Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mint Kombucha?

It seemed that kombucha and I kept running into each other online. It kept popping up here and there, but I never really gave it much thought. Then one day I was at a friends house and she said "Hey come here, there's something I want you to try."

It was kombucha.

This was the first time I had actually seen the real thing, and I did not hesitate to try it. I found it to be delicious, and not at all dissimilar to a fizzy soda like beverage minus the guilt. There was a cider like flavor to it as well, and I loved it. Of course when she offered to send me home with a couple of scobys to start my own brew I couldn't say no. I was hooked.

There, now that that's out of the way I can move on to the point of this blog.

I have some of the most deliciously flavored mint growing in my garden and I want to put it to good use. A lot of the references I found suggest that kombucha must be brewed in tea made from Camellia sinensis, or else it would degrade and weaken the scoby over time. I've read claims that the caffene from tea is essential to the process, yet others claim to use rooibos (which has no caffene) successfully. And then I find claims that even the rooibos will degrade the kombucha scoby over time. It's hard to say what is true and what is not regarding all the mixed information out there, but I'm not letting it hold me back from trying my own brewing experiments.

So far I have experimented with two brews using non Camellia sinensis teas. One of them was most unsuccessful, but the other which shall be the focus of this blog is mint tea. As of this moment my first batch of mint-bucha is still in it's first brewing. It will be a few more days before I will disturb it to have a taste, but I can't wait to share with you the encouraging signs I have observed thus far.

It is apparent that some if not all the mixed species of micro-organisms that make up kombucha are currently active and in full force in my mint tea. It did not take long before bubbles started forming in the mix with such vigor that there is now an ever present mass of foam on the surface made from all the collected bubbles. I view this as a very good sign, because the natural carbonation is normal characteristic of standard kombucha. The next thing I am observing is a steady build up of floaties near the bottom of the mix. From what I have read these are deposits of yeast. Yeast plays an important role in the creation of kombucha, and I have seen the same deposits in my regular kombucha brews. I also take this as a good sign because it shows me that the yeasts are active and growing.

Each day the mix seems to develop a more and more definite kombucha smell, while the sweet minty scent also remains intact. This is wonderful, because I would think it a waste if the minty smell were destroyed in the fermentation process.

There is one sign however, that I am still watching for. The formation of a baby scoby on the surface of the tea. I am surely being impatient, but so far I have yet to see anything that looks like the beginning of a baby scoby. Without forming a new scoby as part of the brewing process, can I truly call it kombucha?

I need to give my brew a few more days to develop, and hopefully in that time a new baby scoby will form.

If the time comes to harvest my brew and there is still no baby scoby I will not dispair, and this is why: With or without the formation of a scoby it is still very apparent that at least part of the micro-organisms in the kombucha mix are alive and healthy, ready to impart their benefits upon the drinker.

The lack of a scoby will also not prevent me from making successive generations from my mix. As long as I save some liquid from each brew to add to the next I can pass along the yeasts and bacterias to the next generation with or without a scoby.

I look forward to learning as this experiment progresses, and I look forward to sharing what I learn with you.

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