This past week we had guests from an urban farm in Ottawa staying with us at our bed and breakfast. They said for them it was like "coming home", and we too thoroughly enjoyed their company and had long conversations about permaculture, cohousing, land trusts, food co-ops, and lacto-fermenting foods. They shared their home-brewed kombucha with us and left a bottle so we could get our own batch started! Kombucha is a wonder drink, known by some as "the elixir of long life" because it is full of antioxidants and probiotics (along the lines of kefir, live culture yogurt, kimchi, etc). It promotes healthy intestinal flora, stimulates the immune system, boosts energy levels, and has been reputed to heal a long list of health issues by detoxifying and cleansing the blood/body.
We had been talking about starting kombucha after reading about it in the Wild Fermentation book, so I was extremely pleased to receive this gift! Hopefully, if all goes well, in several weeks we will have a "mother" mushroom which we can pass on to others who want to start their own brews.
Here's a recipe for making your own kombucha at home. It's also readily available in various flavours from health food stores. I have not found information yet about whether kombucha can successfully be made without using refined sugar - this is one down side of this drink, as it does contain a fair amount of sugar sweetener, but the sugar is needed (as in wine making) for the microbes to multiply and assist fermentation.
1) Get some live kombucha (e.g. if you don't have someone to give you a starter culture, they can be purchased online, or you can use 1/2 cup from a kombucha tea you buy at the health food store)
2) Steep 4-8 tea bags (black or green, not herbal) per 4 litres (aprox 1 gallon) water. Tea can be made with cold filtered water and let tea bags steep until tea is desired strength; or make a hot tea and let it cool before adding starter culture.
3) Add 1-1/2 cups sugar, which helps fuel the kombucha microbes (the more sugar, the stronger the sour flavour will be in your finished kombucha).
4) Add kombucha starter culture, or the 1/2 cup kombucha tea from your last batch or store bought bottle.
5) Stir well, then cover with cheese cloth - securing cover so flies can't get in, but allowing kombucha to breathe.
6) Let sit for one week (or more) on kitchen counter - if "mushroom" grows it has worked. Save mushroom ("mother") and use to float in your next batch of kombucha. In another week or so the mushroom will grow another small mushroom on it, which can be saved and used, or given away!
7) Bottle kombucha (siphon into glass jars) and store in the fridge. At the point of bottling, you can add various interesting flavour additives such as chopped ginger root, raspberries, or lemon slices, into each bottle. The finished kombucha will taste like a fizzy carbonated sour-sweet iced tea drink. Drink 1/2 cup each day for health benefits.