Cool Flavor Ideas for Kombucha Brewing

After about 4 months of brewing kombucha, I’m now just rolling into a new phase of “brewdome”: flavors!  Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoy the sweet taste of ordinary kombucha, but I drink a lot.  Next to water, kombucha is my main liquid staple.  To get beside the point of topic (which, if you haven’t been aware of that yet is “flavored kombucha”), I do want to point out a few benefits I’ve noticed from drinking so much of this tasty tea.

1. I really have a better night’s sleep – I’m not sure why this is, but I have noticed it.

2. I get a good energy from it.  Not like the energy I get after drinking tea or coffee (that kind of energy is kind of cool, too – where you feel like you can run a 50k marathon in twenty minutes, and then crash an hour later with a dead-pan glaze, puffy and debilitated).  No, the kind of energy I’m talking about is an easy energy that flows through my body evenly and calmly.  I’ve said it before, but it’s an energy that clears my body and brain out.  A good thing.

3. I’ve noticed a lovely difference in my skin.

Okay.  I’m going stop there.  These are just noticeable, basic observations I’ve found recently.

Now onto the fun part!  Flavors!  (And keep in mind, I’m using a 1.5 L wine bottle for all these measurements…)

*   I strongly urge everybody who brews kombucha to try Strawberry. It’s a common flavor, but don’t underestimate its popularity.  Because it’s really, really good.  When pouring my brewed kombucha from its gallon-sized glass jar, I put it in the wine bottle.  I puree 5 organic strawberries, smoosh it in the bottle, and put it in the refrigerator.

Ginger-Strawberry is my next favorite.  The combination of the two creates such a satisfying and delicious taste.  I puree 4 organic strawberries and a chunk (1×1 inch) of ginger.

Lemon-Ginger is a unique combination that some might think sounds too weird, but it’s really good.  I made it when I got that “Autumn Cold” feeling (stuffy & runny nose, sore throat, etc) and drank this all day.  By the end of the day, I was good!  Unfortunate for my two little boys who did end of getting the dreaded cold (and it lasted 5 days).  I used an entire lemon peel and tablespoon of lemon juice, along with 1×1″ chunk of ginger.

So far that’s all I’ve tried.  Pretty basic to begin with, but new for me.  If any of you have any other ideas of what flavors I should try (or you’ve tried yourself) give me a shout! Additionally, if you’ve ever tried other flavors that you found totally disgusting, let me know those too!

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Kombucha and the Great Love Affair

Kombucha has been around for centuries.  Much longer than GT’s Dave Synergy drinks and their distributors.

When GT’s Dave Synergy drinks (specifically their “Trilogy”, as matters of personal taste and opinion) abandoned us, I was left in complete shock and disarray.  Trilogy dumped me.  Flirted with me with its colorful packaging, and seduced me with its taste.  It left me feeling on top of the world, energized with bubbling bliss and euphoria.   It was a good thing going, Tril and me.  For years of solid happiness, understanding, mutual respect and awareness and calm, it was a good relationship.  And without warning, without any hint of its leaving me … Tril left me.  And I found out through a Co-Op employee!  I felt used, deflated, scared.  Was it really … the end?

I remember the day well: at my local Co-Op, shuffling around the store with old and worn-out Børn sandals, and heading towards the cooler section.  I stood there, where the Kombucha always is, and saw an empty space.  Had word got out that Kombucha was the cure-all of all disease and mental illness?  Was there something I was missing?  Was everybody having an affair with Kombucha, and is Tril cheating on me?  I walked over to an employee.

“Hey.  Uhhh.  What’s up with the no … Kombucha?”

“Out.  Distributors of GT’s Dave are questioning the alcohol content. So they pulled it and are testing it.”

“Get out.”

“Yeah.”

A profound conversation, I know.  The great masterminds of dialogue would be proud.  But it got to the point, and my question was answered.  My mind went into monologue panic mode. Okay.  What?! I didn’t even see this coming. No more kombucha?  This isn’t right.  How dare they? How am I going to drink Kombucha? What am I going to drink in the morning?  Tea?  Where’s the fizz?  I suppose instead of milk in tea, how would tonic water be?  That’s gross. No.  That won’t work.  Tonic water in coffee?  That’s disgusting.  My energy feels depleted just knowing I won’t have a kombucha in the morning.  How long does testing take?  This could take ages!  I do have a scoby and that one bottle of Trilogy in the fridge….

And then it was the beginning of a new relationship.  People warned me.  Sure, some could consider it a rebound.  My passion for Tril had faded – left me alone feeling half empty.  But I needed that feeling back, however small and tasteless.  I made my own kombucha.  I waited.  I brewed over my relationship with Tril.  Some said it wouldn’t be the same; there is no replacement for Trilogy.  I said, “I’ll make it work”.

I can happily say that, 3 months post-Tril, I have a newer, happier, more fulfilling relationship with Homemade.  Homemade makes me feel confident and secure (no distributor can pull it away; I’m in control here).  Homemade gives me more, oh! So much more satisfaction!  Tril only gave me one every three days because – Tril was out of my league, upper class and expensive.  Homemade gives it to me all that I want.  I blush thinking how many times I’ve endured Homemade … just in today!  I get Homemade every time I want.  It’s a good, healthy, fulfilling (and free!) relationship.  I no longer have to bottle up my desires.

How To Make Kombucha

I am drinking a delicious chilled homemade kombucha as I write this.  And to my great satisfaction, I am happy to announce that my first batch turned out as good as I could have hoped.  My only “complaint” (if you can really call it that – I’m seriously so proud of myself and happy to open the refrigerator, finding 5 bottles of freshly brewed, carbonated kombucha tea waiting for my enjoyment!) is it only made 5 16oz bottles.  This means I can only have a little less than a bottle a day.  I’m greedy when it comes to my daily kombucha intake and wouldn’t mind if I had about 2 bottles.  And I certainly want enough to make where I can actually share with my friends and family.  So, with this in mind, I’m going to start and double the recipe.

If you want to make Kombucha, it’s really simple.  All you need are these ingredients:

* 1 gallon boiled water

* 2-3 black or green tea bags

* 1 healthy kombucha organism (oftentimes called a “mother” or “scoby”, which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts’)

* 1/2 cups organic raw sugar (some people use 1 cup)

* 1 cup existing kombucha fermented brew (I would recommend a GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha) – aka “mother brew”

The most difficult item to find is the Kombucha organism, but there are ways to get one.  Once you start asking around your local co-op and checking out their message boards, you might find a couple of local people who have been making their own kombucha for years and have extra organisms their existing scoby has made.  If you don’t want to go down that route, you can find them online.  A good website that I’ve known people to go through are HealthyVilliage.com.  I found that the easiest way to get one was to ask around, and strike up Kombucha conversations (easier than it sounds, trust me!).

METHOD:

Before anything, be sure everything in your kitchen (utensils, countertops, gallon jar you use, etc) are CLEAN.  Because this is an organic culture, in its raw state, a clean environment is the safest way to go.

Step 1: Boil water. Once water is boiled, "brew" tea bags in and let it steep for 8-24 hours. I used PG Tips tea bags (a personal favorite).

Step 2: Take tea bags out and add sugar, dissolving completely. The organism feeds on sugar; without it, you will not have kombucha, so there is no "replacement" for this. Additionally, the "sugars" are digested into the organism, producing organic acids, vitamins (primarily B and C), amino acids and enzymes. So, the sugar isn't really sugar anymore, but now healthy living organisms which are crucial to kombucha's reputable health benefits.

Step 3: Add mother brew to tea mixture, and pour this in your gallon-sized jar, then float "scoby" on top. Cover jar lightly with cloth, and seal tightly with large solid rubber band. Store in dark place (preferably in warmish 70 degree place for 7-12 days. Some use a seed mat, however I made a shelving system earlier this year to help germinate seeds. I covered one of the shelves, creating a "dark place" and took out the fluorescent grow lights, however left the bottom shelves' lights on, thus creating a warming system for the top, where I stored the Kombucha.

Step 4: On day of last fermenting period, pour Kombucha in clean glass jars (I recycled old GT’s Synergy Kombucha bottles), and store in refrigerator. From this point on, you can play around with different flavors. Original kombucha is a personal favorite, but my kids (and me too) enjoy the sweeter versions. From the garden, I pureed four strawberries for two of the Kombucha bottles (they turned out delicious!) and also about 7 Black Currant Berries for a separate Kombucha drink.

Black Currant Berries from our garden

Some who are skeptical of “living organisms” and homemade projects involving live cultures in ones’ kitchen, I can rest assure this is a very safe and healthy task.  Some might question the fermentation process with tea and yeast, creating an “alcholic beverage”.  This is a valid concern, however to put your mind at ease, while the yeasts do create alcohol, the bacteria in the cultures eats up the alcohol and produces organic acids.  Very small amounts of alcohol, about 1%, are left in the Kombucha.

There are so many wonderful benefits for Kombucha.  I find I feel more energized, balanced, and clear during the day when I have about 2 cups.  I forgo coffee or tea, and drink my Kombucha in place of any other caffeinated substance.  It’s a good feeling.  A cleansing feeling.  It has been claimed to improve metabolic disorders, HIV, arthritis, chronic fatigue, liver damage, allergies, hypertension, and cancers.  And, getting past the initial “shock” of its vinegary taste … it becomes a delicious treat.  So much, in fact, you’ll want to make it yourself.

Drink This – You’ll Hate It Then Love It.

The first time I had a taste of Kombucha, I felt a horrible sting and stench in my mouth, as though drinking acid mixed with vinegar, fermented with rotten guavas with a hint of extracted foot odor.  Needless to say, I was not fond of it.  At all.  I bought my first one, a strawberry GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha (which I was told to be the “sweetest” and “the first one you should try”), at Raleigh Hill’s New Season’s Market.  I paid for it and sat outside, ready for enlightenment.  I was told by hundreds of customers and friends that this drink, this Kombucha tea, this cultured mushroom, was all the rave and has been for a decade.  I wondered which rock I was hiding beneath, not knowing of its existence all these years.  I was excited.  I was excited to love it and gain clarity and health and a boost in my immune system, and all the wonderful effects it’s been claimed to have for the human body.  Oh, I was ready.

Photo: Mel & Rose

Photo: Mel & Rose

What I wasn’t ready for, though, was my disgust in it.  I tried drinking it all, but only drank about half.  I thought, Right.  All these health foodies don’t really like it, and make it out to be a delicious drink just to be cool.  Just to fit into the “Oh, I’m such a health food addict that I actually LIKE the taste of disgusting fermented mushroom tea drinks!” It seemed like a competition: how far can you go to prove to your other health foodie friends that you’re a bigger health foodie than the others?  Try drinking Kombucha, I told myself.  Those idiots.  Just a big hype.  Pretending to like it!  Pretending, just like they pretend to get a “high” whilst running a marathon, or biking uphill for 5 miles, or actually liking the way sea sponge tampon (hey, Jade & Pearl, I do love you!) feels.  It was the mother of all natural claims – Kombucha.  Tsk.  Forget it.

And then a funny thing happened.  I passed by the aisle again and saw GT Dave’s Synergy and its beautiful packaging and bright colors flirting with me.  I picked up the disgusting glass bottle and studied the drink.  All that fermentation floating around.  But I kept thinking of everybody’s supposed “love” and “addiction” for it:

“Oh. My. God!  I’m totally going to have to get a second job to support my Kombucha addiction.”

If I got a penny every time I heard a reference to Kombucha’s price and their addiction towards it, I’d be a rich woman (and able to afford a GT’s Synergy twice a day).  To be fair, they’re pricey: $2.99, sometimes $3.49.

But back to me flirting with the Synergy drink (or was it the other way around)?  I ended up buying it, and I’m not kidding you.  It took me two days to drink it, but from that moment on, I was hooked.  Line.  And sinker. I was in love with it, and completely not proud to admit it to anybody else, after giving so much flack to all the Kombucha-drinking crazies out there.  But it happened.  I became a Kombucha junkie.  I seriously recall even going as far as saying, “Wow.  I need to find a way to afford my Kombucha drinking.”

I’ve actually come to a point in my Kombucha-drinking existence where I slowed way down and stopped buying so many.  And I did the next thing Kombucha addicts do: I made my first batch at home.

Until then, I bid all you Kombucha-drinking citizens farewell, and as for all you Kombucha-hating individuals, I understand.  I was right there with you.  And for all you “What’s-Kombucha” people, well, then.  Let me tell you: try it.