Start With Black Tea For a Delicious Fermented Treat – We Are Crazy About Kombucha!
I had the pleasure of hanging out with James Beard Nominated Cookbook Author, Terry Walters, as we sipped homemade kombucha. We sat in her kitchen on a sunny, but frigid March afternoon amid the homey chaos of her busy family. Her daughter is home from college. I couldn’t help but get excited that my daughter, Daisy, is having her spring break next week too. She will be visiting from my alma mater, the University of Oregon. She loves kombucha. I’m making a big batch just for her to enjoy when she gets here.
Did you know that the very first step in making kombucha is brewing black tea?
Terry tried some of Culteavo’s high quality, organic, loose leaf English Breakfast Tea. “First off, I love the tea canister. The air-tight double seal is so great, “ shared Terry.
We compared her typical, go to tea bags with Culteavo’s loose leaf tea. “This is just a better tea. It just smells more fresh, and you can see it’s a better tea just by looking at it.”
Terry used the Culteavo Organic English Breakfast Tea to make a batch of kombucha and she invited me over to taste it with her. We were both impressed with how sweet it was. It had the bite that we love from the fermented beverage, and it was also well balanced and sweet.
Here is Terry’s recipe for making this trendy and healthy macrobiotic beverage for yourself at home. The trick, however, is that you need to start with a scoby. A scoby is a slimy, fermented, fungus. You can buy it on-line, get it from a friend or just take one of Terry’s fermentation classes in Avon, Connecticut. Everyone who takes a class gets to go home with a scoby of their own. I named mine Scooby the scoby. Here’s a photo of my fermenting kombucha using Culteavo tea.
Original recipe by Terry Walters, LLC
2-3 cups hot water (filtered or distilled)
¼ cup organic cane juice crystals
2 organic black tea bags (or 3 teaspoons black tea) (with no added oils)
½ cup kombucha starter tea or distilled white vinegar (acid)
Starter culture (SCOBY – Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)
- Make sweet tea. Pour sugar into quart-size jar, add hot (not boiling) water. Stir to dissolve sugar and add black tea. Steep 10 minutes, remove tea and bring it to room temperature.
- Stir in 1 cup starter: kombucha from previous batch or distilled white vinegar.
- Add SCOBY. Cover jar with dish towel, secure with rubber band and spray towel with white vinegar (to prevent air born mold from colonizing).
- Set tea aside to ferment in a warm spot out of direct sunlight 7-30 days. SCOBY may or may not change, but you will see a new SCOBY form on top of tea (will first look like a cloudy formation on top of tea).
Start tasting at day 7 (with a straw). When taste is to your liking, remove ½ cup kombucha for starter for next batch. Transfer SCOBY to new batch and refrigerate finished kombucha or prepare for second fermentation (next paragraph).
Flavored kombucha requires a second fermentation: With SCOBY removed, add fruit or fruit juice (10-20%), ginger, herbs, vanilla or whatever you’d like, SEAL the jar and ferment 3 – 10 days (burp jar regularly). When taste is as desired, refrigerate and enjoy. MAKES 1 quart
To maintain a healthy SCOBY, peel and discard the yeasty bottom layer of the original SCOBY and transfer the original to the new batch. You can give the new SCOBY to a friend, use it to start an additional batch, or store it in a kombucha hotel as backup.
MAKING a SCOBY hotel: Use a container that will hold many SCOBY, and that is similar in width to the jar you ferment in. Make a concoction equal to the size of the jar that is ½ sweet tea and ½ starter (kombucha or distilled vinegar). Fill jar halfway, add SCOBY(s), then top with liquid so that there’s twice as much liquid as SCOBY. Cover with fabric and store in a cool dry place to go dormant (50-55°, but not in the refrigerator). Feed SCOBYs every 4-6 weeks with 1 cup of sugar. Replace evaporated liquid with more sweet tea. Every 3 months, clean the hotel by trimming and discarding yeasty parts of the SCOBY and replacing the sweet tea mixture.
Why should we drink kombucha and eat fermented foods anyway?
For centuries, people have used fermentation as a way of preserving their foods, but by so doing they accomplished so much more. Fermentation also:
- Increases nutritional value
- Eliminates anti-nutritional components (such as phytic acid in grains)
- Reduces gluten (eaten by the fermentation process)
- Increases digestibility
- Improves taste
- Strengthens the gut and improves overall physical and mental health
Thanks again to Terry Walters for sharing your kombucha expertise. I look forward to any other tea related recipes she may have for us in the future.