and learn how to make kombucha yourself.
Cheap, easy, and kind of exciting.
So over the last year or so, I’ve been hopping on the kombucha train. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s kind of an odd health drink. It’s fermented tea that’s flavoured and kind of light and effervescent—it’s like healthy pop! Like pickles, yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut, kombucha is full of probiotic goodness that helps give your digestive system a little boost.
It’s fermented with a SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). SCOBYs are sort of a weird, mushroomy looking hunk of jelly that is the culture that eats up the sugar in your tea and digests it to give off probiotic goodness. You can see it in a bowl below. It’s not the most beauitful thing in the world, but it kind of becomes your pet. You whisper to it, saying how cute it is and what a good little SCOBY it is… you feed it, you love it… Okay I know, I’m weird. Whatever. It’s cute.
You start off with some tea like black, green tea, or oolong—as long as it’s just straight tea. Don’t use any tea with any added sugars, extracts, or oils, as they’ll kill your SCOBY. Brew, add white granulated sugar and stir to dissolve—that sugar is food for your SCOBY, it’s not for you. By the end of the fermentation process, the SCOBY will have digested the sugars and put out probiotic goodness in the tea.
Put your sweetened tea in a large glass or ceramic container and pour in a cup or so of starter kombucha. Starter tea is just already brewed, unflavoured kombucha. It lowers the pH level so it’s a nice happy home for your SCOBY. Gently place your SCOBY on top, cover with a cloth and secure it with a rubber band. Let it chill and work its magic for at least a week, and you’ll get a healthy alternative to sugary soda pops.
Like with any new thing I ever try making, I always do a TON of research. Before I even started to drink kombucha regularly, I had some friends and family who were die-hard kombucha fans. Some even brewed it on their own. Luckily one of them was happy to give me a little offshoot of their SCOBY and I started to make my own at home.
The best part about learning how to make your own kombucha is being able to flavour it with whatever you choose. Ginger, blueberry, maple, even chlorophyll. This batch is flavoured with my new favourite berry: Haskap berries! These berries are grown in Nova Scotia by a Canadian company named haskapa. Haskap berries look kind of like oblong blueberries with a super vibrant, deep red juice. It’s absolutely gorgeous. As a member of the honeysuckle family, they have such a unique flavour too: it’s almost like if you took blackberries, currants, and blueberries and smushed them into one berry. With 3x the antioxidants of a highbush berry, these badboys are packed full of polyphenols, vitamin E, vitamin C, potassium, and more (more information on their nutritional info here).
Along with their juice, haskapa makes a whole line of other Haskap products: jam, jalapeño relish, chutney, maple syrup, even skincare products (although I’m not 100% sure those are vegan). Their maple syrup also has this super vibrant deep red hue to it that is unbelievably beautiful. Every now and then, I sneak a taste from the bottle in my fridge because the colour, the flavour and the wonderful maple sweetness is just too good. You can buy your own Haskap berry goodness by going to haskapa.com and ordering from their online shop.
Some facts I learned about kombucha throughout this process:
- Kombucha needs an acidic home to live in. Never clean any of the bottles or containers you’ll use for the SCOBY with soap; use vinegar and hot water only.
- If you don’t have a starter culture for your SCOBY, buy some kombucha from the store (unflavoured) or add equal amounts of distilled white vinegar. It’ll taste better if you use kombucha but the vinegar will be just fine
- Find SCOBYs online or at health food stores. Alternatively you can sort of create your own SCOBY with unflavoured kombucha from the store. I find that GT’s kombucha always has a little baby SCOBY in the bottle pretty much already formed. I like that stuff but I hate getting a mouthful of the SCOBY, so I tend to go for RISE kombucha to drink immediately. But GTs for if you want to cultivate your own SCOBY.
- Buy good quality Grolsch-top bottles. Poor quality ones will explode during the second ferment.
- Do not use metal when handling the kombucha—especially for the SCOBY. Stainless steel is fine to strain the kombucha from the little yeasty bits, but avoid prolonged contact with metal.
- Open your second-fermented fizzy kombucha over the sink. It will invariably fizz over. You can close it quickly to let it bubble and chill out like a shaken bottle of pop. Stroke it lovingly until it calms down (or don’t, that’s up to you).
- Use pH strips to test the acidity of your brew. It should fall between a 2.5 and a 3 for it to be safe, but anything under 4 pH will be relatively free of harmful bacteria or mould.
- Cover your brew well with a clean tea towel and secure with a rubber band. Fruit flies love this stuff.
- Don’t keep your brew anywhere near bread. Or potatoes.
- Keep your brew someplace warm and out of direct sunlight.
- If you see mould in your brew, toss it. It can’t be salvaged. Start over with a new SCOBY.
- When you start growing a few SCOBYs after a few brews, you can peel off a layer and save them for a friend, for when you have a ruined batch of kombucha and you need to start over, or you can save them in a “SCOBY Hotel” which is about the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard. Basically its a clean, cloth-covered jar of brewed kombucha with a bunch of SCOBYs floating around with it.
- Your second ferment of kombucha will probably have itty bitty baby SCOBYs on the top. You might want to strain it out before drinking. But it’s not going to hurt you if you’re feeling lazy and drink it. (You might not even notice it).
- Before drinking, gently turn the closed bottle upside down, give it a slow swirl to distribute the sediment at the bottom, turn it right side up for another gentle swirl, and enjoy.
I’m totally hooked on making kombucha at home now. I’ll be making different flavours: ginger, lemongrass, maple, apple—the possibilities are endless! Stay tuned to my instagram for more kombucha goodness.
Resources for how to make kombucha:
- Cultures for Health: How to make Kombucha; How to flavour the tea
- Kombucha Kamp
- Wellness Mama
- Food Renegade
- One package rice noodles (bÃºn tÆ°Æ¡i), 300 g
- Rice wrappers (I used about 12)
- ~12 leaves Romaine lettuce
- 1 lb Lemongrass Tofu
- Optional: Cucumber, sliced into 3 inch strips
- Optional: quick pickled carrots and daikon
- Cook rice noodles until tender, then drain. Pour back into a pot and cover with cold water to get rid of extra starch. Drain again and segment into servings in a colander or strainer (makes it easier to separate later, as they tend to cool as one giant clump otherwise).
- To prepare, dip a rice wrapper in hot water and place on a large plate to soften. Place one leaf or romaine on top, ripping it into segments to fit in the middle of the rice wrap. I like to push the contents of my wrap just under the middle actually.
- Layer about a 1/3 cup of rice noodles along the romaine. You can also add the quick picked carrots and daikon and cucumber here, but I didn't have those on hand. The main attraction here is the lemongrass tofu. Add 3-4 slices, then wrap by folding the sides in and then rolling up.
- Repeat until you run out of tofu, or until you've made as much as you'd like to eat.
- Serve as is, or with some vegetarian dipping sauce
Disclaimer: This recipe is sponsored by haskapa. All opinions are my own. I only choose to work with brands and companies I believe in, I will never write about a company I don’t love. Thank you for supporting my blog by reading my sponsored posts. You da best <3
Amy (Lemon and Coconut) says
Hey Lisa! Thanks for this great blog post, I have yet to take the plunge with making kombucha – I don’t really know where to get a mother SCOBY from. I love the thought of you encouraging it like a pet, that’s so what I would do!!Love your blog XX
Lisa Le says
Hi Amy! You can get SCOBYs from Amazon, your local health store (maybe), but if you buy any unflavoured kombucha, you can sort of cultivate your own SCOBY from that as well. GT’s almost always has a little baby SCOBY in it (I know because I have had a mouthful of it every now and again T_T)
When you say sweetened tea with no added sugar, what, pray tell, does that mean? I was thinking maybe it was a typo and you meant “unsweetened,” but then you said it again.
Lisa Le says
I meant any teas from David’s tea or Teavana—so nothing with flavourings, sweeteners, oils, extracts like that, because they’ll kill the SCOBY. You need to have just straight up regular tea and then you add pure/plain white granulated sugar.