I first heard about kombucha a few years ago, when I was eating raw for a week while Matt was away at Louisville, and I decided to try it, despite its price. I can't say that I loved it immediately, but there was something intriguing about the taste, and it reminded me of kvass--something that I used to drink during my childhood in the former USSR. So I kept coming back to it, buying it occasionally, as a little boost for a crummy day, or just because. On one of these casual acquisitions, a cashier at Whole Foods turned to me, just as I was leaving, and said, "You know, you can make this stuff yourself. It's not that hard."
I, of course, took that as a challenge, and became determined to make my own kombucha. I started reading about it, obsessing about it, looking up reputable dealers of the mother culture...and actually didn't do anything about it for over a year. I kept telling myself that I didn't have enough time to tend to kombucha, that I would somehow ruin it and let it mold, that I wasn't a fit parent. And then what?
Jars came along. I've written a little bit about how canning has changed the way I look at food; but it's not just about canning. Jars have changed the way I look at food. We buy more bulk items because I love storing them in jars. And once I acquired a few half-gallon jars, I just had to put them to use. One of them holds the granola that I make almost weekly, a few of them hold the mellowing liquors, and one of them is a dedicated kombucha jar. It wasn't until I had the proper vessel that I decided to brave the kombucha-making experience.
To grow the beautiful mother that you see, I bought a bottle of kombucha, dumped it into a sterilized half-gallon jar, and added two cups of strong black tea sweetened with a half-cup of sugar. Because I started the growing in the winter, it took about a month for the liquid to form a thin, but cohesive film layer. I added a few tablespoons of sugar every few weeks, to feed the baby culture, and two months later, I had a mother culture that was barely over an eighth of an inch thick, floating smugly atop the vinegary-smelling tea ferment. I may have rushed things a bit, but at that point, I started the production of kombucha--I poured off about 3/4 of the finished kombucha, then brewed about 6 cups of tea, sweetened it with half a cup of sugar (waited until it was at room temperature), and added it to the jar. And thus, every week for a couple months, now. I've even flavored small batches of kombucha with ginger-syrup! I'm glad that I gave it a try. If you would like, ask me in a couple months (when the mother culture is stronger yet,) and I can share a little baby SCOBY with you, too.