Kombucha!

The first time we heard of Kombucha was just a couple of years ago. At that time only the more diet concious of those we knew were talking about it or drinking it. Since then it has been showing up more and more often on store shelves, and not just at the health food stores. It can be found at regular grocery stores and neighborhood sundry stores, with a decent variety - some from larger beverage companies. It's getting pretty mainstream. And it's fairly expensive with a price tag of at least $3.00 per bottle. But it's really easy to make and far less expensive if you do!

What is Kombucha? It's a fermented tea drink, typically prepared with black tea or a combinantion of black and green teas. The fermentation process begins with a starter - called a Scoby - this organism provides the yeast and bacteria necessary to ferment the sugars added to the teas during the brewing process. All kinds of flavors can be added to Kombucha - something we are really looking forward to this year from the Linwell garden. We'll get to that in a minute.

It is believed by many that Kombucha has heatlh benefits and is considered a great source of probiotics. We believe this and feel like it's been a great addition to our diet. It also tastes fantastic!

Recently we'd noticed a number of friends posting about brewing and fermenting their own Kombucha, and given our desire to produce as much of our own food (and beverages) as we can, we decided to give it a shot. It as definitely as easy as it has been suggested to us.

What you need:

*A vessel to brew it in. Ceramic or glass - metal isn't condusive and can add off putting flavors to the brew.

*A starter "scoby". We ordered one online. You can also get one or part of one from someone that you know that is brewing. Think of these as your ongoing starter similar to a sourdough starter. Unless something goes wrong, as long as you have one you won't need another! You just use it from one batch to the next.

*Black tea and possibly green tea if you wish to add it. We use, and everyone suggests, organic.

*Sugar

*Non chlorine water

*Bottle of unpasteurized and organic Kombucha from a friend who brews or the store

Steps to brew:

Boil the water - how much depends on the size of your container. When the water begins to boil, remove from the heat and add sugar. Proportions are 1 cup of sugar and 8 tea bags for every gallon of tea. We use both green and black tea with 3 bags of green to 5 bags of black.

When the brewed tea cools to room temperature, pour it into your fermenting container, add the starter or scoby, pour in the bottle Kombucha you've gotten or purchased and close the lid....and wait. This will sit at room temperature to ferment. Typical fermenting time is 7 - 9 days, for us it was 10 days but we stared with a small starter so it took that much time to "build" the scoby mushroom on the top of the liquid. We've started our second batch and in just 4 days it looks almost ready.

Once the fermented brew is ready to bottle, you'll need containers to put it in. Again glass is preferred and plastic or ceramic tops - not metal. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per pint - this carbonates the tea, seal and let sit at room temperature out of the light for 3 days. Be careful to watch for too much carbonation - bottles can explode and make a mess!

You can also add flavor with fruit - we used blackberries and blueberries in a couple of our bottles - or ginger for flavoring. Keep in mind adding fruit is adding sugar. This summer we plan on using a lot of the fruits and berries we grow, blackberries, grapes, blueberries, nectarines, peaches and apples. We'll also use ginger and mint from the garden...and probably anything else we can think of that might make sense (I wonder how lemongrass and/or kaffir lime leaves would do? Some Asian inspired brew)

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND GOING ONLINE AND LOOKING UP KOMBUCHA - THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF RECIPES AND TIPS FOR BREWING - WE ARE JUST LEARNING AND ADJUSTING SO DO THE SAME AND FIGURE OUT YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE! side note: we've tasted our first batch - tastes great though a bit light on the carbonation...we'll be working on our recipes!

**photos below are from our first batch**

We began drinking Kombucha about a year ago.

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