Kombucha – from backyard brewing to international trendy beverage, find out why the WanderingYogi swears by it as a replacement for that mimosa…
Just opened a bottle of my Tarmonic kombucha. Unfortunately, I may have overestimated time for fermentation, and the kitchen is covered in sticky fermented tea, with the slight smell of apple and yellow (turmeric).
Sugar with your tea? Bacteria? Kombucha is, pardon the pun, on the rise. I first tasted it in Bali 3 years ago, and was captivated – seeing it as the best ever healthy replacement for my Sunday brunch mimosa.
Kombucha has a vinegar-like smell and a taste described as everything from rotten apple cider to fizzy and tart (if done well, the latter).
Because it’s naturally fermented with bacteria and yeast, it has loads of benefits, including improved digestion, reducing candida, improved mental clarity and mood stability.
In 2016, the global kombucha market was around USD $1062 million and expected to reach approximately USD $2457 million by 2022. Biggest kombucha guzzlers are North America, followed by Asia Pacific.
Those hippie friends of mine were onto something decades ago, when they tried to convert me.
Not surprisingly, there are some drawbacks, despite the fairly simple brewing experience. Kombucha recall incidences is one significant impediment to market growth (not to mention your kitchen area – see my experience). And if you are big business, you have to carry high inventory (you need to drink kombucha within 10 days of ready – no putting it down like good wine). Which is not an issue in my house, I can tell you.
This tea has been around for ages. Fermentation of tea dates back 2,000 years in China, where it was regularly consumed for inflammatory ailments such as arthritis and thought to ward off cancer.
If you are Australian, the idea of creating a fermented ‘brew’ at home is always attractive, so here are some insights.
You need green or black leaf tea (teabags OK, flavoured tea IS NOT), white sugar (no brown sugar and definitely not honey – neither work as effectively) Some commercial kombucha say they have been made on these last two, I don’t believe them. I have tried and it does not work. You also need a ‘mother’ SCOBY (Symbiotic Combination of Bacteria and Yeast). You can start without mum, but it might be a case of trial and error to get the sugar and tea combinations right to produce a scoby. They look disgusting (see picture above), mine look even worse.
The combination stews OUT OF THE FRIDGE for 10 days (a bit longer in Singapore – I think humidity slows down fermentation process). During this time, another SCOBY forms. Scoop both out and you are ready to start again. I have SCOBY hotel (a large glass jar, the inn is full) with SCOBYs regularly checking out to worthwhile homes for people starting their own Kombucha. It is ready for bottling now.
I strain the liquid after I have removed the scoby/s into sterilised bottles, all shapes and sizes OK, but no metal lids (it affects the ongoing process of fermentation in the bottle).
Then it is up to you to choose what fruits or flavours you want to combine. Kids tend to like blueberry or raspberry combos. I have a Pip Kombucha – made of oranges, lemons and sometimes tangerines, and a Tarmonic Kombucha – made of apples, ginger, and turmeric.
Studies on the tea using our rodent friends are very promising. One study found rats who sipped the tea, and subsequently exposed to stress, produced more antioxidants and had less DNA damage than their tea-free pals. Other research found kombucha also prevented antioxidant reduction in stressed out rats.
As a regular consumer, I know how,…..uh, regular it makes me. And happier (but the latter could be the kombucha converting to higher alcohol content, see below….)
Us regular folks make kombucha in uncontrolled environments. With a good chunk of bacteria floating around (in the culture and air), brews have potential to be easily contaminated – hello, upset stomachs. Making kombucha in neutral containers (glass only) is important – ceramic pots or plastic bottles are toxic, as acids in the tea draw out the chemicals from them.
The kombucha’s alcohol content, which is a natural by-product of fermentation (just like your home brew), means they nearly always continue to ferment after being bottled. Joe Traders in the US has it stocked in the same section as wine and beer.
The store bought brews have been tweaked and most contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s the home brews that pack a punch.
Kombucha requires loads of white sugar (not brown, not honey). Most of which is fermented out, leaving one or two grams per 8oz. serving. Leaving significantly less sugar than most other bottled drinks like green tea and lemonade. Definitely better than that black stuff which advertises ‘get up and go’.
Poured into an elegant wine glass, it has replaced my wine at dinner. And that Sunday mimosa.