A trendy bottle begs attention and it’s even better when the beverage inside is palatable. A far cry from the juice cleanses of yore (sorry Gwyneth Paltrow), kombucha combines a distinct yet pleasant tartness with subtle fizz for a low price. Sporting a slight caffeine and alcohol content, kombucha may even be viewed as Four-Loko’s more honorable twin.
Known as “tea mushroom” in Japan, kombucha begins as simple green or black tea. The mushroom in question is actually a “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” or “SCOBY” which is added to the tea. After days of fermentation, a beverage virtually indistinguishable (but none the less delectable) from its roots as classically brewed tea is available for your tasting and bragging pleasure.
Kombucha is not a new product. First mentioned in German literature in 1913, It popped up in North American grocery stores in the early 1990s. Its recent gains in popularity, however, have allowed the fizzy treat a starring role in the ever evolving health food trend craze — right next to the bone broth and the kale chips. Fermentation is in.
Here is a recipe provided by Fran Barten who teaches kombucha classes at Farmhouse Market in New Prague, Minn. Fresh fruit can be added at the end of the process to individualize the beverage to your specific taste.
To make half a gallon of kombucha:
1/2 gallon jar
6 cups of filtered water
1/2 cup of sugar
4 tea bags (all black or three black and one green)
1 cup of kombucha starter (previously made kombucha — can be purchased or borrowed from someone else)
1 kombucha mushroom (SCOBY)
Heat 6 cups of water to a boil, turn off the heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Immediately add the tea bags, stir a little, cover and let sit until cooled to room temperature. Squeeze the tea bags and remove. Pour the cooled tea into the jar. Add the one cup starter tea. Add the SCOBY.
Cover loosely with a cloth and place in a warm, dark spot. Bubbles will form around the edge of the jar, and a thin film will start to form. This will grow into a mature SCOBY. Check the flavor in a week to 10 days (or longer if the room is cool).
Pour all kombucha -- except one cup -- into a bottle or glass jar. Cover tightly. You may now drink it, store it in the refrigerator or flavor it. Leave one cup of kombucha in the original jar, along with the SCOBY. This is your starter for another batch.
For another batch, follow the first four steps above and pour the cooled tea onto the starter and SCOBY. Cover this batch with a cloth, place in a warm dark place to brew, etc.
Barten also recommends keeping jars of fermented kombucha labeled with a record of dates. Starters and SCOBYs can be made or purchased online. They can also be borrowed from a practicing brewer.