When I started my own personal blog, Smallmeadowfarm, one of my first posts was about soda pop and the challenge I had given myself to try and stop drinking it. My purpose was to try and eliminate most gmo supplied high fructose corn syrup from my diet of which soda accounted for quite a lot. Unfortunately for me, “kicking my habit” wasn’t as easy as I hoped and I soon found myself standing at the soda pop door begging to be let back in. Even then, when I was writing my blog post, I realized it really wasn’t the sweet sugary part of the beverage I liked so much though, but the carbonated fizzy poppy “crisp” part . I mean…I absolutely won’t drink the beverage if the fizz is even half way reduced. Yik! It just isn’t the same. Double Yik! Also, sometimes you just want a bit more flavor than “plain ole water” and how much easier is it to reach for a soda—I mean they are every where!
Since then my struggle has taken a different road. One of searching for a beverage that I like. Mostly carbonated since that is what I prefer but also sometimes just flavorful and/or low calorie (no fake diet anything for me please). Needless to say there are a few out there that are HFC syrup free and use real sugar but most are still just junk food in a bottle and don’t do much for you other than sparkle on your taste buds. However there is one drink that fits my bill to a T. It’s fizzy (some say with a bit of tart), can be fruity and flavored and is low calorie but with reverting to the use of chemical sugar. This drink is known as….Kombucha. (KOM -boo -CHA) Better even is that Kombucha actually has health benefits. Of course…don’t make any and bottle it with that particular claim because the FDA will come and shut you down. The most they will say is that Kombucha won’t harm you—if properly made.
So, what is Kombucha? Well, for those of you that have never heard of or seen it, it is a fermented beverage made from plain old tea. Black, green with or without herbal (your choice), and a bit of sugar to feed it. It is very similar to yogurts, natural non pasteurized vinegars, and the fermented veggies of Asian origination called kimchi. Sometimes sweeter than other times, some brands can have a tad of vinegar type taste to the first sip—which can be noticeable or completely absent. That particular “trait” is a length of brewing time issue that is correctable—if you don’t like it— and not unpleasant even when it is there. Though Kombucha may not be what I will substitute for my Dr.Pepper on burrito and taco night—most people actually find Kombucha very pleasing to the palate.
One of the biggest pros of Kombucha is that it is something you can make at home AND it’s good, very very good, for your digestive system because of the many beneficial bacterias/yeasts in it. Supposedly drinking some each day can help with allergies, digestive issues, headaches etc. —but don’t tell the FDA I said that.
It can also, with the addition of a bit of sugar or fruit juice at the end of fermentation be bottled and turned into a fizzy, carbonated style drink. Though it’s not quite the same as Dr Pepper or Coke— as I mentioned above—it is “crisp” none the less. Done properly you can “blow the top” off your bottle upon re-opening. Now THAT’s the kind of crispy fizzy I am talking about!
As we all know a healthy digestive tract is a plus. Of course I always thought that meant not having smelly gas all the time or diarrhea. But more and more often we now hear that about 80% of our immune system actually starts and resides in our gastrointestinal tract and fighting things like colds and flu is dependent upon it functioning correctly. This really came home to us when we began to raise sheep and cows. The beneficial bacteria in their system is in a fine balance. Upset that bacterial ratio with incorrect feeds (as in too much corn for CAFO fed cattle) and they can become sick…over and over again. Sick as in requiring antibiotics all the time. Worse even is that antibiotics then kill off most of the bacteria in the digestive tract thus creating a potential for a vicious cycle. Our complete and total health (and the ruminants mentioned above) starts in our gut and relies upon us feeding our good bacteria and flushing or starving our bad bacteria. Hows that for encouraging you to eat right?
Now that I have started you down the path to why you should drink Kombucha….I am going to switch topics of a sorts. Kombucha, along with yogurt, kimchi and apple cider vinegar (vinegar with culture only—-not that pasteurized crap at the regular chain grocery store) and a few other foods are considered probiotic. Probiotics of course feed the health of our system—they are the good bacteria of which I have been speaking. We’ve all heard that a lot in the past years— but did you know there are also PREbiotic foods that you should eat? Prebiotic foods are those foods we’ve been told to eat for many many years now and our grandparents took for granted: whole grains, high fiber foods and more fruits and veggies with their skins on. These foods, using oat fiber as an example, are somewhat indigestible and create bulk which pushes along the digestive tract some of the bad bacteria, so it can be eliminated, while “feeding” the good bacteria. Yes, this is a bit simplistic of an explanation….but I need to keep my posts down to a reasonable size . Prebiotics, or basically a good diet, is just one thing that influences our health. Stress, age and genetics are some of the other key factors. However, I personally like to think most poor health is more of a by product of incorrect eating than any thing else but I am sure there are exceptions to that.
Anyway, if you would like to try and make Kombucha it is really not that hard. It just requires getting a culture from a friend or purchasing one on-line and a large enough glass jar. The actual brewing of Kombucha is so well documented that I am really not going to tell you how to do it here—though I did add a few pics of a mother culture and my container with it brewing away in. I have listed some links at the bottom of this article for you to explore for yourself. Also, to answer Gina’s question from last week—yes we do use filtered water (not distilled) and never regular tap water. Why? Well, one reason is that we have a Big Berkey counter top water filter that we love love love. I mean it– is awesome and no longer do I get the occasional stomach ache when I drink a glass of water (Google stomaches and chloramine if you want to know more about that subject!). Also, for those of you that don’t know about fermenting products and mother cultures: mother cultures are made up of yeasts and bacterias—two things city water is meant to kill with it’s chlorine or chloramine and lots of other supposedly good for us “junk”. Since you just never know what your city water will do to your culture (supposedly well water is in the category too), it is always better to use filtered or distilled water. Both are considered more reliable for the long term health of your mother culture. She can get sickly and weak too and well…you wouldn’t want to negatively affect the growing mother of your future Kombucha and possibly kill it.
So, even if you aren’t ready to take the leap into making Kombucha yet…..look for it at your health food store next time and try it out. You might be surprised at how well you like it. Brands do vary a bit and I personally favor those with fruit juice in them as they have a tendency to be a bit “sweeter” (leaning more towards my style of drink) however my husband, a life long un-sweet tea drinker all his life, also likes the plain. To each his own right?
http://www.happyherbalist.com/kombucha_brewing_guide.htm –basic brewing instructions
http://www.happyherbalist.com/continuous_brewing.htm – continuous brewing instructions if you aren’t interested in bottling
http://www.happyherbalist.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=210 – second stage fermentation for getting more fizz.
http://kombuchatea.tribe.net/thread/e04c5d5f-f994-48b2-891a-15cee65e1a44 — also about secondary fermentation but specifically includes adding a teaspoon of sugar and/or fruit juice for the process to create a sweeter fizzier beverage.
* as a note….I listed mostly the happy herbalist as a reference because their site is well organized and has lots of details. There are many others though and since I acquired my culture from a friend I can not say which mail order place I recommend. I did not, in my search, come across any references that any particular one was a bad place to shop though.