The Irish are known for loving their tea. A cuppa is always a welcome sip when you visit the folks. It’s the drink your mum makes you when you’ve got a broken heart. There’s always a steaming mug for the builder or plumber when he’s having his brekkie roll. And the morning wake up the drink of Irish kitchens all over the land. Tea cures all ills, especially when it’s fermented.
Yes, we can hear the collective groans already. Fermented? Why are they meddling with the tea? What’s wrong with a good old Irish brew? Well absolutely nothing, actually. But it takes on a new wave of health benefits when you ferment it. And it gets a new name. Kombucha. Before the ‘down with that sorta thing’ protest banners go up among Irish tea lovers everywhere, let us explain.
The Chinese were on to Kombucha a couple of centuries before the birth of Christ. They thought it induced immortality. It was also drunk by the bucket load in South East Asia and Japan. In fact, it was supposedly the Japanese who named it. These oriental countries, which have brought us many beneficial alternative health therapies and treatments, have long been lauding and applauding Kombucha for its massive health qualities. We reckon it just might be worth giving it a go.
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA
- Kombucha is a black or green tea-based fermented drink, slightly fizzy and very good for you.
- If you want to make it, you need a ‘scoby’. The cute acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts!
- A ‘scoby’ looks like an alien blob of rubbery jelly. Pretty yuck, but it contains the essential ingredients to turn your good old Irish brew into super-friendly bacteria boosting Kombucha.
WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU
Kombucha contains heaps of natural good bacteria which are good for gut health. It also helps improve liver function and has a detoxifying effect on the system in general. The friendly bacteria in Kombucha is said to have antiviral and antibiotic qualities, helps digestion and boosts the immune system.
HOW TO MAKE A SCOBY
A scoby is a combination of bacteria and yeasts. It forever renews itself with each use, so once you have one established, you will be up and running. You can make your own as follows:
- Buy ready-made unflavoured raw organic Kombucha from a good deli or health food shop. Choose a bottle that has a little blobby thing floating in the bottom. This is a baby scoby that will help start you off.
- Make up a pot of strong tea as normal, using good quality organic black or green leaf tea, or organic black or green tea in silk tea bags. Leave to brew for several minutes so it is strong, then strain into a heatproof super clean glass jar while still hot.
- Stir in 1tbsp sugar per cup of tea while the tea is still hot. Leave to cool until just warm.
- Add a teacup or two of the ready-made Kombucha, with the baby scoby if there is one.
- Cover the glass jar with a piece of muslin and secure it with a rubber band. This allows air to get into the jar.
- Leave at room temperature for several days. You will see the scoby start to grow and thicken into a disc floating on top of the tea. It is working to ferment the tea as well as providing a natural seal. It could take a fortnight to grow a good scoby, depending on the warmth of the kitchen.
- Your scoby needs to be about half a centimetre thick before you use it to make Kombucha.
- Discard the lot and start again if there is any sign of black or green furry moulds or unpleasant discolouration on the scoby or a very strong rancid smell in the tea. These are not good signs. Good kombucha does smell a little strange but it’s a normal kind of strange rather than an off-putting one! Be guided by your senses
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA
- Once you have your starter tea and scoby, you can start making kombucha.
- For approximately a litre and a half of kombucha, make up a litre of strong tea in the usual way, using the black or green organic leaf tea or organic silk tea bags. Leave to brew for the strength you like, then strain into a clean jar.
- Add ½ a teacup of sugar and stir in while the tea is still hot. Cool the tea to just warm.
- Add half a teacup of your starter tea and the scoby.
- Cover the jar with muslin or a fine clean cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight for anywhere between a week and a month, depending on how you like the taste of it. Young Kombucha tastes sweet and tangy. The longer you leave it the more acidic it becomes. It is all about personal taste.
- When your Kombucha is ready, pour it from the jar into clean bottles with secure airtight stoppers. Leave a little Kombucha in the jar with the scoby, to keep it alive for the next batch.
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Written by: Good Food Ireland
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