The arts of fermented tea drink

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How do you define yourself in the current culinary trend? I would say I tried to catch as much as I can when in fact I don’t get all.

I remember hearing kombucha in the middle of 2011 when I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was at one of the oldest and the best Japanese restaurant group in Malaysia working as an apprentice, well I meant I was doing traineeship there. When you decided took “Culinary” as your major of study, you may think that you knew everything in that particular field. But once you had your real working environment, those make you questioning yourself whether you are on the right track, or maybe you just ignoring the fact that you actually didn’t try harder to get to know the actual circumstances.

Most people say Kombucha was originated from northeast Asia Manzhou to be exact or Manchuria but it is also was traditionally consumed in Eastern Europe and until now no one knows the exact origin of it.

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Kombucha is available everywhere, it is homebrewed and sold commercially by some companies. You could easily find it in the supermarket or coffee shop. It is made from fermented sugared tea using SCOBY bacteria which is symbiotic growth of acetic acid bacteria and osmophilic yeast.

How popular Kombucha is? you can just type it on Instagram and it hits more than a million posts. The society tends to experiment it with fresh or preserved fruits/vegetables, juices, spices, or other flavorings are often added to enhance the taste of the beverage including flower and seeds.

In my point of view, Kombucha is one of the artistic beverages in addition to wine. I remember the first time I had it, I was scared cause I always thought Kombucha is a spoiled tea drink, which I would never drink that. I don’t mind drinking fermented drinks, but in my culture, especially my mom always says never drink spoiled tea because you'll get diarrhea. At first, I have to throw away the idea of spoiled tea and when I have finally tried it for the first time, I kinda like it.

I shocked the hell of it, I thought people were just joking when they say it has slightly alcohol and feels like a bit carbonated drinks. The most amazing part is the flavor, I loved peach and star anise infused kombucha, that refreshing fruit and spice flavor is actually relaxed your mind. As a Tea-guy rather than coffee, I feel amazed for those who loved to homebrew it, because it isn’t as simple as you’ve heard how to make it.

I made Kombucha once, even I am not the type of person who always keen to experiment on it, but yes it was awesome. Slightly sweet, sour, fruity and flavorful (it depends on what you put on it), it could be herbaceous or floral-scented kombucha, whatever it is, I’m a fan.

We all confused once, we thought Kombucha were Japanese, but in my perspective, it could be inspired by the Japanese drink konbu-cha, made from dried seaweed, kelp tea. It actually makes sense where the word comes from, but it isn’t the same thing. A friend of mine surprised when I explain it, konbu-cha is a totally different beverage with kombucha, he always thought that Konbu-cha is the same as kombucha that famously gained its reputation as acidic fermented tea. Kombucha is not only highly-regarded in the U.S and European countries, but it also has widespread all over the world especially in the millennials society.

When I experimented with it, I actually put 5 cm Konbu on my Kombucha as I loved to have many flavors on my kombucha, That’s the real meaning of experiment. The taste of both combination Japanese Konbu-cha and Kombucha is way cooler than you think, it’s just burst in your tastebud.

You may be wondering how do we make it, do you think I’ll explain?

Well, of course, I will explain to you, and I am not going to waste your time only reading my point of view about Kombucha. My kind of Kombucha is most likely Asian twist, because.. duh, I am an Asian. Just like making vinegar the most important thing is the SCOBY culture.

To make a perfect Kombucha you have to understand some of the steps that need to follow thoroughly.

First, you have to prepare a nice clean glass jar, tammy cloth, and some rubber band. It is important to use a glass jar instead of a metal bowl or even plastic. The reason is that metal can react to the acidic kombucha and it will going to damage the SCOBY culture. And for the plastic, it will react to the material itself, mostly the other bacteria could easily go in.

Second, check the environment. You have to understand the temperature zone, as fermentation depends on the temperature if it’s warmer then the process will be faster, and if it’s cold it will going to be slower.

Third, don’t ever use honey for the process, if you really want it, use it to the ready to drinks Kombucha.

Fourth, you need to buy fresh SCOBY or you can make your own Kombucha SCOBY by following thisHow to make your own SCOBY Kombucha”.

For your information, homebrewing Kombucha was just like making a big project, because there is a continuation after the first batch. So, for the first fermentation is where you actually make the kombucha. and the second fermentation is where the real kick-ass kombucha is well produced. You could play around with taste and flavor like sweet, fruity flavors, herbaceous and so on.

So here are the steps that I use from liveeatlearn.com

For the first fermentation you need:

Ingredients:

  • 3.3 L clean water
  • 200 g white sugar
  • 8 bags black or green tea or 2 Tbsp loose leaf tea
  • 470 ml unflavored kombucha (either from a previous batch or unpasteurized, unflavored store-bought kombucha
  • 1 or 2 SCOBYs (depending on how many containers you’re using, 1 per container)
  • A large glass jar
  • Tightly tammy cloth or cheesecloth
  • Rubberbands

Instructions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a clean pot. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it.
  2. Add the tea and allow to steep while the water cools to room temperature, let it cool down, as the SCOBY will not react to the hot water.
  3. Pour the sweetened tea into your jar, then pour in unflavored starter kombucha.
  4. Place SCOBY into the jar carefully, then cover it with a few layers of the tight tammy cloth and rubber band.
  5. Keep it in the area that dark, still, and room temperature between 21degree Celcius until 24 degrees Celcius for 6 to 10 days. Begin tasting the tea at about 6 days
  6. Reserve 2 cups from this batch to use as starter kombucha for your next batch or just leave it in the jar with SCOBY. The rest can move into the second and final fermentation.

Things to note about the first fermentation:

  • In this step, unlike in the making of the SCOBY, you can use other teas besides black. Feel free to experiment with green, white, oolong, or combinations of them. Fruit teas should be mixed with a few black tea bags to ensure the SCOBY mama gets what she needs to thrive.
  • Once the SCOBY gets to be about an inch (2.5 cm) thick, peel off a few layers to create a second SCOBY (you can share the love and gift this to a friend!)

Second Fermentation Ingredients:

  • Homemade kombucha from the first fermentation
  • Sweetener (fruit, honey, or sugar). Here are a few ideas per 1 cup kombucha:
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp mashed fruit or fruit juice
  • A slice of orange
  • 1 to 2 tsp honey
  • a piece of peppermint candy
  • a piece of candied ginger
  • *to add chia seeds, see below under “things to note”
  • A few flip-top fermentation bottles (bottles meant for fermentation have an airtight seal, which will prevent carbonation from escaping. If you don’t have these, canning jars will do an alright job, though they aren’t truly airtight.)

Second Fermentation Instructions:

  1. Strain kombucha and funnel into bottles, leaving about 1 1/2 inches at the top (3.8 cm).
  2. Add your chosen sweetener and seal tightly with the lid.
  3. Let ferment somewhere dark and room temperature for 3 to 10 days.
  4. If desired, strain out fruit before serving. Place in the fridge to slow the carbonation process.

And Voila, you have officially become Kombucha homebrewer, as every batch of kombucha you can keep it for the next step.

I am personally happy with my result, as I saved my budget from buying it from the store and it feels so damn advantageous.

I write poetry and food-related articles | R&D Chef | Chef Consultant | Food culture enthusiast |