Hello from Kombucha Central, where pretty little elderflower stars float in a firmament of fermenting tea, by the grace of a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. In other words, I’ve been given a Kombucha SCOBY and am having a ball experimenting with different floral flavours, having found a fab use for the flower syrups I make. Well then…. Come Bucha with me…
Kombucha is pretty easy– at it’s most basic, you boil and cool black tea, sweeten it with sugar, and use your SCOBY “mother”– the creature thing that is your “culture”– to ferment the mixture in five days or so. After, if you bottle and cover, you get a nice effervescence. Read the great Sandor Katz on Kombucha in this Splendid Table interview; there’s also an excerpt about Kombucha from his The Art of Fermentation that is generously and conveniently on line. (And here’s my love letter to that book in Permaculture Magazine.)
First, I used my Dandelion Simple Syrup to sweeten a batch of Kombucha, in place of the sugar. It worked and created a marvelously happy drink. (If I were to bottle this for sale in NYC, I’m reckoning the price would be $6.50 and come well-chilled. All the more reason to DIY!)
The idea then occurred to make an Elderflower Cordial with this year’s very abundant elderflowers, and to use this for another batch of Kombucha.
Of course there’s the Elderberry Cordial from last autumn which my kids hated because I added some clove to pretend it wasn’t medicine but it made it taste all the more medicinal to them. In it went to a batch of black tea! (I decided to acidify this a little, at the outset, with a Blackberry Apple Scrap Vinegar — taking heed that one can discourage moulds this way.)
And several years ago I made a Rosemary Lovage Mint Syrup that with soda water tastes so truly of Fresca, somehow– a funny citrusy diet drink from the 70s. With this I’m making a Green Tea Kombucha. (And I decided to acidify this one, just that wee touch, with the Japonica Quince vinegar) (NOTE– I have read not to put strong essential oils near one’s SCOBYs as this can harm them, and it seems to be true; the mother isn’t floating very well at all. I guess it was the rosemary. If I’ve killed her — this is terrible, but I will rescue my HomeBrew Fresca in a few days by adding some Water Kefir culture. Next time I would add an ingredient like this in the “second ferment” — having done it once, then adding a flavour or juice, and letting it sit again, as is a good Water Kefir technique. (A day later– Hooray! The SCOBY is floating on top again! I am not a murderer!)
I crave to make a Kombucha with the dark flavour of cherries, so natural somehow with black tea– have a plan to use the juice that comes in those supermarket jars of cherries from Germany… Hibiscus is very appealing as well.
Kombucha used to scare me somehow, and I found myself preferring other methods of making naturally carbonated soft drinks (well, the weenciest bit alcoholic…). I’ve come around. I now see Kombucha as something of the continuum of vinegar— it can taste that way– a light “tea vinegar” very amenable to “decorating” with other tastes. I love diluting vinegar anyway, and drinking it, or sweetening it (shrubs) and diluting from there. These drinks are medicinal, alkalising in the body, and most of all, refreshing. And, of course, they’re fun to make!
One last note: I’ve been enjoying using Hunza Apricots as the dried fruit component of slow release sugars in these fermented soft-drinks. The flesh tastes so interesting re-hydrated, and then, there’s the stone, the pit, with it’s kernel, miracle cure of all mortal ailments, ready to be approached with a nut-cracker. Forgive the terrible picture. From the left, a dried apricot, a soaked apricot, the stone, the stone broken open and the kernal. Even if eating these occasionally doesn’t make me everlasting, perhaps it might improve my photography? Time will tell.