has gone bad it was VERY obvious.

    an expert on kombucha can be found here:

    I've ordered starters of all kinds from him for years.

    and then a support group for ferments of all kinds is Microbial Nutrition Yahoo Group....

    an EXCELLENT book, classic, on fermentation is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.. highly recommend..

  5. You really have become a mad scientist. Do you think "the blob" was actually a "mother."

  6. That blob is the most disgusting thing I've ever contemplated drinking!

  7. Aaaah! The mother is terrifying!

  8. I am proud to be a cohort in Kombucha creation! Bacteria be damned!

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