Kombucha, from the Three Blue Ducks’ new cookbook, The Blue Ducks’ Real Food, is a drink made by fermenting sweet black tea with a living colony of bacteria and yeast. It’s lovely and refreshing, and is also a probiotic that promotes gut health.
To make kombucha, you need a ‘mother’ to build the right colony of yeast and good bacteria to convert the sweet tea into kombucha. The mix needs to be stored in a clay, terracotta or glass vessel and, depending on how regularly you consume it, needs some love and affection about twice a month. I suggest having a small glass every day in the morning before you go to work, followed by a big glass of water. Like all good things, a kombucha mother can be found on the internet, a small amount of investigating will almost definitely locate one in your area. You can use water from the tap for this but you’ll have to boil it and let it sit for the chemicals to evaporate – what does that tell you about our water supply? We’re quite lucky in that we have tanked rainwater, which is the best water to use, but purified or filtered water is fine too.
5 litres initially but can be topped up indefinitely
5 litres purified water, at room temperature
250g organic black tea
750g raw sugar (basically a 15% mix with the water, keep the ratio the same when topping up)
1 kombucha mother (about 150g)
To store the kombucha, you will need a 5–6 litre terracotta urn with a tap.
Boil 2 litres of purified water and add the tea and sugar. Turn off the heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Strain the tea after 5 minutes (the tea leaves can go in the compost) and mix with the remaining 3 litres of purified water. Ideally, the tea should now be around 37°C, which is the perfect temperature for the bacteria and yeast to populate the tea. Pour the tea into the urn.
Take the mother and add it to the urn along with any liquid that it came with. Stir slowly to incorporate the kombucha from the mother into the tepid tea. Place a cloth over the top of the urn and secure with a rubber band. It’s now a waiting game, and you will have to wait for a few weeks before the sweet black tea starts to turn and the mother grows until it covers the entire top of the urn. Taste the kombucha, and if it no longer tastes like tea and sugar, and is lightly carbonated and acidic, it’s ready.
Once you have an established mother, it will only need a few days to turn sweet black tea into kombucha, just keep topping it up with 2–3 litre batches. Pour the new tea straight on top of the mother, just make sure it’s at body temperature, or it might kill the mother.
Tip: Kombucha is great on its own, but try mixing it with some muddled berries and mint, a nip of ginger juice and plenty of ice. And since the kombucha is so good for you, it won’t hurt to occasionally drop in a splash of gin, vodka or perhaps rum. Recipe from The Blue Ducks’ Real Food by Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson published by Pan Macmillan, available now.