Some call it a miracle tea and health remedy and some an alcoholic beverage best avoided, but by all accounts the slightly fizzy, somewhat sour brew that is kombucha tea is an easily made, fermented, probiotic drink.
Simply, kombucha is a culture of bacteria and yeast living together. Add some sugar and tea, and the culture produces a fermented drink that some say promotes general health through detoxifying the body and improving digestion. Kombucha has also been said to cure or stave off a variety of health ailments ranging from cancer to gray hairs. Because it contains live beneficial bacteria cultures, it is also believed to promote a healthy digestive system.
There is a lot of disagreement about what health benefits, if any, there are to gain from drinking kombucha, but people have been doing it for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.
Enjoying popularity at different times and places in history, in recent years the introduction of readily available commercial brands — and celebrities seen drinking them — helped it to explode in the United States.
This also lead to controversy when the Federal Drug Administration scrutinized kombucha companies over the alcohol content occurring naturally in the fermented beverage, which in some cases was over legally allowed limits.
While some companies were able to rebound with new formulas and labeling, the scrutiny was enough to drown some fledgling startups.
Whether you like kombucha for the health benefits, or drink it solely for its unique taste, you can make it yourself at home with just a few ingredients and a little patience.
First you will need a culture. You will see the culture you use for home brewing called a few different things including the mushroom, mother and SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The culture is alive and when you feed it at home to brew a tea, it will continue to grow, so parts of it will need to be separated and removed. Because of this, it is easy to get a mother for free and start your own kombucha brewing. Check with friends, on bulletin boards at health food stores or online discussion groups to find mothers. You can also find complete brew kits for sale on the Internet, if you prefer.
Add the mother to a mixture of sweetened tea, cover it with a piece of cheesecloth and leave it in a warm place out of the sunlight to ferment for five to 10 days. Be sure to use a clean jug, clean implements and watch for the growth of any mold. Play with different teas and added flavorings and you’ve got your own personalized health tonic.