The Kombucha Craze at Common Ground

By Neily Jennings

As someone who has been enjoying and brewing kombucha for 8 years, I am glad to see it’s been catching on and growing in popularity! Many of our campers are into it, and some of our staff even brew it in their free time at camp.

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has been around for thousands of years. It has many health benefits -- though scientific research on kombucha is limited, it has a much longer history of being used as a health elixir than most of today’s pharmaceuticals.

Kombucha is brewed with sweet tea (usually green or black). A kombucha culture called a SCOBY (<span style="font-size:10.0pt;line-height: 115%;Arial" ,"sans-serif";background:white"="">symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to the tea, and over the course of 7 – 10 days, the SCOBY “eats” the sugar in the tea and produces the fermented beverage. The resulting drink is slightly fizzy and a bit sour. Juices can be added—popular additions are ginger, cranberry juice, and lemon juice.
 
Kombucha, like yogurt, is probiotic, meaning that it contains helpful bacteria that can aid in digestion – and a healthy digestive system has a great impact on overall wellness! It also contains enzymes that are thought to support the liver in detoxifying the body. It is rich in anti-oxidants, which can boost the immune system. A quick search of kombucha on the internet will reveal a variety of claims about its medicinal powers along with claims that the health benefits are myths. As with all information found online, take it with a grain of salt and develop your own opinion!
 
Kombucha is increasingly being microbrewed by local companies like Aqua Vitae, which is brewed in Vermont near Common Ground Center. It even be found on tap in some places. Check your local health food store.
 
It is also easy to make! You can usually find a SCOBY by asking around or posting on a local online forum.
 
Here’s my favorite recipe:
Ingredients:
1 gallon water (filtered is best)
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 Tbsp loose green tea or 6 tea bags
1-2 kombucha culture (SCOBY) – these should come with some liquid kombucha from previous batch
 
You will need:
Large pot for boiling
two half-gallon sized glass jars (you can use different sizes depending on what’s around)
smaller glass bottles with lids for bottling
cloth that will let air into jars but keep dust & bacteria out
rubber bands
funnel
 
1. Boil water.
2. Stir in sugar and take off heat
3. Add tea. Steep for 4 minutes
4. In the meantime, thoroughly wash your half-gallon jars with soap and waater
 4. Remove tea/teabags and wait until it feels warm but not hot to the touch, then pour the sweet tea in glass jars, leaving 2 inches of space at the top.
5. When tea has cooled to room temperature, add the scoby to the jar with a little kombucha to get the fermentation going.
6. Cover the jars with cloth and secure with a rubber band.
7. Leave jars in a stable place out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 7 – 10 days. Generally, the warmer “room temperature” is, the faster the fermentation.
Tip: To avoid mold contamination, avoid storing in a moldy basement or near a compost bin. You will know if it is moldy because mold spots will form on the surface. Don’t panic about mold, though!
8. After 7 – 10 days, wash your glass bottles thoroughly. Sprinkle a teaspoon (or so) of sugar into each bottle.
9. Remove the SCOBY from the liquid and funnel into glass bottles, leaving ½ inch at the top(it’s good if strands of culture make it into the bottle). Screw the lid on tightly.
10. You can taste the kombucha now, but if you wait four days or more before opening the bottles, you will (hopefully) have a more fizzy brew. A miniature SCOBY will probably form at the top of the bottle—not a problem if you swallow it but you’ll probably want to remove it.
11. Add juice, ginger ale, or seltzer to the kombucha if it is too intense on its own. Enjoy!