KOMBUCHA TEA

Compiled by Jane Handel

It is said that the sharing of kombucha, especially the starter “mushroom,” is a community endeavor. That is certainly how it has been for me. Last summer, I sat in my friend Amy Dozier’s beautiful garden drinking a glass of kombucha that she had recently brewed, and said, “Wow, this is so delicious. Maybe you will share the recipe with the readers of Edible Ojai.” Amy said it wasn’t her recipe, and that her starter mushroom and the recipe itself came from her friend, Sue Luther. She was pretty sure Sue would be willing to share it. A couple of months passed and then our regular contributor Carrie Clough said she was writing an article on fermentation for spring. Perfect, I thought, this is the appropriate issue to include a kombucha recipe! That same week, out of the blue, my friend Kelly Luscombe said she was coming by for a visit and bringing me a gift—a kombucha mushroom! So it all seemed rather serendipitous at that point. Kelly provided one recipe, Amy brought over Sue’s, and then, of course, I went on the Internet to research further. So what we have below is a compilation from several sources.

3 quarts distilled water
1 cup refined white sugar
4 tea bags or the equivalent in loose leaf (green or black tea only, preferably organic)
8 ounces newly harvested “starter” kombucha tea or 8 ounces apple cider vinegar
1 kombucha “mushroom”
6-quart stainless steel pot
4-quart glass bowl
1 cotton dishtowel or large cotton handkerchief
Wooden or plastic spoon
Glass jars or containers for storage

Place water and sugar in pot; stir well until sugar is dissolved. Boil for five minutes, and then remove pot from heat. Add tea bags and steep to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Wash hands and remove and discard tea bags or, if loose tea is used, strain the tea into a glass bowl (do not use crystal, metal, ceramic or plastic); add the mushroom, starter tea or vinegar. Cover with cotton dishtowel and secure with a rubber band to keep out dust and fruit flies. Store in a quiet spot while fermenting.

Fermentation process should take from 7 to 30 days depending on the room temperature. The warmer the temperature, the faster the process. After about a week, taste the tea to determine if it has fermented to the desired level, and if it hasn’t let it continue to do so for a few more days. Do not expose to sunlight or the mushroom(s) could be killed.

Test again, and note that a “baby” kombucha is now growing on top of the original one. Remove the “mushroom” with a wooden or plastic spoon and place on a plate. Separate the baby from the mother by gently pulling them apart with clean hands. Pour the tea into a glass container, but reserve 8 ounces for a new batch. Continue to let the brewed tea sit for a few more days and then refrigerate. Use the two mushrooms and 8 ounces of the newly harvested tea to make more tea.

Although commonly referred to as a “mushroom,” the kombucha starter is, in fact, a gelatinous, pancake-like fungus also known as a “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria). Kombucha tea has been brewed for 2,000 years, starting in China and then traveling the world. It is widely known for its many health benefits, but it is also just a delicious and refreshing drink.

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