Yes I know it’s trendy and and seen as yet another middle class “must have” but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or should be dismissed. On that basis we’d have to say goodbye to yoga, almond milk and blogging. No I’m going to put potential ridicule to one side and embrace the fact that I am a Kombucha convert. Now, I’ve come to Kombucha the long way, having heard of it years ago but never really having enough interest to find out more let alone brew the stuff. Going sober and reading numerous Sunday supplement articles changed that.
After years of experimenting with various gins (way before gin became the go to drink it seems to have become today) and various mixers, I was a keen sampler of distinctive drinks. Alcohol carries taste and the range of great drinks you can create is limitless and fairly easy. But after 40 odd years of making and shaking I give up the alcohol. Suddenly making an interesting complex drink became a challenge. I tried the exorbitantly priced “spirit” alternatives of which my favourite is everleaf. It’s a complex non alcoholic base for mixers but costs £18 for just 50cl – in other words more than most gins, working out at a staggering £36 per litre. Then I looked again at Kombucha. It ticked a lot of boxes; it was made by brewing, it was simple tea transformed by fermentation into something quite unlike tea, the process reminded me of when I used to make my own wine and beer, it involved a magical process with new magical elements such as SCOBYs, it had limitless possibilities in terms of flavourings, it was relatively easy to set up and get the equipment and it was cheap. Importantly it was something I could create myself and learn to make better and better as time went on. Yep, Kombucha ticked a lot of boxes and humble Jim could be transformed from the saddo that doesn’t drink alcohol any more into …. The Alchemist, The Kombucha King, The Creator of Magical Elixirs.
Without delay I ordered my SCOBY(look it up if you want to know more), my glass jars and stoppered bottles and finally I was ready for brewing! Now, brewing and fermentation when making Kombucha does produce some alcohol but most of this becomes transformed in the process and if there is any alcohol it’s around 0.5% the same as some of the “AF” beers I drink and ripe bananas. For me, with a keen nose and brain for alcohol I have honestly not sensed any in all the Kombucha I have made. I do realise that for some though this could be an issue.
Moving on- I’ve now completed two brews and have to say I have fallen in love with Kombucha. Like a lot of fermented foods, its full of the healthy bacteria your gut needs and I’ve been drinking small amounts everyday to get my body used to the influx of goodness. It really is a magical drink. The secondary fermentation in bottles gives rise to a natural carbonation and there’s something really wonderful about pouring out this frothy drink that started life as a humble drink of tea. Then there’s the taste- well never having tried Kombucha before it’s fantastic to experience a wholly new taste, tart, fruity hard to describe. What’s great is you can brew it for longer or shorter and this will affect the acidity and sweetness- in other words each time you brew you are creating a drink that’s truly unique and which costs pennies. Once you are up and running the SCOBYs grow and can be used for the next batch and you are left with tea bags and sugar as your only costs.
Oh, one more small cost, the flavourings. Ah the flavourings. This is what makes me most excited. When you bottle your Kombucha you can add flavourings and this is when things really open up. Basically use your imagination. I’ve already experimented with things like chillis and ginger and then on the sweet side with strawberries, grapes and cherries. My favourites so far? Well the strawberry Kombucha is delicious and I also flavoured one bottle with just cut up root ginger. That’s quickly become my morning staple.
Enough! You can tell I love the stuff. I love the alchemy of it and the acquiring of knowledge around it. Like bread making, it’s simple but you need to work at it to get it just as it should be. Us non alcohol drinkers deserve a rich array of drinks which we can enjoy and for what it’s worth I’m putting Kombucha out there as something well worth a try. You can buy it ready made, but come on, where’s the fun in that!