Tuesday, March 3, 2009

my baby mama

Did I tell you yet? I adopted a baby from Adriana. No; not that kind of baby. Don't go all bonkers on me. I have some serious respect for people who have children in this city. No, my baby is of the yeasty variety, and her name? Kombucha.

In my opinion, Jennifer Adler says it best when she calls Kombucha the "soft drink for the 21st Century". It's a beverage created by fermenting prepared tea, a bit of sugar, and a colony of bacteria for about a week. Because I consider myself much better at making and drinking kombucha than explaining how it works, I'm just going to refer you to the link above so that Jennifer can explain it all to you.

Here's what I can tell you, though. Kombucha is an adventure. The first time you taste it, you'll be excited and maybe a little scared. You'll be like a curious cat, investigating the sensory situation with your palate-whiskers. Your first kombucha experience might be with GT Kombucha, bottled and readily available at Whole Foods, Garden of Eden, or your local coop. If that's the case, I highly recommend the mango flavor, which incorporates an ounce or so of juice into a big bottle of the tonic. Or your first taste might be at a friend's house, somebody adventurous and earthy who is a seasoned explorer of all things fermented. Whatever your introduction, soak up the experience. Try it more than once. Why? Because when we deal with fermentation, we're dealing with the natural world, incorporating variables like terroir and weather and light, things that will affect the taste and texture of the finished product.

I'm lucky enough to have an adventuring friend of my own who acquired a culture that I was able to adopt. I smuggled this baby in my carry-on luggage back from Chicago (please don't tell JFK Airport), and she made it back unscathed. I proceeded to brew my tea and sugar and float her on top of it all, making sure to cover the whole batch with a towel to keep bugs and debris away. I then waited impatiently for a week to try my homemade brew.

I'll admit that my baby (now considered a mother because she was birthing a new baby as she fermented) didn't produce as fizzy a brew as I had been hoping. I've now discovered that to get more fizz, you must place your brewed kombucha in an airtight bottle or jar and leave it out at room temperature for a week or so longer. You can also add herbs or roots to the jar for flavor. When you like the taste and texture and decide your kombucha is ready to drink, put it in the refrigerator. It will keep for quite a while, though it usually gets more vinegary as time progresses. I like to float frozen berries in glasses of my kombucha when I'm ready to drink it.

I highly recommend that you try making kombucha, or at least buy it and give it a taste. Its bacteria helps your body to extract and use the nutrients in the food you eat. Plus, it tastes good. To obtain a culture, ask around at the local coop or natural foods store to see if anyone has extras (they produce a new baby with each batch). You can also find one easily online.

Now my last question I have to ask about my baby: What should I name her?

About 7 days for fermentation to occur
1 quart filtered water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of loose black tea (or 2 teabags)
1 cup (or so) mature kombucha
1 kombucha mother

Mix the water and sugar, and bring to a boil in a small pot.

Turn off the heat, add tea. Cover and steep for about 15 minutes.

Strain the tea into a glass container (do not use plastic or metal; both of these can leach chemicals into the kombucha). Allow tea to cool to body temperature.

Add mature acidic kombucha and kombucha mother. It might float, or it might sink. Doesn't matter. Cover it with a clean cloth and store it in a warm spot, ideally 70 to 85 degrees, undisturbed (the top of the fridge is a good place, in my opinion).

After a few days to one week, you will notice a skin forming on the surface of the kombucha. Taste the liquid. If you like it, pour into bottles to carbonate or store it in the fridge. If you leave it sitting longer, it will become more acidic.

You now have two kombucha mothers: the new one and the old one. You can use either for your new batch and pass the other on to a friend.



  1. Adriana/Kylie! I'm so glad you're making Kombucha.

    Jackie and I tried to make it in the 17 Warner household, but it always got contaminated...somehow.

  2. To keep it from getting contaminated, boil the water and sugar well. And keep it covered with a very clean cloth so it can breathe but doesn't let things fall in.l

  3. When I bottle my kombucha I add a slice of ginger, some citrus peel (but not the juice), then... spices! Either a few grains of paradise, Indonesian Long Pepper or Sechwan Pepper, then maybe rose hips or dried cranberries (only 1 or two) The final thing is to add a little more sugar to the bottle just before clamping on the lid. That will make it very fizzy when you open it. I love kombucha. Maybe you should name yours 'Spanky'.

  4. Oooh~ the hot peppers in kombucha sounds amazing. I have been adding the juice of some freshly-juiced ginger, but I'll have to try that. My recipe is a bit different for culturing the kombucha, but the same general idea. If anyone comments in the kombucha group at our site, you'll be entered for a chance to win a baby mama scoby.



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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009