My first experience of kombucha was at a vegan restaurant event for food bloggers in Birmingham. I quite liked the taste, although my plus one on that occasion was less keen on it. I’d taken the odd glass since then, but I’ve never drunk kombucha on a regular basis until very recently.
Freshly Fermented got in touch and asked me to try out making my own kombucha with one of their kits. Whilst I was waiting for my own to brew, I could drink some of their ready made kombucha. Freshly Fermented offer the largest selection of organic & vegan fermented food cultures in the UK. I was sent one of their organic kombucha starter kits to try.
In the organic kombucha starter kits there is everything you need to start fermenting. To be honest you don’t need anything else at all really: the ingredients are all there, as are all the utensils. There’s no danger of you not having the right tools for the job. The kit comes with a high quality Kilner jar for fermenting in, plus some glass bottles for your produce. The remainder of the utensils are plastic (a stirrer, funnel, measuring jug and strainer), but of good quality and they were the right size for the job too. As well as your ‘hardware’ you’ll get sugar, tea and the magic ingredient: your scoby with starter tea. The instructions are on the website and you can either read them online or print them off (they print off nicely: no odd words on a separate sheet or any margin problems).
Getting your kombucha started takes a couple of hours in total. Just to be clear this isn’t because there’s a lot of work, but you do have to wait for the mixture to cool down and I found that was the most time consuming part of it. The actual work is only a few minutes in total. First you heat up your sugar and water mixture – this only took a few minutes on the hob in a saucepan. I did use a meat thermometer to check the temperatures, but it’s not essential. Next you add tea leaves and let your tea brew. I did this for 15 minutes, but you can go for a stronger brew if you prefer. It’s a good idea to set a reminder on your phone or use a kitchen timer, so as not to overdo it.
Then strain off the tea leaves and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature – this is where the waiting comes in, but obviously there’s no need to sit there watching it, you can just get on with whatever you want. I was surprised how long it took to get the temperature back down. Then you transfer your mixture to the kilner jar and add the scoby with starter tea. You close the lid and leave for five days (or a bit longer if you prefer).
Obviously, I knew I would have to wait to try my kombucha, but you can buy kombucha drinks to tide you over till your brew is ready. Alternatively, some will prefer just to buy the drink and not bother with making their own. I was sent some bottles of the Organic Black Orange Kombucha to try out whilst I was waiting. As it’s a real, unpasteurised kombucha, it continues to ferment when bottled meaning it has a short shelf life and murky appearance (the stuff you can buy in the supermarket really isn’t the same thing at all). You’ll also need to take some care when opening the bottles as the kombucha is quite fizzy. Kombucha may also contain low levels of alcohol (less than 1%).
So whilst my kombucha was brewing, I started drinking the organic black orange kombucha every day. I liked the taste: quite sweet and fruity. I liked the fizz. Drinking it became part of my daily ritual. The first two days I tried it, my stomach made some very loud gurgling noises (apparently this is quite common) for half an hour to an hour. I have never heard my stomach make so much noise for that length of time before. So probably best to start drinking when you are at home for a couple of days or drink it after work, just in case it happens to you.
After two days my system seemed to get used to it and my stomach was silent from then on. I did notice a difference though. It felt like my whole digestive tract had eased and I felt lighter. I wasn’t suffering from any particular problems before started drinking kombucha, but there was a definite feeling of ease. Everything seemed to slip along much more smoothly. I was surprised at the difference it made. It made me want to continue drinking kombucha.
How was my kombucha getting on? It sat there for 5 days without much obvious difference occurring. Maybe the scoby had grown a little and the mixture was slightly murkier. After five days I took out the scoby and the top 10% of the mixture to use for setting up my next batch. The remainder I transferred into my glass bottles ( I filled about one and a half bottles). The mixture is ready to drink. I liked my home brewed kombucha. If anything it was a little sweeter than the organic black orange kombucha and it was less fizzy, probably because it hadn’t been bottled for as long. I’ve already set up my next batch to ferment and I think kombucha will be a regular habit for me. I like the idea of experimenting with different types of tea and a variety of flavourings too.