I don’t often say many things changed my life. I feel like the expression becomes completely clichéd if used on a regular basis. But brewing and drinking kombucha did change my life.
After a nasty bout with pneumonia in second grade, my asthma came on full force; my doctors said during childhood that I might grow out of it, but I had no such luck. With the asthma and allergies came an immune system that just couldn’t keep up with the immune systems of my peers. Living in the dorms, while some of the best years of my life, were also fraught with sinus infections and upper respiratory infections every few months. This continued, even after I got out of graduate school; my profession requires me to frequent hospitals, nursing homes, and facilities filled with children. My immune system just didn’t seem to be able to handle all I threw at it. I would get over one series of infections, be healthy for a few weeks, and then get sick all over again.
Enter kombucha into my life. Already into my thirties, I had resigned myself to the reality of my situation. I had tried kombucha a few times and it made me want to vomit, but I went to a class at a local farm where I tried some homemade kombucha (just to be polite,) and fell in love with the bubbly goodness. The farmer gave me my own “SCOBY mother” (kombucha starter,) and I have kept a batch going ever since.
I started drinking it as a replacement to wean myself off of diet soda products, and this worked quite well. But there was an additional and unexpected benefit to drinking kombucha: suddenly, my immune system was on hyperdrive. I still get sick (doesn’t everyone?) but with what I feel more of a “normal” frequency for a person of my health and my age. I have been on antibiotics for sinus/respiratory infections twice in the past three years—a record I never could have hoped to set prior to my introduction to kombucha.
Will it cure all that ails you? Of course not. I still take my asthma medication every day. But it has balanced out my digestive system, and given my immune system one heck of a boost. I also have adjusted my recipe and brewing time to where I really enjoy the beverage I make. I drink some every day, and it really HAS kept the doctor away!
You can purchase starters online, or can ask around and get one from a friend. I also recommend going to your local farmer’s market and seeing if anyone is selling kombucha on tap (or on-tap at your local health food store,) and find out if they will sell you a “SCOBY mother” so you can brew your own. (SCOBY is an acronym for "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast"—I know it doesn’t sound delicious, but it’s not that different than how you make sourdough bread!)
A healthy SCOBY looks pretty funky, but this is how it should look:
· gallon canning jar
· piece of string or rubber band
· SCOBY mother + 1 c. liquid from previous batch of kombucha
· 6 small green or black teabags (or 2 large ones)
· 1 c. sugar
(I have not tried, but many sources I trust have told me that kombucha will not successfully ferment with herbal tea.)
1) Put 1 c. sugar and at least 2 c. water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2) Remove from heat. Add teabags.
3) Steep tea for 5 minutes. Remove teabags.
4) Allow tea to cool to at least 90°. If you are in a hurry, you can add ice to speed up this process., but don’t get the mixture too cold, as it will damage your SCOBY. Do not add the SCOBY to tea until it is below 90°, as it will kill the SCOBY.
5) Add the SCOBY and tea mixture to the gallon jar. Fill with more water until close to the top of the jar.
6) Set jar in a dark place and cover with the towel, securing the towel with the string/rubber band.
7) Allow tea jar to sit for 7-30 days, depending on your preference for strength of kombucha.
8) When ready to consume, remove SCOBY from the top of the jar and set aside with at least 1 c. of liquid from the top of the jar. This will be the starter for the next batch.
9) What is left in the jar is ready to drink. Consume as is, or bottle it for a second fermentation.