‘Buch, Like Everyone Calls It

Lockdown Kombucha

Kombucha is a magical drink, much like Mezcal, Fura, and bitters. A true wonder of gastronomical proportions. Kombucha or ‘Buch as some people like to call it (no one, really just me), is a fermented drink made by brewing sugar tea and fermenting it with a culture of bacteria. Which, tbvh, sounds abhorrent, but the result of this process is a delightful beverage! I have been participating in the consumption of kombucha semi-regularly for about three years. It’s sweet, with a relatively low sugar content and great health benefits so; win-win. I win!  I had mostly been drinking store-bought Kombucha, however, a couple of years back I was exposed to homemade Kombucha. This took me on a somewhat roundabout journey. 

Two years ago during a holiday in Nashville, my Airbnb host (a super cool lady with a lovely home that had a fresh produce garden, homemade jam, dogs and vibes) opened her fridge, handing me a 16 oz glass jar filled with orange liquid; homemade Kombucha!

You know those coke commercials where the bottle is opened and you hear that crisp hiss of carbonation with the first swig accompanied by a satisfied “ahh”.

That was me the whole weekend to the bemusement of the whole household. Our host had orange Kombucha, strawberry, a lovely ginger-lemon Kombucha, also an interesting-sounding carrot turmeric Kombucha – which I didn’t get to taste as it was still brewing. My host and I were the perfect match, I was a willing taste tester and she was the kind of person who loved people enjoying the products of their efforts. She made a comment saying I was “handling” the kombucha well, which meant I had a relatively healthy diet. I only have my Faux vegan lifestyle to thank for this. “Handling”, in this case meant Kombucha agreed with my stomach.  Kombucha is known to be rich in probiotics and antioxidants, so the act of balancing your gut can lead to increased bowel movements.

But…I digress. As my trip to Nashville was coming to an end I was gifted a SCOBY (Kombucha bacteria culture) with a set of instructions on how to start my own brew. I left Nashville filled with hot chicken, country music for my playlist, and excitement with the thought of brewing my very own Kombucha.

Let’s just say, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Hello, procrastination!  The SCOBY stayed untouched in my fridge for a year and a half. The instructions were also prominently displayed on my fridge, held up by a magnet. Ignored for months and eventually forgotten, the white paper blended into the fridge. I continued to buy store-bought ‘Buch, indulging every so often, and so the SCOBY retreated further and further into the back of the fridge, ignored during cleanings. I kept it as a reminder, a physical manifestation of my procrastination. 

2020 rolled around and so did Covid-19, lockdowns and with them; luckily for me, I could work from home. I found myself getting into all sorts of things to occupy myself. This consisted of an increase in sleep, recipe exploration, writing, reading, binge-watching, and remote communicating. I started to look back at other things I was interested in, but had been putting off.

 Enter Kombucha!

Two weeks into the lockdown I decided to take the plunge and brew my own batch.

Yes.

Finally!

There are a couple of ways to get started with brewing, but the easiest way, in my opinion, is to get a Kombucha starter kit (sorry Nashville Airbnb Lady). The starter kit comes with everything you will need for your first batch, as well as instructions on the brewing and post brew process. I ordered one off Amazon and eagerly anticipated my package.

Brewing Process:

Brewing Kombucha was surprisingly simple. I procrastinated for two years, partly due to fear of failure – so much for that.

Fight your fears, kids.

Instructions: You start off by brewing tea, usually a black tea sans oils. 8 tea bags did the trick for me. While the tea is cooling you mix in one cup of sugar, stir till it dissolves in the mixture, white sugar is preferred.

After the sugar has dissolved you then pour the cloyingly sweet tea into a glass brewing jar, along with 8 cups of filtered cold water.

Check to make sure that the temperature is between 68 and 86 degrees with the ph below 4.5. The formula you should use to calculate this is T =

… hahaha! just kidding, it’s not exactly rocket science!

The kit comes with a thermometer and pH testing strips. Next, you add the magic – your SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast).

This, as I previously I mentioned, is the ingredient doing all the work. Literally, turning this sweet tea mixture into the goodness elixir that is; Kombucha. The bacteria and yeast are housed in a slimy milky rubbery substance that comes in a bag with some “starter kombucha”. When the SCOBY and starter liquid have been added, you seal off the jar with a cotton cloth and a rubber band. This allows fermentation to take place without contamination. At this point, you’ve done most of the work, all that’s left is to label your brew and store it in a warm area away from sunlight. I left mine on a kitchen counter close to the pantry. The instructions say that you should leave it to brew for 7-10 days, so I set a reminder for 8 days, let the SCOBY do its thing. 

8 days go by and I can already tell, by just looking at the jar, things are very different from what they were when the brew first started. The dark brown sweet tea has turned the lighter brown color of Kombucha and the SCOBY has grown (yeah, grown) covering the top of the liquid. I figured I must have done something right. The faint smell of “brew” (stop playing, you know what I’m talking about) was emanating from the top of the jar. The kit came with a little pipette I used to taste the mixture to confirm that it was, in fact, Kombucha. Success! It was (my sister can attest to this completely unbiased opinion); quite delicioso. We out ‘ere, just call me the master brewer *Puts on a flannel shirt and trucker hat, strokes my metaphorical hipster beard*. Going to retire to my remote sustainable cabin soon. Complete with a fresh produce garden and bidet (if you know… you know). 

The next step in Kombucha making is optional, flavoring. Some people like to drink unflavored Kombucha, but I wanted to add a little ‘vim; some pizzazz! If you will, to mine. I took out the SCOBY from the jar, stored it in a Ziploc bag, and added some Kombucha (starter) to keep it active until it was time for the next brew. In two slim necked glass bottles, I added ingredients for my flavoring. One bottle contained chopped ginger and lemon, and the other contained chopped strawberries. I added Kombucha to each bottle and sealed them with airtight stoppers. I left them on my kitchen counter for the carbonation and flavor-infusing to take place. After a couple days, I opened up the bottles and the flavors wafted out, accompanied by the coke carbonation hiss. Ginger lemon and strawberry kombucha complete.

Talk to me nicely please, as I have proven I am a superior human.

I currently have another batch brewing. I am looking really forward to experimenting with different teas and flavors. I may or may not keep you posted. I would definitely recommend trying this out for fellow Kombucha lovers and even for people who want to try something new. 

Be safe! Do something fun and different! But no pressure.

-I

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