Kombucha Pt. I: I Dream of SCOBY

Just like spiralized zucchini or unicorn-inspired nosh, kombucha is soooo trendy right now. (Note: unlike unicorns, you will find kombucha in your local grocery store.) However, rather than shelling out $6-$10 bucks for this fermented tea—a great pop substitute with apparent digestive benefits—you can start making kombucha at home and save those bucks for the Yeti Frappuccino or whatever they’re coming out with next.

I’ve been brewing my own kombucha at home for half a year now, which isn’t a ton of time compared to other people… This means I’m sure enough to know what I’m doing, but new enough to be thorough and exacting in my methods. I haven’t quite relaxed when it comes to brew management.

First step: to start making your own kombucha at home, you need a SCOBY—Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Rubbery, jelly, slightly translucent, a SCOBY looks like a huge booger. I personally think they’re so-gross-they’re-cute and like to give them names… Everyone needs a hobby.

The reason you need one of these bacterial boog colonies is because, in short, the living SCOBY will nosh on the sugar and tannins in the tea mixture and turn it into gorgeous, fermented, bubbling goodness.

So how the heck do you get one of ’em?

• Buy them on the internet. Google around, look for sites with good reviews. I have no recs for this
• Find someone you know who makes kombucha and ask them for one of theirs. (Every new batch creates a new SCOBY, so usually habitual brewers have some spares around!)
• GROW ONE! (YAAAAAS. Yep.) 

Kombucha Scoby
Makes 1 Beautiful Booger Baby
IMG_3128

1 bottle of raw, store-bought kombucha (350ml – 470ml)
1 tbsp loose green or black tea
1/2 c. sugar (I use raw demerera)
1L water, filtered
White vinegar (for rinsing containers)

Equipment:
Large, wide-mouthed glass container (I recommend 2L)
Coffee filters
Rubber band
Strainer or loose leaf tea bags
Wooden spoon

1. Make tea. In a large pot on a stovetop, bring the water to a rolling boil. If you’re using unfiltered tap water, I like to add a little extra water in the beginning, and let it boil for a few minutes. I have no idea if this actually helps at ALL, but it makes me feel better. (Note: if using tea bags, add about 4 for the same potency as loose leaf!)

2. Turn off the heat, adding in the tea and stirring in the sugar until dissolved. Steep the tea for at least 30 minutes—you want it S T R O N G.

3. Cool the tea mixture to room temperature. Clean a large glass container (rinse with white vinegar) and then pour in the bottle of store-bought kombucha. Follow this with the tea mixture.

4.  The SCOBY needs to breathe to form, so cover the mouth of the container with coffee filters (or cheesecloth) and an elastic band to allow airflow, while preventing the invasion of dust or insects. Place it a warm, dark place where it won’t be disturbed.

5. In a few days, bubbles should begin to form where the liquid meets the container, and then depending on the warmth and other factors, a thin film should start to form and thicken within 1-4 weeks. When the SCOBY is substantial, at least a few millimetres thick, it’s ready to brew! (So stay tuned for part II.)

Special notes: 

SCOBYS do not like metal, so if you’re ever giving one away to a friend, do so with coffee filters as a lid, or a plastic lid.

When working with making or handling your SCOBY, make sure your hands and your work area are clean. I usually make sure everything is soaked and rinsed with vinegar.

Don’t be afraid! It’s way easier than it looks!

Birthday Cake Smoothie

On my birthday, my mom used to let me eat cake for breakfast.

She’d wake me up and bribe me down to the kitchen with it. CAKE! FOR! BREAKFAST! I’d leave school sugar high and pumped that I’d ditched the oatmeal for once. (Thanks for being cool, mom!)

Even though she doesn’t wake me up on my birthday anymore, the craving for that a.m. cake fix is a time-honoured tradition that I cannot and WILL NOT ignore. (I’m an adult damnit!) This smoothie is my 27-year-old compromise. It combines the YUM of cake mix with healthful ingredients like a l’il protein powder, yogurt, and frozen strawberries, a throwback to all the birthday breakfasts that have come before, covered in summer fruit. (Happy Summer Solstice, y’all!) I know, I know, healthy schmealthy… But a smoothie made with ice cream is just a milkshake, and that’s a different blog post.

Side note: lots of recipes I saw said sprinkles were optional… That is false. Sprinkles are only optional if you hate happiness or have food allergies to dye.

Birthday Cake Smoothie
Serves 1 (Easy to double and share the joy!)
IMG_2926

1/2 c. frozen strawberries
1/2 banana, frozen in chunks
1/2 c. plain or vanilla yogurt (regular or Greek)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. white or yellow cake mix, dry*
2 tbsp. vanilla protein powder**
1/3 c. cup almond (or other) milk
Sprinkles(!!!!)

1. Combine milk, yogurt, extract, and frozen fruit in blender until smooth. Add in protein powder and cake mix, blending again, scraping down sides if needed.

2. Add a few extra tablespoons of milk at a time if the consistency needs tweaking to your liking.

3. Top with sprinkles and a dusting of extra cake mix and enjoy! Happy birthday! …Or Wednesday… Or whenever you want this. Mama isn’t here to judge.

*If you’re wondering what to do with extra cake mix, Buzzfeed has lots of suggestions! Alternatively, you can go to your local bulk food store and buy a specific amount just for this! Or make this a bunch more times.

**If you don’t have protein powder just sub this with MORE cake mix!