Do I have a treat for you today! This is a guest post from my new friend Joshua Gray. Joshua is a writer with a full knowledge of Weston A Price and real food techniques. He is the brother of Jessica Prentice, who wrote Full Moon Feast (it’s on my bookshelf, love it) and who is credited with coining the term “locavore”. I think you’ll enjoy this heartfelt story of Joshua’s experience with kombucha.
Like many American parents, I have spent a good amount of time trying to get my kids to drink beverages that are healthier than the sodas manufactured by big corporations. It isn’t easy. Water has no taste, juices and milk can go bad, and well, a cold soda on a hot day simply tastes too good.
Admittedly, I was a sodaholic too. I am pretty sure I had one soda per day on average from the time I was 15 to the time I was 40. When I was 40 I was diagnosed with Melanoma, and an alternative doctor I knew was convinced all that soda drinking was a cause, if not THE cause, of my cancer.
As ridiculous as it may sound, I can’t really disagree: you are what you eat (or in this case, drink.)
Thankfully, I discovered the wonderful powers of kombucha. Kombucha is nature’s answer to the soft drink. Kombucha is a tonic made from a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria called a kombucha “mushroom” (it is called a mushroom because of its appearance, but it not a mushroom). The mushroom converts a black tea and refined white sugar mixture into a fizzy tonic that neither has caffeine nor is sweet, yet contains a detoxifying substance called glucuronic acid.
Sally Fallon writes this about kombucha in Nourishing Traditions:
“Normally this organic acid is produced by the liver in sufficient quantities to neutralize toxins in the body – whether these are naturally produced toxins or or poisons ingested in food and water. However, when liver functions become overloaded, and when the body must deal with a superabundance of toxins from the environment – certainly the case with most of us today – additional glucuronic acid taken in the form of kombucha is said to be a powerful aid to the body’s natural cleansing process, a boost to the immune system and a proven prophylactic against cancer and other degenerative diseases.”
That’s all fine and great, but the best part of kombucha is the taste.
Kombucha normally takes one-to-two weeks to make, depending mostly on personal preference. One week and it tastes like a semi-flat soda: very sweet and slightly fizzy. Left for two weeks and it tastes more like a beer: very bitter and very fizzy. If you only let it sit for one week remember that sweetness is coming from refined white sugar – not the healthiest thing in the world; however, keep it for two and not many people will appreciate the bitter taste. The perfect batch of kombucha, the batch that is just sweet enough that the kids will love it, just bitter enough for the beer drinkers, is the batch that was left for about ten days.
Another way to drink Kombucha is to mix the finished batch with something else – I often made what I called orange kombucha: half kombucha and half orange juice. The kids love it!
You need a kombucha mushroom to begin making kombucha, and the best way to obtain one is if you know someone who already has a kombucha “mother” – you just need to ask them for a “baby.” The older the mushrooms get the browner they get, but they also get thicker over time, as newer layers grow on top of the mushroom with age. The older layers are called mothers and the newer layers are called babies.
But if you don’t know anyone who has one, there are plenty of sources online [TNC: here are some kombucha starter/scoby sources that I trust] where you can purchase them.
Remember these cultures are living beings that continuously make “babies,” so soon after you begin making kombucha you will be left with a choice: start a kombucha farm in your kitchen like I did, or feed your compost bin. I had so many kombucha batches going in the kitchen my wife ordered me to PLEASE STOP!
Here is the recipe for kombucha tea from Nourishing Traditions:
Yield: about 2 quarts of kombucha
Page in NT: 596
- 3 quarts filtered water
- 1 cup organic, refined white sugar (the only time you’ll see this ingredient on my blog!)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (optional – I never used salt)
- 4 bags of black tea
- ½ cup kombucha from previous culture (you of course won’t have this the first time)
- 1 kombucha mushroom/SCOBY – Here are some great resources for kombucha starters
- Make black tea by bringing water to a boil, add sugar (and salt if used) until dissolved, and then turn off the heat and add tea bags. Let the tea sit in the water until the water is brought down to room temperature.
- Remove the tea bags, add the kombucha and the kombucha mushroom (SCOBY).
- Stir, and transfer to a strong, open glass container. Cover with a tea towel or washcloth. Set the container in a shaded area away for about 10 days (I put my containers on the kitchen counter underneath the cabinets).
- After ten days strain the kombucha into a pitcher and begin the process again. Keep a strainer handy: if the kombucha sits in the fridge for a few days the culture will continue to grow in the pitcher.