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Kitchen Time

May 27, 2015

When I went back to touring G. Love immediately said to me “We get kombucha on the rider now, do you drink it? Should we get one for you?”

And I was like, “What is kombucha? Oh, I’ll try that.” And after one bottle I was hooked. If you don’t know kombucha is a fermented sweet tea. Often it is flavored and bottle fermented to make a carbonated beverage not unlike soda. It’s actually kind of like beer in that way, and indeed contains a small (less than 0.5%) amount of alcohol.

While some dispute the health claims that are made by kombuch enthusiasts, if you’ve read Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, you know that fermented foods are an important part of the human diet that has been significantly reduced in the moderne era. In Pollen's fantastic treatise on our relationship with our food, we learn that one of the great adaptations of man is to begin digesting, that is transforming food for our use, outside the body. By considering fermentation a type of cooking - it’s a similar process to the more familiar heating - it transforms the materials so we can utilize them for energy and supplies for regenerating ourselves. So the transformation of the sugar in kombucha has begun already, making it easier to digest, and also refortifying the bacteria colony in the gut.

Anyhow, I like it. We usually get GT’s Kombucha by Synergy Drinks, or sometime Brew Dr. Kombucha (made in Oregon!) which is pretty dry. But to really get the best effect, and to save money - it’s nearly four bucks a bottle! - I started making my own, and (in the photo) there it is!

Actually this is my third batch, so I’ve developed a pretty massive SCOBY - that would be the Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast - you can see on top in the photo there. It comes out pretty good, after about three weeks. It does taste like a tangy sweet tea and it kind of reminds me of unpasteurized apple cider that I remember fondly from back in the day. I would alway love finding the plastic bottle slightly bowed out with the pressure in the back of the fridge a week or so after a trip to the orchard.

So this batch I am adding some sweet juice and sealing in bottles to let the yeasts do their thing and carbonate it up, so it’s like a nice dry soda. It will take another couple weeks so I have to be patient. One challenge I have is the temperature. Apparently the SCOBY works best between 72 and 85 fahrenheit, a little warm for the Northwest. I fashioned a heater for my main fermenter (the thermometer is on the side of the jar) but my location for the second ferment is a little cool so I’m hoping it just may take longer than expected.

The SCOBY is pretty weird, and home fermentation is a bit intimidating, but if you like kombucha I would encourage you to make some of you own. It’s easier than it looks and there’s a lot of information available. I ordered a SCOBY from Kombuchakamp and use their recipe (pretty much.)  But a new colony is created with each batch so you could get one from a friend or local brewer.

Hollywood CA, cool and overcast.