Same thing in Oklahoma where we lived for 4 years prior to our 2000 mile move to New England in 1999. Except I think it was even sweeter there – almost like syrup, if you ask me.
Well, then I started reading up on the stuff that makes tea sweet – white sugar. I suspected it was the culprit in the extreme fatigue I was feeling, and ended up being convinced I should remove it from my diet. That meant the cookies, brownies, etc. we had for dessert almost every day, but it also meant that the sweet tea had to go. (I’ve never been a big soda drinker, but even gave up the occasional Coke.) I began drinking nothing but water at meals and during the day, and using agave or maple syrup in my morning hot tea. (Agave is sweeter than sugar, so you can use less, and it has a lower glycemic index. It does have the same amount of calories, though. Maple syrup is actually the best sweetener nutritionally.) I could tell a huge difference in my energy levels, and without meaning to, I lost about 25 pounds in a fairly short amount of time. (I think this also had to do with my undiagnosed Celiac Disease and malabsorption issues. Sugar, I think, was the only way I was keeping weight on at that time. I certainly wasn’t absorbing much from actual food!)
After all of these discoveries, and more reading, I began to make a lot of changes to my diet – taking out gluten (because of the diagnosis of an intolerance), dairy, a lot of starchy carbs, and most all processed foods. I also began to add a lot of things – nuts and nut butters, fish, lots of salads, and other greens, hummus, fruit and fruit smoothies, eggs, and more veggies. I have never felt better physically, and really enjoy learning more about nutrition and its connection to health.
Two summers ago, our family visited another pastor’s family in Connecticut. The wife is a native Texan, the husband and kids have Celiac Disease, they homeschool, had a bat and rabies shots experience like we did…..just many strange similarities to our family. One of which was that Sandy, the pastor’s wife, had been using the cookbook Nourishing Traditions quite a lot to preserve food from her garden by fermentation. I also had the cookbook, and had become interested in the same type of ideas. She asked me if I had ever made or tried Kombucha, and expressed interest, but some reservation in attempting to make it herself. And the “smelly, rotting, mushroom” she described as being involved in the process definitely lessened my passion to venture into making this “magic elixir.” I pictured a black, hairy, octopus-looking, mushroom in a bowl of its own rotting juices covered in cheesecloth and creating a huge stench in my kitchen. I was becoming “crunchy” for sure, but that was just too much “organic” for me.
A while later, my sister began talking about drinking bottled Kombucha from her Austin, TX Whole Foods store and raving about it. Next, my friend Kim mentioned picking some up at our local Whole Foods and that it drinking it gave her a very healthful feeling. Then, I noticed it for sale at our CSA farm by a local company. OK. Enough exposure and prodding…..time to give it a try. The $3.50 price tag and the initial sour smell upon opening a bottle were worrisome, but the taste was wonderful, and the feeling after drinking it was enough to keep me going back for more. I drank a bottle the day before the half-marathon, and a few sips the morning of – convinced it was going to give my digestive system an extra boost and keep my stomach from getting upset near the end of the run. At dinner the night before, I picked up a magazine introducing a new line of vitamins and supplements, took it back to our hotel, and found it to also include a two-page article on ……Kombucha! Why is this drink so delicious, trendy, and healthful? And is it really the by-product of a rotting mushroom?
The article listed many of the beneficial properties of Kombucha, and while it lamented the price per 2-serving bottle, ($3 – $5) it suggested that it might be worth the investment so that you don’t have to deal with the gross-ness of making it at home. The author described the Kombucha mushroom as “slimey” and “booger-like!”
My interest in making it was not completely squelched, though. Robert was out-of-town for a speaking engagement last weekend, and as is my usual pattern, I stayed up way too late at night doing all sorts of things. One night I spent a couple of hours researching Kombucha recipes online, and watching YouTube videos of multiple Kombucha cult-members making their own – and making it look so easy. Here’s what I found out:
1. Kombucha is nothing but fermented sweet tea – perfect for the Texan turned crunchy! (And the sugar gets “eaten” by the yeast, etc. during the fermentation process.)
2. The ingredients are water, sugar, black and green tea, and a Kombucha culture.
3. The “mushroom” is not a REAL mushroom, but rather a “scoby” or a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” (And it’s white or light brown – not black and hairy!)
4. You can order a pre-formed scoby or make one yourself.
5. Kombucha is really good for you with its probiotic, anti-microbial, and detoxifying properties.
Here’s a photo of the mushroom floating on top of the fermenting Kombucha:
So basically, you bring a gallon of water to an almost-boil. Add one cup of….yes, white sugar (can be organic, of course), and 4-6 black and green tea bags. Organic tea is good to use here, too, as conventional teas sometimes contain chemicals that will kill the needed bacterias in the solution. Let the tea steep about 15 minutes, remove tea bags and let sit until the tea is cooled to room temperature – too much heat will also kill those organisms. After it cools, pour into a glass gallon container, add one bottle of pre-made kombucha tea, cover with cloth and secure with a rubberband or tie of some sort. This will need to sit undisturbed, in a fairly warm place for up to 2 weeks. One demonstration I watched had the tea sitting on a heating pad for that duration. The ideal temperature for the process is between 70 and 80 degrees. I placed mine in the cabinet above our refrigerator which always stays warm with the heat given off by the frig. You can tell the tea is ready by its semi-sweet taste, vinegar smell, and effervescence. Bottling it and/or keeping it in the frig for a few days with increase the effervescence.
Another thing that is really important to remember is to sterilize all equipment you use in making the brew – saucepan, spoon, glass container, your own hands, etc. I washed all mine in very hot soapy water, and then rinsed in boiling water, and dried the outsides with a clean dishcloth. If mold happens to form anywhere in the solution, the entire batch needs to be thrown away.
I’ll try and keep you posted on the progress….
One of the most healthful acids produced in this process is glucoronic acid. This is also produced by our own livers as a detoxifying agent in our bodies. It is extremely helpful to have extra amounts of glucoronic acid to combat the many toxins we eat and inhale each day. Kombucha also contains lactic acid and acetic acid which are both responsible for reducing pH and eliminating pathogens in the body. And these are only a few of its amazing properties. I read several accounts of cancer patients using it with success, and the maker of the store bought brand began bottling it because of his mother’s reversal of cancer while drinking it.
It’s good stuff, y’all! Makes my crunchy Texas heart happy and my New England body feeling good!
Stayed tuned for the final result….