meet kiwi kombucha

Let me introduce you to Kiwi, my first foray into fermenting. Kiwi is my kombucha starter, also know as a mother. I started brewing my first batch of kombucha about 3 weeks ago.

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that supposedly has significant health benefits because of the live active cultures that it contains. I’d never tried it until my friend Noah introduced me to the beverage about a month ago. Noah is also a home-brewer. While I can’t say much about the health benefits, I can say that I find kombucha pretty tasty. It is bubbly, sour, a little vinegary and very refreshing. And since I am pretty into doing things from scratch, I decided why not brew my own.

The first step was aquiring a mother. My friend Noah said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that hippies all over Berkely just give their mothers away. Logically I turned to Craigslist. I found a girl in my neighborhood who was offering kombucha starters free to a good home. I hopped over to her house with my 1 gallon glass jar (purchased from Sur Le Table for $11 if you’re in the market) and she gave me a mother and about 12 oz of starter liquid from her previous batch.

Note: The kombucha mother is freaky looking creature. It is pinky orange and gelatinous. It is very similar to the washed-up jelly fish that you see when you’re walking on the beach. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

When I got back home, I brewed a large batch of strong tea. The ratio should be about 90% new tea to 10% kombucha starter liquid. To the tea I added 1 cup of white sugar. The kombucha bacteria feed on the sugar during the fermentation proccess. Then I let the tea cool overnight to room temperature.

The next morning I poured this sweetened tea mixture into my glass jar with the kombucha mother and starter liquid inside. Then I covered the jar with cheesecloth – it is important that the mother can breath – and put the jar in my hall closet to let my little bacteria cultures get down to business.

Kiwi had been hanging out in my dark closet for about a two and half weeks. After about one week, the brew started to smell less like tea and more like kombucha. Kiwi also seriously grew inside that jar. She now looks like a membrane tornado! (Wow, that sounds gross. But it is really cool, I swear).

It can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks to brew a batch of kombucha. After about one week, I began dipping a spoon into the brew and tasting. I tried it every 3 days, until it had reached my desired kombucha strength and effervescence. Jordan was scared – the kombucha mother just got freakier looking as it grew – and he finally tried my brew for the first time last night. Once it reached the desired level of fermentyness, I poured most of the kombucha into bottles to refrigerate, leaving enough liquid to start another batch. I think my next batch will be a mixture of green and black tea.

My first experiment with fermentation was a success! Jordan says now it’s his turn to ferment – I think this means home-brewed beer is in our futures.

And a final note: this kombucha is strong in flavor – much stronger than the store-bought varieties. If you like the strong, natural flavor of kombucha, home-brewing is for you! And if you prefer a more mild flavor, cut the kombucha with some juice, soda water or ginger ale.