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Kombucha is a traditional fermented beverage made from sweetened tea. The ingredients needed to make kombucha include a starter culture, tea, sugar, water, and either some kombucha liquid or apple cider vinegar. You will also need a heat-resistant glass bowl or large glass jar, a muslin cloth, a large rubber band, and bottles or jars for storing the finished kombucha. You will make the kombucha by first brewing a strong tea, and then adding the kombucha starter culture and letting the mixture sit for several days.
Any kind of tea can be used to make kombucha, though better quality teas can produce a superior tasting drink. Chinese black teas from Yunnan province as well as dark oolong teas both work well in kombucha. However, even standard black tea in teabags works just fine. A more difficult item to procure is the kombucha culture, sometimes referred to as a mushroom or mother. Among kombucha makers, this culture is more properly known as a SCOBY, an acronym for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. There are several mail order sources for SCOBYs, though you may be able to obtain one from either a local kombucha enthusiast or a health food store as well.
Before making kombucha, it is very important to ensure that your hands, utensils and containers are all very clean. Bacterial contamination can ruin kombucha. To begin the process, make a batch of sweet tea. Add three or four teabags or teaspoons of loose-leaf tea to two liters of very hot water. The water temperature should be boiling or near boiling if you are making black or dark oolong tea, a little bit cooler for green tea. Add a cup of granulated sugar to the hot tea and stir. Allow to cool.
While the tea is brewing, add about 6 ounces of kombucha liquid or 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar to a glass bowl or container. Add the cooled sweet tea to the cider vinegar or kombucha liquid and then add the SCOBY. Cover the container with the muslin tea-towel and secure with a rubber band. This step is very important when you make kombucha, as the cloth will protect the fermenting kombucha from fruit flies. Place the container in a warm place, allowing it to sit undisturbed for at least five days.
After the tea has brewed for the five recommended days, you can taste the liquid to see if it is ready to drink. Lift the muslin cloth, you will notice that a new SCOBY now covers the surface of the liquid, and dip in a spoon. As the days go by, more and more of the sugar will be digested by the bacteria, so if you like your kombucha sweet, you will want to stop the fermentation sooner rather than later. When you are ready to pour out the kombucha, wash your hands carefully and gently lift the SCOBY out of the container. Strain the liquid into storage bottles and cap tightly. Reserve about 6 ounces of liquid and place this liquid along with the SCOBY in a clean jar, which you should open periodically to release any gas build-up. Keep this starter and SCOBY for when you, or a friend, next want to make kombucha.
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