A fermented probiotic drink, Kombucha is said to originate from China, making its way through Asia and Russia before reaching us in the West where it is now attracting a growing number of fans due to its health benefits. It is quite easy and inexpensive to make, just requiring a few ingredients.
Excerpted with permission from The Beauty Chef by Carla Oates, published by Hardie Grant Books August 2017, RRP $35.00.
This is the first of a 3-part series featuring our favorite recipes from Carla.
Kombucha is made by feeding a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), or mother culture, a sugary tea mixture. The scoby eats the sugar, converting it into healthy digestive bacteria while carbon dioxide is produced through the process of fermentation, creating a refreshing, gut-loving, effervescent beverage. The digestive bacteria colonise the intestines aiding digestion and supporting the immune system.
Here, I’ve used a mixture of black and rooibos tea for my brew, with the addition of chai spices, creating a mellow yet richly spiced tea tonic.
A small amount of alcohol is also produced during the fermentation process and a small amount of sugar also remains after fermentation – how much is dependent on how long you brew it for. I recommend bottling when your brew tastes and smells pleasantly sour, with a slight sweetness remaining.
Makes 4 cups (1 litre / 34 fl oz).
5 cups (1.25 litres / 42 fl oz) water
1/2 cup (110 g / 4 oz) organic raw (demerara) sugar
2 organic English breakfast tea bags, or 2 tsp organic loose-leaf English breakfast tea
1 organic rooibos tea bag, or 1 tsp loose-leaf rooibos tea
1 kombucha scoby with 1/2 cup (125 ml / 4 fl oz) starter liquid, bought online or sourced from a friend
5 cm (2 in) knob of organic ginger, skin on, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods, bruised
2 whole cloves
3 whole black peppercorns
Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the tea bags or loose-leaf tea and steep for 3 minutes.
Remove the tea bags, or if using loose-leaf tea strain through a non-reactive sieve, such as stainless steel or plastic. Pour into a sterilised jar. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, add the kombucha starter liquid and stir using a wooden spoon. Add the scoby, its smooth, shiny side facing up. Cover the jar with a double layer of muslin (cheesecloth) and secure with a rubber band.
Stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight in a well-ventilated place. Ferment for 7–10 days, until the mixture becomes effervescent with a pleasant slightly sour taste, similar to that of sparkling apple cider.
To bottle, remove the scoby using wooden spoons and place in a sterilised glass jar with 1 cup (250 ml / 8 1/2 fl oz) of the kombucha liquid. Store in the jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to brew your next batch of kombucha.
Add the ginger and spices to the remaining kombucha. Re-cover with muslin and stand at room temperature for a further 1–2 days to infuse.
Strain the kombucha through a sieve lined with muslin cloth into sterilised bottles with swing-top lids. Refrigerate for 1 week to carbonate.
To prepare your next batch of kombucha, repeat as described above, using the reserved scoby and starter liquid to make another 1 litre.
Begin by drinking 1/2 cup (125 ml / 4 fl oz) kombucha daily and gradually increase as desired.
Kombucha can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Over time your scoby will grow additional layers and will become quite thick. Once the scoby becomes approximately 1 cm (1/2 in) thick, the additional layers can be left intact or removed and given to a friend with 1 cup (250 ml / 8 1/2 fl oz) of starter liquid to brew their own kombucha. Alternatively remove and use to make extra batches of your own.
The scoby and kombucha starter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months when it is not in use.
Found in fermented foods such as kefir, natto, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and yoghurt; your best sources of probiotics, along with probiotic supplements or fermented superfood supplements like The Beauty Chef’s GLOW.
Probiotics help keep the gut microbiota in balance, which then helps reduce oxidative stress on the skin and body. Probiotics also help with glycaemic control and can help treat acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis by reducing systemic inflammation. When the gut is healthy, radiant skin follows and probiotics are at the frontline for keeping the gut happy and in check. Look for probiotics that offer a broad spectrum of strains, the proven strains being Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species alongside beneficial yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Abundant in vibrantly coloured fruits and vegetables, some meats, poultry and fish, mushrooms, legumes, seeds, leeks, onions and garlic, grains, green tea and black tea.
Antioxidants come in many forms – in vitamins A, C and E for example, and in plant compounds as carotenoids, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, resveratrol and tannins, and they protect healthy cells from being attacked and damaged by free radicals. Free-radical damage causes inflammation and the breakdown of collagen and elastin as well as damage to our DNA. They are crucial in slowing the ageing process as well as protecting the skin from sun damage, pollutants, and other environmental toxins. We need a broad range of different types of antioxidants found in different foods to help protect our skin and body from the broad range of free radicals we are exposed to daily.
Photos courtesy of Carla Oates. GIF by Michael Persico.