Some mornings I need a drink that is mellow, not coffee, but something to ease me into the morning. When I feel like this, I want this green tea. It’s cleansing in a way that you can’t see, but you feel instead. It has grains of roasted brown rice, and popped sorghum in it, making it slightly nutty and savory. I found this at our local Salem, OR Asian market, but you could also get it online here. There are a lot of varieties, just pick the one that looks the best to you. I this next time I’ll have to try this one.
You know that I’ve been making kombucha for awhile now. I love experimenting with flavors and techniques. This one came out of making a batch of green tea and honey kombucha from the book True Brews by Emma Christensen. I noticed that my scoby really liked the green tea… and by that I mean it was thick and super white looking after brewing, rather then more brown, which means it was happy in that environment. If you are trying to get a good healthy scoby going, or maybe trying to revive a tired one from a long time in cold storage, try a green tea kombucha! Every scoby is just a little different, but by experimenting with different teas and observing what happens to the scoby, you can see which ones it thrives in and which ones are a little harder on it.
Now for the honey. I am a honey lover. If you are vegan, you could try agave in this for sweetening, or just drink it as green tea kombucha which is also delicious!
The honey in this is added at the end of fermentation rather then at the beginning. Why? Because honey has natural anti-bacterial properties it can disrupt all that good bacteria that lives in the scoby over time. It can cause your scoby to deteriorate. So it’s best to add it in the end, like other flavorings.
But if you’ve ever tried to mix honey into a cold or even room temperature liquid, you know it isn’t easy! The first time I made this, the honey sunk down to the bottom of each bottle in a thick and separated layer that refused to be re-joined with the tea. I would have to shake them together, and it usually resulted in me standing over the sink with kombucha all over my shirt. Clean clothes don’t last for very long around here.
So I borrowed a technique from a (fabulous) little book called Dr. Cocktail and made a “liquid honey.” This is a super simple trick, where you mix 1 part honey with 1 part hot water and then let it cool. This essentially waters down the honey and allows it to mix more readily with other cold liquids. In his book, Alex Ott uses liquefied honey to make a drink called the “Flying Dutchman” and being part Dutch myself, I really do intend to make this drink (other ingredients include pear juice, spiced rum, and a piece of wood that you light on fire, AND a marshmallow garnish). Dr. Cocktail also inspired this beet juice. Well, anyways….
I looked at my solidified honey and felt that liquefied honey would SURELY be better than this. So I mixed it with hot water.
And let it cool:
You can make this when you brew your kombucha and just store it in the fridge until the ‘bucha is ready to be bottled, or you can make it the day you plan to bottle the tea.
To get a detailed run down on how to make kombucha, see this post, but here’s the gist:
- Brew your tea. Add the sugar and let it cool. Add the scoby. Ferment, covered with a cloth, for 7-10 days.
- After you brew the kombucha and it ferments for 7-10 days depending on your conditions, remove the scoby (or multiple scobies in my case) with clean hands and measure out 2 cups of the fermented tea. Store the scoby in a glass or plastic container with the two cups of tea poured over it, covered, in the fridge until you want to brew kombucha again (hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks.)
- Make the liquefied honey. Let cool to room temperature.
- Pour the liquid honey into the batch of kombucha and stir well.
- Clean 6-12 bottles, depending on their size (this will make a little less then 1 gallon of kombucha), as well as caps. Locate your bottle capper (if using bottles with corks, just make sure each cork actually fits the bottle before pouring the kombucha.)
- Using a funnel and a measuring cup or ladle, pour the kombucha into each bottle leaving about 1″ of headspace, or space between the liquid and the top of the bottle. Set a cap lightly on the bottle and continue filling bottle and setting caps on them. If using corks, just stick the cork in midway so that you can pull it out easily when you are ready to drink it, but in far enough that it is secure.
- To cap using bottles: using a bottle capper, this one is similar to what I used, place the capper on top of the cap, making sure that the cap is centered on the bottle opening. Firmly and slowly lower each handle, at an even rate with each other, until you are all the way down. Sometimes you will feel a quick release of pressure and the handles will push all the way down, but sometimes it just feels impossible to push any farther– it just depends on the type of bottle you have. ***USE CAUTION*** It is possible to break bottles, chip off small pieces of glass, or break off pieces of the bottle opening lip when using bottle cappers and moving too fast or with too much force. It has happened to me, and through trial and error, you will learn what “capping” feels like and how far to push your particular capper/bottles. Just be careful and cap in an area that can be easily cleaned, like a kitchen or work table.
- After capping, set bottles on the counter to carbonate at room temperature for 1-3 days, depending on the warmth of your kitchen or room.
- When your kombucha is carbonated, store it in the fridge and consume within a month. ***ANOTHER WORD OF CAUTION*** I didn’t drink some of my kombucha fast enough and it was in my fridge just hanging out. I unearthed a bottle from the back of the fridge and set it on my counter for a few minutes. Suddenly! A crash! I ran into the kitchen, and my glass swing top bottle had exploded, shooting strawberry rhubarb kombucha every which way and taking shards of glass with it. This was my first experience with exploding kombucha, though I have exploded glass before… that’s another story. Just try to drink any kombucha that is flavored with honey/fruit/fruit juice before it becomes over-carbonated. Honey, fruit and fruit juice have more sugars, so they tend to be more active with carbonation (think of it like bread: yeast eats sugar, more sugar=more yeast=more rising in the dough). Luckily no humans or kitties were harmed in the exploding bottle incident, but I was not happy about cleaning that mess up and I did have to throw away a couple of other fermentation projects (sniff, sniff, a lovely wild yeast sourdough starter included). Okay, cautionary tales over.
The floral notes of the honey really work well with the green tea. This has a sweetness that many kombuchas don’t tend to have, so sharing this with someone not used to the tart flavor of kombucha is a good way to get them to change their mind about this wonder drink. It’s also super refreshing on a warm day, and a great way to keep that meditative mood going from morning to afternoon.
- 14 cups water (I use tap water, but many people say to use filtered water. If you like the taste of your water, try it. If your water has heavy chlorine or chemical treatments, use filtered water.)
- 1 cup white granulated sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar, but do use sugar here, don't try honey, agave or any other sweetner)
- 2 tablespoons loose green tea with roasted brown rice, put into a natural tea bag (see sources)
- 2 cups starter tea from your last batch of kombucha, or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral flavored) kombucha
- 1 scoby (or two smaller ones is fine) per fermentation jar
- 1 cup raw and unfiltered honey
- 1 cup hot water
- Stock pot or tea pot to boil water in
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Long-handled spoon
- Cloth tea bag
- 1-gallon size glass jar or crock (see sources)
- Cheesecloth or paper towels
- Rubber bands or string
- Bottle capper or corks
- Bottles for bottling and storing kombucha (2-liter soda bottles, canning jars, cleaned beer bottles with corks that fit)
- Bring the water to a boil. I've been using our new electric kettle, which boils water pretty fast, but I have to boil the water in batches.
- Place your tea and sugar in the gallon container or split equally between the quart sized containers.
- If using a tea pot, measure out 4 cups at a time and add it to the gallon glass jar (this would be about 3 times of filling up the tea pot, and watch out for hot steam when filling!)
- Stir together tea, hot water and sugar and allow to steep until the water has cooled to room temperature. I let mine sit out overnight, loosely covered with the cloth or cheesecloth and secured with a rubber band or string. If using two cups of kombucha and a scoby that has been stored in the fridge, remove them from the fridge now and set them on the counter to come to room temperature.
- In the morning, or when the tea has cooled and the scoby as well as the starter tea is at room temperature, remove your tea bags (or strain out loose tea, reserving brewed tea). With clean hands, remove your scoby from it's storage jar, and place it on a clean plate.
- Pour the starter tea into your brewed tea, then gently place the scoby on top.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with paper towels or cheesecloth and secure with rubber bands (this keeps out dust and insects, particularly fruit flies).
- Allow the kombucha to ferment, out of direct sunlight and covered, at room temperature for 7-10 days, checking it periodically. Keep it somewhere it will be undisturbed. In the summer it will ferment faster, in the winter, keep in the warmest room in the house. It may take a little longer in the winter. You will probably see a new scoby form on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. Typically it will attach itself to the old one, but it's okay if they stay separate. You may also see some brown stringy things floating, or sediment or strange blobs around the edge of the scoby. This is also normal and good.
- After 7 days you can taste your kombucha by pouring a little into a small cup. When it tastes slightly sweet and slightly sour, or otherwise pleasant to you, the kombucha is done. With clean hands, remove the scoby to a clean plate or clean glass container or jar that will fit your scoby plus two cups of your newly brewed kombucha. You can store your scoby in a container with the kombucha poured over it in the fridge. This becomes your next "starter tea." Store in the fridge until you are ready to brew again, or start another batch right away. Now we have a gallon jar filled with brewed kombucha ready for the next stage.
- If you want to add flavorings, you would do so at this stage, also known as Secondary Fermentation.
- We are adding the liquid honey which we can make now. Combine 1 cup honey with 1 cup hot water in a small bowl or sauce pan. Let cool until it is at room temperature. Pour the liquid honey into the batch of kombucha and stir well.
- Prepare your bottles. Clean bottles, caps or locate corks and make sure they fit in all your bottles. Using a funnel and a measuring cup, fill each bottle leaving about 1" of headspace. Place a cap on it and allow it to rest lightly for a few minutes; continue filling bottles and placing caps on the tops. When you have filled all the bottles, start with the one you filled first, use the bottle capper to slowly crimp the cap around the bottle. To do this, place the capper on top of the cap, using even pressure on both sides and making sure the cap is centered on your bottle, slowly push down on each handle until you feel like it will not push any further (don't force it too hard, bottles can break!). Each bottle is slightly different, so the amount you can push down will vary. To release, slowly push handles back up. Check the cap, if it looks like it's secure, it is, if you need to apply more pressure, repeat the process with the capper and crimp the cap more.
- Allow bottles to sit on your counter or in a warm room, depending on the season, to fully carbonate, usually about 1-3 days, depending on the temperature of the room. Open a bottle after a day or so and taste it for flavor and carbonation. If it tastes sparkling and pleasantly sweet, a little tart, and floral from the honey, move all the bottles to the fridge and consume with in the next month or so. Bottled kombucha also makes a great gift, and with cute bottles it's easy and a delight to share with friends and family.
True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home, by Emma Christensen < a great resource for how to make kombucha, plus a ton of other stuff. Christensen is great about helping you troubleshoot kombucha and what normal and healthy looking scobys look and smell like.
For gallon glass jars, other bottles and fun jars for all kinds of projects: http://www.specialtybottle.com/
For natural tea bags: Regency Spice Bags You can reuse them, wash them in the dishwasher or the laundry, and they hold a good amount of tea.
Champagne split sized bottles that I used, but you can use virtually any size bottle or a variety of bottles that you have on hand.