Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Traveling Teapot Pours Kombucha

The little plum teapot has made some amazing discoveries this month! Although it has poured many cups of tea, its discovered that there's some very non-traditional tea activity around this house. The plum teapot has bravely tried a few new things, like kombucha!

It appears that earlier this spring the hosts took a class at the local co-operative market in brewing tea. And this kind of brewing was not in a teapot! Instead, tea was prepared in quantities, cooled, and placed in jars with something called a SCOBY and sugar and then was left to sit for a week while bacteria and yeasts did their job. 

According to the class instructors, kombucha is a fermented tea that is generally considered to be a health tonic. Some claim it improves digestion, increases energy, and can aid in clearing the mind. It is naturally rich in B vitamins and glucuronic acid, which helps with natural detoxification. It produces beneficial enzymes and is said to promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Nutritionists claim it to be a great source of antioxidants, poly phenols and probiotics. The history of kombucha goes back thousands of years with origin in China and Russia.

SCOBY = symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast

After the first brew, fresh juice or dried fruits [ginger, raisins, cherries], or herbs [thyme, mint, rosemary] were added for a period of secondary brewing. The result was a unique, fizzy, and delicious drink! It is alcohol free and unique in flavor. 

My friend, Tari, also took the kombucha class. We had fun trying out different flavors of twice-brewed kombucha. The apple, cherry, and grape flavors were our fav's. We each left the class with instructions, a SCOBY, and starter in a jar.

One small SCOBY and a jar of kombucha started a chain reaction and it has grown from there. The 20-something-year-old in the family became the official kombucha brewer and he's refined the system for the family.

Sometimes tea is brewed in teapots or the Breville tea maker, but because of the quantities of tea being produced and consumed, a large stainless steel pot seems to work best. The brewed tea is made strong and then transferred to crocks. Sugar and a SCOBY are added to each crock and they are covered and set in a warm place for 7 - 10 days.

Here's an example of a healthy, growing SCOBY that's floating at the top of some brewing tea.

The secondary brew takes place in glass carboys. A one-way vent is placed at the top of each to "burp" the kombucha as it works and to prevent unwanted bacteria from entering the containers.

After the secondary brewing, the kombucha is checked with a hydrometer to make sure that the sugar content is very low and that no alcohol is present. If either exists, more brewing time is required. Although sugar is added for the brewing process, the finished beverage is low-carb and "dry".

The brewer did his research and decided to build a cooler for his kombucha. He altered a chest-size freezer into a refrigerator, added faucets, shelves for kegs and CO2 containers, and lots of dials to keep track of temperature and pressure. Although kombucha is naturally fizzy, this method adds more C02 to the beverage and it comes out very fizzy "on tap".

The finished cooler has three faucets with small "chalk" markers that serve as handles. The name of the type of kombucha in each keg is labeled. How does fresh peach sound? Or lemon-thyme? Or ginger? Or huckleberry? Or raisin?  Each one is unique and delicious!

The little plum teapot pours peach kombucha. Fresh peaches were juiced to add to kombucha for the second brew. It makes a very refreshing beverage!

Recipe for Kombucha

1/2 cup white sugar
4 small tea bags (or 5 tsp. loose leaf tea - preferred)
1/2 cup starter liquid (kombucha from a previous batch)
purified water
tea kettle
brewing vessel
cloth cover or paper towel

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over tea in teapot or jar. Steep for ten minutes. Remove the tea and add sugar to dissolve. Fill kombucha brewing vessel 3/4 full of water. Add sweet tea. After tea/water mixture is completely cool, add starter liquid. Add the SCOBY. Cover with paper towel or dish towel. Place in warm location (out of direct sunlight) for 7 days. Test for done (indicated by lack of sweetness). Drink or prepare for second brew with flavors or juices of your choice.

Do you remember Amish Friendship Bread made from starter? The starter was passed from friend to friend along with instructions for making quick breads and sourdough with it. Kombucha works in a similar manner. The SCOBY keeps growing and reproducing. Kombucha makers keep "SCOBY Hotels" and willingly share extra SCOBY with those who want to make kombucha. But, for those who don't know anyone with a SCOBY to share, has them available for sale commercially.

Tomorrow the little plum teapot will report on more traditional tea-making events.


Bean said...

That is awesome! Well done you guys. My brother it's going to be jealous of your converted chest freezer!

Bean said...

That is awesome! Well done you guys. My brother it's going to be jealous of your converted chest freezer!

Marilyn said...

This sounds soooooo good. I really would love to come and have some with you and the little plum teapot.