Welcome to my mystical and magical world of wild kombucha tea.
I learnt how to make kombucha in the valleys of Northern Thailand in 2015 and have been making it all over the world ever since, teaching and inspiring others to learn this ancient technique of kombucha tea wild fermentation.
In this article I am going to explain to you how you can make your own Kombucha Tea at home and how I got introduced to this ancient health elixir.
Discovering, understanding and embracing Kombucha Tea marked a major turning point in my career and life.
In September of 2015, I decided to take some time out from my hard grafting head chef job to go on a cultural culinary adventure of Northern Thailand.
While visiting a Muay Thai training camp in the jungles of Mae Hong Son, I attended a two day fermentation course, learning all about the makings of sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.
I had been happily consuming copious amounts of this sparkly probiotic drink on my travels. But, I never really understood the extent of the fermentation process that took place to create such a medicinal health elixir. Kombucha has its origins traced back to the Far East some 2000 years ago.
The art of wild fermentation
Up until this time it never really dawned on me that we have the ability to work with nature and give our foods superpowers. By applying the biological and natural process of fermentation.
It was an awakening for me, this opened a whole new pathway of discovery and exploration for me...
What is kombucha tea
Kombucha is a live pro-biotic green or black tea that is fermented with the aid of a mother culture, commonly referred to as a ‘’SCOBY’’ (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
Some cane sugar is added to the tea to act as food for the SCOBY, as it feeds on the sugar, as well as the wild yeast and bacteria in the environment, it in turn populates the tea with probiotics, enzymes and organic lactic and gluconic acids.
The live culture will miraculously produce a new baby SCOBY. This can be given to friends or family interested in making their own kombucha. And so the life cycle continues.
The resulting beverage will taste something like sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use.
It's an ancient recipe that is simple and safe to produce at home. When consumed on a regular basis can have a very positive effect on your long term health.
Where did kombucha tea originate
Known to the Chinese as the ‘Immortal Health Elixir’
The origins of Kombucha have become lost in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in the Far East, probably China. It has been consumed there for at least two thousand years. The first recorded use of kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as "The Tea of Immortality".
It has been used in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan for several centuries. It's from Japan in 415 AD that the name kombucha is said to have come. A Korean physician called Kombu or Kambu treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, "Kombu" and "cha" meaning tea. Russia has a long tradition of using a healing drink called "Tea Kvass" made from a "Japanese Mushroom".
From Russia it spread to Prussia, Poland, Germany and Denmark but it seems to have died out during World War Two.
After the war Dr Rudolph Skelnar created renewed interest in kombucha in Germany when he used it in his practice to treat cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.
How long does it take to make kombucha
It takes 7-10 days for the 1st stage of fermentation, after which the culture is removed (to start another batch), the live probiotic beverage is then strained and placed in flip top airtight bottles, left at room temperature for about another week to continue the bottle fermentation, which builds up the carbonation producing a Champagne like fizz.
The kombucha SCOBY
The Kombucha culture looks like a beige or white rubbery pancake. It's often called a 'SCOBY' which stands for ' symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns a bowl full of sweet tea into a bowl full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.
As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the pro-biotic microorganisms themselves.
The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.
You might wonder if fermenting tea with yeasts would produce an alcoholic beverage. The yeasts do produce alcohol but the bacteria in the culture turn the alcohol to organic acids. Only minute quantities of alcohol, typically 0.5% by volume remains in the kombucha brew.
With every brew you make the kombucha forms a new layer of SCOBY on the surface of the liquid. These can be left to thicken naturally or the SCOBY or can be divided. Thus giving you spare cultures that you can store in some sweet tea in case something should happen to your active culture.
Or you might want to pass on spare kombucha cultures to friends or use a new SCOBY to start another batch of kombucha.
Where can I get a SCOBY
I took a baby ‘SCOBY’ home from my travels in Thailand 6 years ago and have been producing 1000’s of liters of kombucha ever since.
There are many places online to source, they only cost $5 - $10. Or, if you know someone who brews kombucha you can ask them to save you a baby!
There are many health benefits of consuming Kombucha on a regular basis. It's best enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet. No any single ingredient will cure all illnesses or ailments.
‘Variety is the spice of life’, it is best to consume a wide array of fresh, natural, raw, cooked and fermented foods..
The good bacteria in kombucha and other fermented products interact and support the bacteria in our guts to perform their magic on a microbial level.
Our ‘Gut’ is a vast universe in itself, it is more intelligent and mind blowing than anything the human species will ever create. Each human being has a microbial existence unique to themselves, much like their fingerprint.
We are human beings which are made up mostly of bacteria, without bacteria there would be no life on earth.
Bacteria were here, living in harmony long before us and will be here long after us.. Rather than waging war on bacteria, we must look after our gut ‘bacteria’ health, tune into it and look after it by consuming more living, raw and fermented foods which will provide us what we need to thrive.
After all the true arbiter of good health is our ‘Gut’, ⅔ of or immune system resides here..
How does our digestion work?
A healthy gut is essential to the health of our whole body. If our digestive system is not in balance we may develop not only digestive symptoms but also disease throughout the body.
How does Kombucha and other fermented beverages help? They contribute to a healthy gut eco-system and they also have specific actions that directly improve its function.
Swapping the fizzy drinks for Kombucha is one simple change that will not only improve digestion, but also make a positive impact on the immunity, weight management, energy and even the way we feel emotionally.
Listen and follow your ‘Gut Instinct’, it mysteriously and magically has the answers to all your questions..
Is There Alcohol in Kombucha?
Kombucha does contain a little bit of alcohol as a by-product of the fermentation process. It is usually no more than 1%. So unless you drink several glasses back to back, you should be just fine.
However, people with alcohol sensitivities or who avoid alcohol for other reasons should be aware of its presence.
What kind of sugar is best to use?
The sugar in Kombucha tea is for the SCOBY. It is not for you! The majority of the sugar will have been consumed by the SCOBY throughout the fermentation process.
I use cane sugar with a ratio of 80g per 1000ml.
You may follow this link for more information of different sugars that could be used and the impact this will have on your brew.
Brewing Kombucha Safely
While the home-brewed nature of kombucha makes some people nervous, it’s unlikely that kombucha will ever make you sick.
Kombucha has been around for a long time and has been brewed in environments that were even dirtier than our own!
Like all things, you need to use common sense when brewing it and pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s natural to feel nervous and unsure at first.
- Make sure all your equipment is kept clean.
- Keep your kombucha covered securely with breathable cloth.
- Don't allow any foreign invaders to get into your kombucha.
- If your SCOBY is healthy, the kombucha will be healthy.
You will need:
- Green tea loose leaf
- Cane sugar
- Filtered water
- Pink salt
- Live kombucha starter liquid (optional)
You will need:
- Weighing scales
- Glass jars
- Muslin cloth
- Elastic bands
- Glass bottles
Lets get making some wild kombucha tea
Wild Kombucha Tea
- Weighing scales
- Glass jars
- Elastic bands
- Glass bottles
- 40 g Green tea loose leaf
- 160 g White sugar
- 2000 ml Water
- ¼ tsp Pink salt
- 1 Each SCOBY
- 250 ml Live kombucha
- Assemble all ingredients and equipment.Weigh the sugar and tea into a large heat proof container.Add the 2lt of boiling water to the tea, mix well and steep for 10 minutes.Taste – make sure the tea is well flavoured, but not too strong.Strain this sweet tea and pour into glass jar.ALLOW TO COOLAdd 250ml of live kombucha from previous batch to the new batch.Add 1 healthy SCOBY to glass jar.Cover with a muslin cloth and secure with elastic band.Leave at room temperature for approx. 1 week.After about 5 days, taste regularly to determine the speed of fermentation and balance of sweetness and acidity.
- Take out the SCOBY.Take out about 250ml of live kombucha liquid to start the next batch.Add your flavouring ingredients to the tea for the infusion stage.Stir well and cover tightly with a lid.Allow to infuse for at least 24hrs at room temperature.
2nd Fermentation - Bottle conditioning
- Strain liquid through a fine strainer, discard flavorings.Pour this liquid into glass bottles.Leave the bottles at room temperature for 3-5 days to build up carbonation.Chill bottles in the fridge before serving.
Want to learn more about kombucha tea
Join one of my kombucha making workshops in Phuket or join a live online class.