Friday 21 October 2016

Pop Stars... Home-made Kombucha

This year is all about embracing your inner scoby, says Susan Jane White. Here's her how-to guide

Published 25/05/2015 | 02:30

Susan Jane White
Susan Jane White

Kombucha is tribal-speak for health geek. Kombucha-swillers are often tastefully tattooed, found at vegan pop-ups, and love guerilla gardening.

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Kombucha itself is an ancient health-promoting drink made by fermenting tea. A cultured tea, so it seems. True 'live' kombucha is a different beast to the commercially heat-treated versions found in supermarkets and vending machines. Kombucha has got to be raw in order for its beneficial, gut-lovin' bacteria to thrive.

I love its natural fizz and how it grosses out my husband. Just as yoghurt demands a culture for the good bacteria to multiply, so too does kombucha tea. Kombucha's culture is delightfully referred to as a 'scoby' or 'scobe'. Scoby is an acronym of 'symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast'. It forms on the top of the kombucha, and it's described as a jelly disc, but it probably has a closer resemblance to a frisbee of sneeze.

Find a cafe or health-food store that brews their own kombucha and ask them to keep you a baby scoby. ( I forgot to mention this part. Each week, the scoby makes a baby scoby, which you can use to make more bottles of kombucha, sell on Amazon as authentic Dublin scobys, or simply compost.)

With yoghurt-making, the good bacteria feeds off milk sugars called lactose. This magical process gives yoghurt its much-adored tang. With kombucha, we add a form of sugar to feed the mother scoby. White sugar works best, but given my acute reflex to highly processed foods, I groove to a different tune. Coconut palm sugar works beautifully, as does rapadura sugar. Both bring extra minerals to the tipple. As the cultures feed off the sugars and ferment, they start belching gas to make a sparkling tea.

Home-made Kombucha

Serves 8.

There is an entire library of teas you can play with, but it is best to stay away from teas with natural oils, such as peppermint and Earl Grey (which contains bergamot oil). Apparently these guys misbehave and can madden your scoby. I use rooibos and sencha green tea. A friend swears by white tea with a kiss of camomile. But, hey! Let your inner MacGyver decide.

You will need:

1L (1pt 15fl oz) water

2-3 green-tea teabags

4 tablespoons preferred form of sugar

1 kombucha scoby

125ml (4fl oz) mature kombucha

Boil the water and let it cool for five minutes. Pour it into a teapot with the green-tea teabags and the sugar. Let it steep until it is cold - say four hours.

Discard the tea bags and fill a litre-sized Kilner glass jar, or something similar, with the cold sweetened tea. Add the scoby and the mature kombucha. Place a piece of muslin or a light cloth on top and secure it with a rubber band. This allows oxygen into the jar, which the scoby likes.

Leave it to ferment for 5-10 days. An ideal environment would be a dark corner at room temperature. The longer you leave the kombucha to ferment, the tarter it becomes.

As soon as you like the taste, pour 80pc of the now-cultured tea into a clean bottle, and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. The remaining 20pc is basically your "mature kombucha" for the next batch. You'll notice a baby scoby attached to the mother scoby. Gift this one to a neighbour, along with this column and a wink.

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