Herbs · Recipes

Herbal Kombucha

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Do you drink kombucha?

Kombucha, sometimes called mushroom tea, is a freshly brewed sweet tea that is fermented with the aid of a scoby. Scoby stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. After about a week of fermenting the tea is then strained off from the scoby and then can be drank as is or can be double brewed to add flavor and extra fizziness. It is great to improve digestive health and has been studied for its beneficial effects on brain health, gut health, energy levels and immune building.

At first I had trouble getting my family to drink it as it has a strong flavor just plain. I started double brewing mine with juice, essential oils and fruit but was still not finding the right flavoring. Then just recently I began using herbs and found the flavor we wanted! Once I started experimenting with the herbs they gave the kombucha a flavor that we all love (think completely healthy soda pop flavor!) and the added benefits from the herbs make this momma happy.

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To begin with, you need to find a scoby. This is a picture of a scoby and I will admit that they aren’t pretty, but they sure are wonderful! Scoby’s last a long time though if you ever see mold on yours, you definitely want to throw it away and start fresh. I purchased mine from our co-op but there are other places you can order them as well. The best way to get one is to find a friend who has an extra one and start a scoby family from there as one of the cool things about scoby’s is that they reproduce! I usually have a baby scoby started from the mother after each batch of kombucha! You can put these extra ones in a separate jar with some starter to save in case you need it or if you need a larger supply of kombucha you can always start another jar with it. In addition to the scoby you need:

– a gallon or two gallon jar
– 4 tea bags
– purified water
– organic sugar

I like to use white sugar that is still as unrefined as possible and definitely organic. I buy mine from our co-op. You don’t want to try other sweeteners such as honey with kombucha as they have their own bacteria which will kill the bacteria in the scoby. For the tea, I use organic green tea, but you can use pretty much any unflavored herbal tea just making sure to avoid any teas with essential oils such as earl grey, chai and flavored Ceylon as the oils can kill the scoby. Typically black tea is what is used in kombucha, but I like the mild flavor of green tea and I always recommend using organic tea! You want to make sure your water is purified and do not use city tap water as the chlorine can kill your scoby. I use our well water after it has been run through our Berkey filter. I purchased my jar just at a local store in the housewares department.

These instructions will make one gallon of kombucha. Start by making a batch of tea. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove it from the heat and add 4 tea bags. Set a timer for 20 minutes for the tea bags to steep.

Once your tea is finished steeping, remove the tea bags and stir in one cup of sugar making sure to stir it well allowing the sugar to dissolve in the warm tea. I know many people are trying to avoid sugar but it is a must for kombucha as it gives the probiotics what they need to feed off of and ferment the tea. This means that by the time you drink it most, if not all of the sugar has been consumed by the probiotics and the tea will not ferment without it!

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Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. Sometimes if I am in a hurry I add cool purified water to bring the temperature down more quickly. You should have your scoby and about 2 cups of starter liquid in your gallon jar. Pour the tea in over it. Now cover it with a cloth as it needs air circulation to ferment but you definitely want it covered as gnats love kombucha! I just use a thin kitchen towel and keep it on with a rubberband. Now just let your scoby do its thing for 7-10 days! I prefer to strain mine off after 7 days as I notice that much longer and it has too strong of a vinegary taste for our families liking, but you can experiment with the amount of time that suits your taste.

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7 Days Later: Now you are ready to strain off your kombucha! Prepare your jars for the second ferment. I add about 2 Tablespoons of sugar and a little less than ¼ cup of herbs per half gallon jar. As I mentioned above you could also just use some real fruit juice or replace the herbs with fresh fruits. You can also do a combination of fruit and herbs. Here are our top two favorite combinations and I am still experimenting!

Elderberry, Bilberry and Orange Peel (tastes like grape soda and is a great immune booster!): I put a total of about ¼ cup leaning more heavily on the elderberry with lesser amounts of bilberry and ginger.

Ginger and Orange Peel (tastes like ginger ale and great for digestive health!): I only use a small amount of ginger root as it can get strong very quickly!! I use about 2 Tablespoons of ginger root with about the same of orange peel.

I am currently working on trying a few new combinations too! I am combining some fresh apple slices with cinnamon sticks and clove to try a fall one and am hoping to try some sarsaparilla to see if I can get a root beer kombucha soon! Experimenting with your flavors is so much fun!

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Back to the directions! Once you have your herbs of choice and sugar in the jars, simply pour your kombucha into the herb jars making sure to leave about 10% or about 2 cups of the kombucha in the jar with the scoby. You can now put lids on the herbal jars and allow them to sit an additional 2 days. The kombucha will even turn beautiful colors based on what herbs you have used. The elderberry one turns a super pretty purple color!

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You can then strain them off using a plastic or paper coffee filter and put them in jars or pop bottles. You don’t want to strain kombucha with metal as it can kill the probiotics and definitely don’t let metal touch your scoby! With the remaining kombucha and scoby, simply make your next batch of tea as we did at the beginning and pour it in with the scoby and you have begun your next batch of kombucha!

 

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