The great thing about a blog is that you post a couple things and now you sound like an expert, when in reality you've only tried them once or twice. On certain things anyways.
My hope is that this will not be one of those things...
I first tried Kombucha tea at a friends house as I was returning a book that I borrowed just before moving to Australia. I was extremely hesitant, as I was warned that it was made with sugar, but it really was healthy (more on that later). It was good, I really liked it. Joey politely drank it and told me in the car that it really wasn't that good. But I was hooked.
When we arrive here in Tasmania I began a thorough search for the mushroom. (My friend offered me one, and I would have gladly taken it, but I could foresee a problem with customs...
"Can you open your bag please?"
"What is this?"
"Well it's a living organism, more specifically a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. Can I continue into your country now?"
...well maybe not quite that bad. They would've taken it away for sure though.)
I finally found one (it took a bit of searching) and made one batch quite successfully and now this is my second batch.
There is tons on information on the Internet, plus this tea is in the book "Nourishing Traditions", (which is a very useful book - even if you don't use any of the recipes). But with that vast amount of info, comes contradictions. Some say do this, others say don't do this. So this is the best that I can figure right now.
(Note: the recipe that I use is the recipe that came with my mushroom, which is good to start out with since your mushroom will likely have come from the use of that recipe. Also I use this recipe because I have not been able to get a container that will fit the recipe from "Nourishing Traditions", which is the amount of tea I will be making in the future - when I find a bowl or jar that big, or when the shipping container arrives with my gallon jar for making this tea.)
1 litre of water (4 cups, I add a bit more water so I still have one litre when the boiling is done)
heaping 1/4 cup white sugar (shock, gasp!)
2 tea bags organic black tea
1 healthy kombucha mushroom plus 1/2 cup kombucha from previous batch
About the ingredience;
Water: Of course you want a good pure water, you will be drinking this stuff after all. However you do not want distilled water, as the kombucha needs the minerals that is found naturally in water. And I've even heard that reverse osmosis water isn't great for the same reason, but reverse osmosis filters out the chlorine, not the minerals, and many people use reverse osmosis or spring water for their tea. Personally, I am fortunete to be able to use rain water as that is the main drinking water of Tassies.
White Sugar: This is the last thing that you would expect to be in a healthy drink. And you will be tempted to find a more natural alternative, like I was. But after alot of looking into it, I would say this is the only thing I will use white sugar for. First, the sugar gets consumed in the fermenting process, so it is the tea that eats it, not you. Secondly, the tea needs this nutritionly void substance to make it stong and healthy (go-figure). You may experiment with other sweeteners such as honey or raw sugar, but make sure you do so with one of the baby SCOPBY's, not your mother, once you have enough mushrooms that you can afford to lose one.
Tea: There are a few different types of tea you can use. Black, Green, Oolong, or white. Whatever you prefer, make sure it is organic. Unorganic tea contains formaldeyde, and you will want to avoid that. I have only used black so for, I tend to start out as a purist, but many have stated that they quite like Green, or a mix of Black and Green. You will also want to stay away from flavoured teas (Earl Grey, ect) as the oils that flavour them will weeken your mushroom. If you desire added flavour (herbs, dried fruit, vanilla), this can be added after the tea is finished it's ferment and is seperated from the mushroom in bottles in your fridge.
The Mushroom: You will want a nice healthy mushroom. Never use a moldy one. Although mold is considerably rare, it can happen. When your mushroom is moldy, it looks like common mold. The bubles and sediment from your mushroom are the good stuff, and not mold. You will want to make sure your mushroom is from a good source. If you want your tea to be organic, your "mother" should be from organic brews. Also you want to be sure that no metal as come into contact with your mushroom. I personally just use my clean hands to handle it. You want to make sure things are kept clean. Smoke and stuff like that will make your mushroom go bad. Most often when you get a mushroom, it should come with enough tea (to keep it well) to use as your starter. You may have to request this.
Now we have our ingredience the rest is quite simple.
Boil the water. If you are unsure of the purity of the water, boil it for 10 min or so.
Add the sugar. Stir to dissolve.
Add the tea bags. I like to let the tags hang out of the pot to avoid the dyes on the lables, most people arn't that picky.
Let it cool down. If you add not tea to the mushroom it will kill the mushroom. You will want to make sure that it is less than 35 C. I just leave it for a few hours.
Take the tea bags out. Pour the tea into your brewing container. This should be a nice clean glass something. A jar or a bowl will work well. Add the mushroom and the starter tea. Or you can have the mushroom and the tea happily waiting in the container and add the tea to it, it doesn't really matter. As you can see I have added the "mother" (the larger one) along with the "baby" from the previous batch. This will allow the "baby" to thicken up abit before being used by itself for additional batches.
Cover the tea with a lint-free cloth to keep bugs and other contaminence out. If you use a bowl, criss-cross with masking tape to keep the towel from falling into the tea. Find a warm, dark place in the house where it wont be distubed too much. I use the bottom of my closet with an electric blanket wrapped around it to keep it cosey.
Let it sit for 4-5 days before testing a bit too see if the taste is desirable. Most brews take 5-8 days. If you want it more vineragy you can let it set for a couple weeks. Stop fermenting when you have your desired taste.
This is my Kombucha. The previous brew in the mason jar (which I afterwards transfers to a wine bottle - if there is too much fizz building up, then exciting things can happen) and this new batch is in the tall jar with the cover. You will notice I also stick a thermometer on the jar (with the help of an elastic band). This just helps me keep tabs on the temperature since I am using a heat source. The ideal temperature is 23-35 C. Anything higher will start to kill your mushroom, and you don't want that. And the warmer it is the faster it will ferment, so I like to make sure it's in the 20s at least.