Monday, September 6, 2010

Mint Kombucha Update

It's been about two weeks since I posted about my mint kombucha experiment. I heard it couldn't be done, but I gave it a go anyways. The outcome has been entirely without regret. I've had chance to drink some of my mint-bucha now and it is definitely a full out kombucha with a nice clear taste complete with minty tones.

Last night while entertaining a couple of young ladies I told them about kombucha. Neither had heard of it before, but they welcomed my offer to let them have a try. I started out by giving them each a sample of regular kombucha which I had brewed using black tea. Their reactions to it were positive. This was a nice surprise for me as up til that point I had only been able to convince my less adventurous family to try it. None of my immediate family were very excited about it, nor did they seem to enjoy it (My father did confess later that he thought it was good. However, he didn't even finish his small glass of it). So, after my first positive kombucha sharing experience with these young ladies, I progressed on to the next mix. The mint kombucha. I tasted it first myself to make sure it hadn't aged to long and become too strong. I thought I would like it maybe a day or two younger, but still it was pretty decent so I let them try. To my surprise not only did they both like it, but they thought it was even better than the regular kombucha. I felt like a success. :)

I feel it is important that I say more about the mint kombucha itself now. Last time I blogged about it I was still waiting for signs that my experimental brew would form a new scoby during the fermentation process, as is standard with kombucha brewed from black or green tea. In the time since that post my minty brew has formed a very healthy looking white scoby complete with pockets of yeast and all. This means that the organisms which ferment the tea into kombucha not only didn't deteriorate, but they actually thrived enough to form a new cellulose mass (that we refer to as the scoby or mother).

There are a couple of other things I'd like to mention about my mint kombucha so you may better understand my methods.

Typically when one sets out to brew a new batch of kombucha they will start out with one or more scoby's and a measure of kombucha from a previous batch to help get the new batch off to a good start (by helping to make the mix more acidic). However, since I had no previous batch of mint kombucha to use as starter I had to improvise. I added one scoby borrowed from a batch of black tea kombucha, but I did not want to add any of the actual kombucha as starter. My reasoning behind this was not merely a matter of not wanting to mix flavors, but rather I wanted to know that if the mint kombucha did work that it was not due to having some trace of black tea mixed into it. For hygiene sake I needed to make the mix acidic enough to not go rancid or get moldy before it had a chance to ferment so I chose to add a small measure of distilled white vinegar. This essentially served the same purpose as adding some finished kombucha by making the tea acidic. I am aware that some people do this for regular kombucha as well, so I thought it would be a safe way to go.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it was taking longer for my mint kombucha to begin forming a new scoby than it was for my black tea kombucha, but I have a good idea for why this is. When I brew a new batch of kombucha using black tea I usually start out with about 20% kombucha mixed with the fresh sweet tea. That gets it going a lot faster. With the mint kombucha I didn't add any finished kombucha at all, only the distilled vinegar. I was very conservative with the amount of vinegar I added, and although I didn't measure it I am sure that it did not come anywhere near the amount needed to bring my mint-bucha to the level of acidity that the 20% kombucha does. Essentially the mint kombucha just had farther to go before it could get to the acidic state in which the scoby grows best. It's also possible that it took the bacterias a little while to adapt to the different environment, but I am convinced that even if this is the case it was not a significant set back.

Anyone who has brewed kombucha will know that the longer it brews the more vinegary it becomes (to a point). Eventually, if you let it go too long it becomes vinegar and is no longer drinkable unless diluted. The same is true of my mint kombucha. It becomes more and more vinegary as it ages, and I currently have a batch set aside to do just that. I am making mint vinegar. I have already started to come up with ideas for why mint vinegar is a good idea, so let me name a few. Vinegar is an important part of many salad dressings, so how cool would it be to make a refreshing minty dressing using mint vinegar? Some people use vinegar to clean, but vinegar isn't exactly the nicest smelling thing around is it? Hopefully the mint vinegar will have a more welcome minty smell. I've experimented with cleaning my hair using vinegar but found the smell too strong. I look forward to trying a mint vinegar hair rinse. We'll see how lovely I smell then. :) Also, there seems to be some sort of a tradition where people to serve leg of lamb with mint jelly. Not only that, but some people add vinegar to their meat to make it more tender. How tasty would it be to kill two birds with one stone and just marinate the lamb meat in mint vinegar to make it tender and minty? These are the things I have thought of to try to date. We'll see if I can come up with anything else.