Saturday, June 1, 2024

Kombucha Home Brewing: Exploring My Relationship with Life, Death, and Bacterial and Fungal Friends

Feasting on the yeast
It's a long time coming. I've always wanted to go lacto-ovo vegetarianism but due to financial reasons, I've had to delay it until last month. I've also wanted to try my hand in brewing my own probiotics and prebiotics. The opportunity came only recently when I tried my luck on getting my own Scoby. To the un-initiated, that's Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast in longspeak.

Sure, it costs a bit to invest in some jars, a good Scoby, and basic ingredients. But I'm only too happy to have started making my own brew. Commercially available Kombucha is, after all, not cheap -- going anywhere from P180 to P350 a bottle. And nothing beats freshly brewed anyway. 

Nothing beats freshly-brewed
Lest you squirm in seeing the yeasty manifestations in the first image and thinking, "I ain't drinking that!" may you be reminded that we eat and drink the byproducts of yeast all the time. Think of beer, bread, and cheese, for starters. If you love blue/bleu cheese, well, I rest my case. It's the fungus that makes it what it is. You can enjoy your yeast/fungus alright.

Thing is, the idea of fermentation may trigger deep-seated feelings because like the soil, it may remind us of our mortality, our passing. I guess, for a lot of people, that's an off-limit topic. 

Then again, it's the way things are. If you read Sandor Katz's very deep ruminations on fermentation, or Michael Pollan's thoughts on how fermentation is all about exploring our relationship with the bacterial and fungal world that we share this world with, you'd quickly realize that yep, it's rather foolish to deny the facts. We have a symbiotic relationship with this microscopic world coming from the womb when we get our dose of friendly bacteria passing through our mothers' (censored) to the moment of transition, when bacteria, fungus, and yeast collaborate to ferment us back to the earth.

Growing my own Scoby
In any case, I'm enjoying my Kombucha brew for a week or so now. Admittedly, I'm harboring dreams of making it a small cottage industry of sorts. 

Reaping the benefits early on -- For the time being, I'm loving the benefits I'm getting. Like the tea helping clear my year-long skin condition which appears like eczema or psoriasis. The tea also helped a lot in easing my tummy which can be prone to hyper-acidity and acid reflux. I won't go as far as to claim it's a panacea but it's a big boost to my flagging immune system which was weakened by my Long COVID experience.

That we are a product of bacteria's hand in evolution, that we have 4 pounds of bacteria in our gut, that we have millions of neurons in our gut (gut instinct, anyone?), and that we have an Enteric Neural System, should provoke your own thoughts in rethinking our relationship with this microscopic world.

In a nutshell -- Here's my simple recipe for making my own Kombucha at home: 

• Steep 3 teabags of green tea and a tablespoon of black tea in about 3 cups of hot water for 5-10 minutes. Let this cool to room temperature.

•  Dissolve 1 cup of brown sugar in 4-4 1/2 liters of filtered water that has also been left to stand overnight to let any leftover chlorine to dissipate.

• Add the tea to the sugared water in a food-grade glass jar that has been cleaned/disinfected with hot water only (no soap, please, especially those with antibacterial ingredients)

• Add Scoby and about 2 cups of starter tea.

• Cover with clean fine woven cloth like an old shirt, fixed in place with a rubber band.

• Store in a cupboard where it wouldn't be touched or moved (Moving it constantly will prevent the new Scoby to settle in place).

• Wait for at least a week for the first fermentation to take place.

• After 7 days, decant into clean recycled bottles (I used empty Sola bottles)

• You may drink this chilled (keeping your bottles in the fridge will slow down further fermentation) or opt to add a little (about a teaspoon of fresh fruit like apple, mango, or spice like ginger) fruit or spice and wait 2-3 days for a second fermentation period. Check daily as the yeast will eat the sugars and add carbon dioxide inside the bottle for carbonation/fizz which may cause the tea to gush out or pop the cap.

• Harvest the new Scoby progeny and store with some of the tea you've decanted (use the liquid from the top of the jar as the bottom portion may be too yeasty).

• Enjoy and welcome to the world of fermentos!

#kombucha #kombuchero #fermentos #fermented #fermentation #scoby


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