Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Student Guide to Brewing Kombucha Tea

I’ve always been the type of person that will try anything once — I love new hobbies and activities (especially if the outcome is delicious). After using my precious student pennies to buy bottles of store-bought kombucha (it can be pricey), I realized that I had to embark on an adventure and become a brewer.

So, this summer, I started brewing kombucha tea at home — I am not an expert (yet). But, there are several reasons why I think it’s a beneficial drink for students.
You might be thinking “seriously, brewing kombucha is what all the hippie hipsters are doing” — and yes, there is that stereotype. But don’t worry, kombucha brewers have been around for centuries. Kombucha originated in China during the Tsin Dynasty (221 BC) and was known as “the tea of immortality” — it was also recorded in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Japan.

In case this is the first time you’re hearing of it, kombucha is a fermented drink made with water, sugar, tea, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (called a SCOBY). But, why drink it? Kombucha is a healthy alternative to sugary sodas, juices, and other beverages.

Also, there is an endless list of health benefits that come from drinking kombucha. After it is finished fermenting, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and concentrations of acid. Kombucha is known to improve digestion, aid weight loss, increase energy (good for exam periods), detoxify your body, prevent cancer, and support your immune system.

It’s also versatile and can be tangy, sweet, sour, or savoury — there are so many different flavour combinations. And let me tell you the best part, kombucha tea is fairly easy to brew at home and it requires minimal maintenance. Instead of spending $3 — $6 on bottles, you can DIY.

Here’s a few tips to get started on your brewing journey:

1. Research kombucha brews, read online articles, and consult YouTube videos (there’s a lot of good ones). Check out “The Big Book of Kombucha”, culturesforhealth.com, or kombuchakamp.com.

2. Gather ingredients and supplies. You will need jars, coffee filters, and elastic bands. You will also need water, sugar, tea, and a SCOBY.



Tip: There are many ways to obtain SCOBY’s. You can buy them online (dehydrated or hydrated), ask a friend (if you know someone who brews), or you can look up brewers in your area. I obtained a SCOBY by searching on Kijiji (there are lots of people in Edmonton who offer them for free or for a low cost).

3. Follow the recipe. Once you find your chosen recipe (for 1.5 litres, 3.7 litres, or 7.6 litres — remember, most recipes use gallons) stick with it. You are dealing with a bacteria and yeast culture, so it’s important to follow the instructions and keep your brewing space clean.

4. Experiment! Once you learn the basics, there are a million possibilities. Try brewing with different types of tea or flavouring your second fermentation with fruit, spices, herbs, juice or anything you like (you get to decide).

5. Remember that there are two fermentation cycles for kombucha brewing.

The first cycle is 7–30 days long and will result in another SCOBY (the first SCOBY you use will create a baby SCOBY — this is a sign of a healthy brew). After this stage, you can either drink the kombucha, or let it ferment a second time.

The second fermentation is when you can flavour your kombucha (with pretty much anything) and bottle it in air-tight sealed containers. This is how you will obtain the fizzy carbonated and refreshing version that you can buy at stores.

6. Do more than just drink it. You can use kombucha in cooking or baking, make it into vinegar, create fancy cocktails, or if you’re intense you can even ferment it into beer, wine, or champagne.
Brewing your own kombucha is fun, safe, and an excellent way to save some money, impress your friends, and drink something healthy. So, go for it!

Melissa - YouAlberta Contributor

Melissa is a second year BA in Global and Development Studies at Augustana. Her favourite pastimes are drinking tea, eating chicken wings, rock climbing and playing her ukulele. Melissa loves wearing bright red lipstick to match her hair and her sarcastic personality!
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