The cultures club

The trend for the slow cultivation of sour mould has reached bubbling point. Whether in bread form; fizzy drink; or pickled cabbage, many will be familiar with the sight of a questionably filled mason jar lurking atop the fridge.

This is not 30 minute meals, this is food and drink for the meditative, for those with time, patience, and resealable glass pots. Sourdough, sauerkraut and kimchi are among the top foodstuffs of the fermented variety, but it is of course the tea variation that we are interested in: Kombucha.

Kombucha is everywhere at the moment, stacked in various decorative bottles in health food shops and offered as a kind of body-tonic or natural energy drink. Its origin is uncertain, and little is known about its etymology, but it is ultimately stemmed from a fungus, hence its Chinese name chajun, Korean hongchabeoseotcha, and Russian chaynyy grib, to name a few. These literally translate to ‘tea-fungus’ or ‘tea-mushroom’.

Its composition is said to aid digestion and help the gut which is primarily why it is sold on a medicinal basis, however it has come to popularity more recently for its exquisite flavour and natural fizz.

Whilst an exciting treat, it can be quite expensive to purchase on a regular basis, and to reap the maximum rewards from the drink, it is best consumed often. Fortunately, Kombucha is not too difficult to make at home. One needs to purchase a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, and brew around 8 bags of tea in a large glass jar with sugar until cool and dissolved. The scoby is then placed on top of the brew and begins to ferment the liquid by, in effect, drinking the sugar and feeding itself. Whilst perhaps initially hard to get one’s head around, it produces a delicious drink full of probiotics and healthy bacteria.

A full recipe for plain Kombucha can be found here.

Once you have your plain Kombucha mastered, that’s when things can start getting fun. Or, more fun.

Coffee Kombucha
Don’t use leftover kombucha starter for this as it will ruin the taste. Brew 2 quarts of fresh coffee and dissolve half a cup of sugar into the hot drink. Allow it to cool and make sure there are no leftover coffee grounds. Place in the kombucha scoby and cover the jar with a cloth secured with an elastic band. Brew for 7 days out of direct sunlight.

Redbush Kombucha

Exactly the same as the normal recipe, but use 8 bags of rooibos tea instead of black tea. This is a great caffeine-free alternative and is still full of the wonderful health benefits. It’s also delicious with orange zest or with a couple of wedges stuck in during the 2nd fermentation. Quinteassential’s seville orange rooibos would be particularly good here, and any loose leaf tea is also fine to use.

Apple & Ginger Kombucha
Brew as normal, then add 1/5 – 1/4 apple juice into the bottles for the 2nd fermentation and add a couple of slices of fresh ginger. Would be beautiful with a strong, green tea base instead of black.

Variations are endless, and once one has a supply of brewed Kombucha, it’s possible to keep breeding it and trying new flavours. Experiment with different leaves, teas, spices, flavours. A practical hobby that’s both affordable, healthy and a little eccentric.

It’s good for you; I can feel it in my gut.

With a thirst for unusual experiences and a love of culture, Ellie desires to see the world and shine a lasting beam of light upon it as she passes. Spicy, warm, soothing, healing and somewhat mysterious; that’s her down to a tea.