This drink, known as the Elixir of Life in its native China, has had a resurgence in popularity recently.
It is essentially a sugary tea that is fermented with a Symbiotic community of Yeasts and Bacteria, or a SCOBY, until it is just the right balance of sweet and sour. You can drink it on its primary fermentation or you can bottle it with your favourite fruit juice to make it fizzier and last longer, however be warned that you’ll need to use a bottle rated for high pressure and keep it in the fridge after the first few days to prevent it blowing it’s top. I avoid all this by drinking it on its first fermentation.
How to make Kombucha
Make a large pan of tea (I find teapots too small), boiling it for a few minutes with appx 100g of sugar per litre. Let it cool to room then remove the teabags or tealeaves. Pour this into a sterilised container like a demijohn with an airlock to lock the oxygen out. Add your scoby to this and put the airlock in place. Wait for 10-14 days, tasting it every now and then to get an idea on how it’s developing. It should get steadily sourer and a little fizzy too.
It’s ready when you feel you’re ready to drink it, or you can add your favourite fruit juice in a 1:5 juice:kombucha ratio, seal it in a pressure rated bottle and let it undergo a second fermentation at room temperature for 2 days or so before putting it in the fridge. Be careful though as you may get a kombucha fountain when you open it if you let it go too long! A plastic PET bottle with a screwcap allows you to see when it may have gone too far. If the bottle bulges untwist the cap slowly over a sink, wincing in readiness!
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Probiotics. On consuming the sugar the scoby kicks out a tonne of probiotics, which make their way into your gut and bolster the rich garden that is there already. More diversity in your gut means that your immune system has more tools to fight bad things with. Probiotic bacteria have been shown to treat things like diarrhoea and IBS, but a number of studies have also shown that, in a test tube at least, kombucha prevents the growth and even decreased the survival of cancer cells.
The acetic acid, that sour taste you get on the edge of your tongue, helps prevent infections by killing the bacteria before it gets absorbed into your body. Kombucha also has anti-inflammatory so is great for things like arthritis and depression.
Want more? Kombucha decreases the levels of cholesterol in your body meaning you are less at risk from heart disease , it’s antioxidants reduce toxins in your liver and if you make kombucha with green tea it can burn more calories so help you lose weight!
And finally it can help regulate blood sugar levels so may be effective for type 2 diabetes as well.
The Chinese call it the Elixir of Life, now you know why!