Ever heard about Kombucha? I know a couple of you have, specifically those local readers who got me hooked (you know who you are). While Kombucha is gaining steady popularity, especially with the hippie crowd I tend to run in, most people don't have a clue how easy it is to make at home. Lily's school, for instance, is full of Kombucha swilling, flowly skirt wearing, patchouli smelling, dreadlock sporting folks -- did I mention how much I love her school? No? I DO. BUT, most of them are drining the stuff off the shelf and probably spending a fair bit of cash on it, since the bottles average about $4 each.
When KC and family where here for a visit, I got him hooked as well. He went into brain hyper drive trying to figure out if he could brew it on the boat and I sent him home with a scoby of his own (that's hippie talk for a live culture from which to brew this funky drink). I kept promising I'd send him directions on brewing, but I kinda suck these days and hadn't gotten to it yet. Figured I share with you all, since I'm a giving kind of soul. You can find many other versions of how to brew Kombucha out there on the Interweb, but this is what works for me and is pretty dern easy, to boot.
SO, get your hands on a culture and get to work. Here's how to do it:
First you need a large glass jar full of hot tea*. Dig through your tea cupboard and pull out some nice black tea (organic is best, of course... and you can substitute one bag for green tea if you'd like). Add about a cup of (organic) sugar to your vessel and throw on the tea bags (you can use lose tea as well, just make sure you strain it out well before you add your culture). I cheat the process a little by filling it half full of boiled water and then when I think it's had enough time with the tea bags (3-5 bags is good), I dump ice in to fill it the rest of the way up and cool it down in a hurry. This may not be the best choice as you want to make sure everything is clean... boiling hot water is good at that. But I'm lazy, so I don't do it. Meh.
*OK, so as I was writing this I was in the middle of a brew. I took a break to go pull out the tea bags and add in the ice. As soon as I mixed the ice in a heard a huge cracking noise. Yep, I busted my jar. Luckily, the crack held long enough for me to transfer my tea to a ceramic pot and the whole process was saved. Learn from me.
Once you have an almost full jar of cooled sweet tea, wash your hands well and gently add in your Kombucha baby mushroom and a little brew from the last batch. If this is your first batch, you'll likely have some tea with the mushroom from whoever you got it from. You can also buy a bottle from the store (get one without juice) and throw in a cup or two as a starter.
OK, so now you have your cooled black tea with a cup of dissolved sugar in it and a floating Kombucha mushroom (or scoby or baby or whatever the hell you want to call it), with a cup or two of brewed Kombucha in for kicks. Take a clean kitchen towel and lay it across the top of the jar, securing it into place with a rubber band (or whatever works for you, the Kombucha cares not). Put it into a cool, dark location (I use the top of my fridge) and forget it exists for almost two weeks. It should have lost it's sweetness and gotten good and bubbly by then.
Take it down and remove the towel, checking the mushroom top for any mold. Mold is bad. If you see mold, toss the whole thing and accept defeat. If no mold, take out the mushroom and peel the layers apart, creating a new baby from the old. You can compost the old or reuse it, depending on how it looks. I usually compost mine. Set the new Kombucha colony in a dish and cover with a cup or two of the brew. Then, using some boiling water to sterilize your bottles or jars or whatever you want to store it in (Lorien uses a sun tea jar with a spout, which I think is brilliant. I use plastic bottles, which I don't love), clean your receptacles and then decant your brew. You can set it out on the counter for a day or two if it's not bubbly enough, but if you brew it for two weeks (which I often do, due to being lazy), it'll be plenty bubbly. Sometimes little bits of the culture will be floating around and you may want to skim those bits off before you drink it. Drink it cold, by the way. Much better that way. And I like to add a little (organic) fruit juice as well. Yummy!
So, go read up more on it if you'd like and see if you can find yourself a scoby. Then let me know how it turns out. Also, someone let me know if I forgot a step!