Thursday, August 14, 2008

Something's Growing in My Kitchen.....

A couple of weeks ago we had a new arrival at our house. Very much like a special visit from the stork, my new friend - Amy - from our Tulsa raw food meetup group, brought a new baby to come be part of our family. Until that day, I was unfamiliar with "Scoby," and you may be unfamiliar with her too. A scoby looks looks like a beige/white rubbery pancake or a gigantic portabello mushroom, but it's name actually stands for - symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. Sounds delightful, no? Well, this very special culture is what is placed into a mixture of sweetened tea and turns it into an amazing concoction that's full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and health-giving organic acids.Kombucha is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with this kombucha culture, or scoby. The result can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on what kind of tea you use. It's not what you'd imagine fermented tea to taste like. Although the scoby is placed into sweetened tea, the culture actually utilizes and digests the sugar and it then 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 probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.With every brew you make, the kombucha forms a new layer, or scoby, on the surface of the liquid. These can be left to thicken the scoby or can be divided, giving you spare cultures that you can store in some tea in the fridge in case something should happen to your active culture. Or you might want to pass on spare Kombucha cultures to friends, which is how we received our baby scoby.Many health claims are made for kombucha and there is some research that has been done on its benefits, but clinical information is not easy to find. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests as fermented milk products, such as kefir and yogurt with live cultures, although kombucha is dairy free. In rats, it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. Of course the internet is full of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things.You can buy Kombucha at your local health food store for around $3 a bottle or you can make it for pennies in your own kitchen. If you're in my area, I can hook you up with a baby because my scoby is apparently quite fertile. Or there are many sources online from which to order. Below is an overview of how to brew your own delicious and nutritious kombucha.
Instructions for Brewing Kombucha

1. Bring 3 quarts of distilled or purified water to boil in a stainless steel stock pot (scoby does not do well aroulnd metals such as aluminum).

2. When boiling, add one cup of white sugar. Stir until dissolved.

3. Turn off the heat, remove the cooking pot (in order to stop the boiling). Add four Black Tea bags (I use a combination of organic white, green and black tea), cover the pot with the lid. Let steep until cooled.

4. Remove and discard tea bags.

5. Allow sweetened tea to cool to room temperature, even if it takes overnight.

6. When at room temperature, pour the sweetened tea into a one gallon jar. (This is where the tea will ferment.)

7. Before pouring the cooled tea into the jar, pour 8 oz. of the starter tea (which will come with the scoby) into the jar. Then pour the cooled tea into the jar, to ensure an even mixture of the tea with the starter. For future batches you will use your own Kombucha tea starter.

8. Place the Kombucha scoby on top of the sweetened, cool tea, making sure that the darker rougher side faces down. (Don’t worry if it sinks to the bottom, it’s O.K.) Also, do not wear metal jewelry when handling your baby.....remember, no metal!

9. Cover Jar with a piece of loosely woven cloth (the scoby has to “breathe”. Cotton or linen or paper towel will do just fine.)

10. Secure with a rubber band to keep cloth in place and to keep out any insects or contaminates.

11. Place the Jar in a ventilated place to ferment for at least 8 days, without moving it, but away from direct sunlight and kitchen odors, plants and pets. The ideal constant fermenting temperature is 85-89 degrees F.

12. At about 8-10 days remove cover and taste. I have been letting mine ferment for 8 or 9 days since it's summer and the warmer weather seems to create a perfect environment for fermentation.

13. After the fermented tea has passed the tests, it can now be called “KOMBUCHA TEA.” Remove the scoby that has formed on top of the “KOMBUCHA Tea” If the “mother” and it’s “baby” are stuck to each other (the baby on top of the mother), separate the two carefully and place each in a jar with enough “Kombucha Tea” (as a source of nourishment) to cover it, for future use. However after several batches of tea have been brewed, discard the old scoby.


Linda Salas said...

cool Penni, my mom just recently fell in love with kombucha and I would love to brew my own... soon


Anonymous said...

That's so cool and reminds me of refrigerator cakes everyone used to make when I was a kid. There was a "mother" cup of the batter that was used to create the cakes, and everyone was always giving away the babies of the mother. The cakes were definitely *not* raw or healthy, however!

I've never really been into mushrooms, but I'd be willing to taste some homebrewed kombucha someday. It's really fascinating how there's a system to creating it and keeping the mother alive. I like that!

Lots of love to you,


HiHoRosie said...

Oooh, Fun! Science in the kitchen! :)

Lauren said...

I usually spend $10 a week on Kombuchas, I guess I could safe some money making them myself! Thanks for the instructions!

Bloodredsaved said...

Have you noticed some good benefits?

Antony said...

Sounds fabulous Penni! I've tried this tea a couple of times and it's great to have your post to refer back to if I ever get round to trying to make it myself. Do let us know if notice any particular benefits :-)

Oh, and we had those yeast cake things in Australia too!


Anonymous said...

Great post! I'm about to begin my second try at brewing my own, after becoming quite attached to the commercial kind. My first batch developed mold, due to a tiny tear in the paper towel I used to cover the jar (I think). I appreciate your tip to pour the starter tea into the jar first, to ensure mixing well. I didn't do that last time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Penni! Nice write up. I love kombucha and have researched how to make it homemade but haven't gotten around to actually making the brew.

Have you considered using agave or beet sugar? That is what I plan to use though I've heard mixed reviews on using cane sugar vs. agave. Some say the scoby needs to feed on sucrose and other claim using (fructose) agave, works fine. But heck, refined but not processed and bleached cane sugar is fine. Choices & decisions.

Now I'm craving for some kombucha.

Melissa Sokulski said...

Hi Penni!
I just brewed up my first batch of kombucha a few weeks ago! It's so funny reading your journal, we seem to be on the same wavelength a lot of the time. Great entry, though. Lots of helpful information, thanks!
~ Melissa

Anonymous said...

Hey Penni , I just happened to find your blog by chance . I live in Connecticut and i am about 98% RAW at the moment . The other cool fact is i am a born and raised Oklahoma girl from (Hughes County) . Keep up the inspirational lifestyle and blogging !

Debbie Young said...

Penni, Do you feel that this stuff is ok if you are following the PH miracle style raw food diet? He says no fungus, no mushrooms, no sugar, no caffeine.. so what about this tea?

Penni said...

Ingrid....I have considered using other sources of sweetener. I would prefer it actually. I will keep you posted on my findings.

Jamie....I haven't really noticed any benefits that are obvious. I've just started drinking it on a daily basis, so I'll keep you up to date, as well.

Jackie Berry Starks...I'm so happy you found me! Oklahoma is doing fine, but I'd love to be closer to NYC! Way to go on being 98% raw!

And Debbie...I don;t think I'd drink it if I were you, knowing just a bit of what your program probably looks like. Carol Alt told me that her holistic doctor believes that it could promote an imbalance in people with compromised immunity.

These are all really good questions and I hope to continue to research this controversial fermented drink. Would love to know more (ie; I don;t want to poison myself ;- )

bitt said...

I drink kombucha everyday. I consider it an important part of my health plan. I really want to make my own. We were also wondering if you could make it without refined sugar, but does it matter since the sugar is digested anyway? Thanks for the info.

Cheryl said...

Can I get a SCOBY from you? E-mail me at if so! I would like to try to make it. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I can hardly wait to make the REAL THING. Right now I have 3 jars going to get the SCOBY started. I have a question. I have 2 2.5 gal jars with spigot ready and waiting. Most of the recipes call for 1 gal. I would like to maximize the size of the jar by filling it up as much as possible. Do I double the recipe? Thank you so much! I am having alot of fun! Another question I have, I understand from research that you should not have Kefir and Kombucha going at the same time because of cross contamination. What about Rejuvina?

Penni said...

Hi Juliann....

In the Liquid Lounge at Raw Food Rehab, we have a section that just talks about fermented raw beverages like kefir, kombucha and rejuvelac. Here is the link to that:

I am not well versed on cross contamination issues.....that's a new one to me, but perhaps we need to gather those facts to add to that discussion.

Thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

Hello! I just moved to Tulsa and am looking for a scoby! I am going to the Guthrie Green farmers market tomorrow in search of one. Would love to possibly bum a scoby!

Lauri Rottmayer said...

I'm also looking for a scoby. Is there someplace to buy one in Tulsa? Thanks!

Amy with The H2O Shop said...

I'm looking for one also!! I'm in Tulsa. Amy C

Kenzel said...

I've been enjoying Kombucha so much the last year (although not the cost) that I finally dove in and started making my own starter! A friend "brewed" her Scoby earlier this fall and I just tried a sample - it was so good!

My Scoby is finally starting to develop and I started it exactly a week ago. I have it divided between 2 containers. Since I can't drink coffee/caffeine (adrenal issues) or soda because of Hashimoto's/Hypothyroid this is the closest thing I can have to a flavored drink I like!

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