Are you a seeker of healthy living? Many travelers find it tricky to find a healthy balance when not at home. Some of us even bring our little houses along with us as we travel, yet we still encounter challenges in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Well, I am delighted to share with you, one of the ways that we have discovered to maintain that healthy balance…while living in a constant state of travel…
We have become Kombucha drinkers
While I used to occasionally purchase a bottle of this tangy treat from the health-food store, I will admit…I knew very little about this beverage. I recognized that it was a healthy probiotic…that most flavors tasted pretty good and, well…that it always left me feeling energized. That was it. You can imagine my surprise when I encountered multiple families, who traveled the country in their RV’s (as we do) and made their own homemade brews…right in their little house-on-wheels!
Crazy, right? Well, actually no. I have been brewing this health-conscience tea in my RV for thirteen months now. It is simple…Inexpensive…Nutritious…and everyone in my family loves it.
Anyone Can Brew It
Everyone can make Kombucha! Not only is it simple to make, but it requires very few items and takes up very little space. If we can brew it in our tiny RV kitchen…then you definitely have the space to make some as well.
I want to share how simple it is to brew Kombucha for your family. Here are a few different perspectives from traveling mamas who brew kombucha on the road.
I first heard of brewing DIY Kombucha last September, when we were in Upstate New York at a Full-time Families Rally. Lisa Greene (a friend who also travels fulltime with her family), gave me my first scoby (this is the little treasure that generates this tasty tonic). I was intrigued by the entire process and she convinced me that with very little time and effort, I could easily be brewing my own Kombucha. Lisa was correct…and I have been brewing this restorative delight ever since.
Lisa made this video that is a great beginners tutorial for brewing Kombucha…and of course, it is filmed in her RV kitchen!
You can watch Lisa Greene’s video tutorial here:
There are many reasons that people drink Kombucha. Lisa recently shared her her story with me. It is a great example of how Kombucha can help your body with a wide spectrum of issues. Here is a snippet of her story:
“I started making Kombucha tea about 6 years ago to combat Candida in myself and my son. My son had been battling Candida since, when giving birth, I was administered antibiotics (without my consent), which wiped out ALL of our healthy gut bacteria. He had many problems related to this in the years to come, including food allergies, chemical sensitivities, tics, and a general irritability. By irritability, I mean arguing, fussing and whining at EVERYthing I would ask of him. It was really tough. We started on the Kombucha and I did a test to see if it would clear the Candida without putting him on the crazy diet. It worked in just a few months! Best of all, a few months into drinking it every day, I noticed the whiny behavior had disappeared. He became much more adaptable and cooperative. Once, when he forgot to drink it for a week or so, the whining came back. We started back on the Kombucha and two days later, it was gone again. I know that drinking Kombucha tea every day keeps my son happy and healthy, and keeps my sanity too!”
Last winter I connected with Heather Ledeboer, my friend, fellow traveler…and blogger at Faith Takes Flight. As we began to discuss Kombucha, I learned that she does things a bit differently than I do. This discovery revealed how diverse and flexible Kombucha brewing can be. Heather also brews a smaller batch of tea…which may be a good option for some families. Here is what she has to say:
“I’ve been brewing Kombucha for about 2 years. Before we started traveling fulltime, I was unsure if making Kombucha would be possible on the road. I’m happy to report that it is not only possible, but it is hardly any different from doing it from a stationary location.”
Heather’s method for making ½ gallon of Kombucha:
- Bring a small amount of water (2-3 cups) to boil.
- Add 1 Tablespoon of tea to the water and turn off the heat. I find the price of loose-leaf tea to be most cost effective (see below for the kind I use). In the photo below, you will see that I am using a large bag (which can also be used for making yogurt) to hold my tea. Similar bags can be purchased from Amazon HERE.
- Allow the tea to steep for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag and add ½ cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve.
- Allow the tea to cool and pour into your glass container of choice.
- Add ½ cup of Kombucha from a previous batch (or from a store bought bottle with live cultures if this is your first batch).
- Fill with water and add your scoby to the top.
- Cover with a breathable cloth and secure with a rubber band or jar ring.
- Add the date to your jar so you remember when you started.
- Once your Kombucha has brewed long enough for your taste (see more on that below), use ½ cup of your finished batch and the scoby to start your next batch and refrigerate the rest.
What her process looks like:
Heather’s Tips: Allow your Kombucha to brew for at least 7 days. If you prefer tea that is less strong, shoot for a 7-9 day brew time. You can start tasting some around the 7 day mark once a day to determine when you want to call it good. The longer you brew, the stronger the tang. For best results, keep your brewing jar at least 3 feet away from other fermenting foods (i.e. sourdough). If you need to travel while your Kombucha is still brewing, simply put a lid on it during travel and then remove the lid and replace with your breathable cloth when you arrive. Do not put your scoby in the fridge, this will kill it. Feel free to add fruit juice or chunks of fruit to your final refrigerated batch. The tea I use can be found HERE. Enjoy!
In February we were in Tallahassee, Florida and I met another traveling mama and blogger at Life, Unexpectedly, Marissa Sifontes. I was able to share a scoby with Marissa (just as Lisa had shared with me). I later learned that she has yet another take on creating her brew. She also brews a large batch for those who have a big family or drink it daily. Here is what she has to say:
“Kombucha…what can I say? I love the stuff. I developed a GT’s Synergy habit several years ago, and not being a coffee or tea drinker, I rationalized spending $3.29 every day or two for that tasty goodness. Why did I start? Ah, that’s a bit more complicated. See, I don’t drink soda, either, or fruit juices. I was strictly a water drinker. However, as I learned more and more about the health benefits of probiotics, I wanted to find ways to increase the probiotics in my family’s diet. And, while the kids may eat it occasionally, yogurt is NOT my thing.
Once we were on the road, a kombucha a day habit becomes a luxury – both due to the expense and because it takes some work to find it. You can’t pop to any store and grab a kombucha, or at least the kind you want. I did some research to see what it would take to make our own. But, it still seemed daunting. However, after meeting some fellow travelers who were already having success, it seemed like a no brainer to jump in and try it. (And huge thanks to Jenn who gave me my first SCOBY and pushed me off the ledge from thinking about brewing to actually brewing!)”
Marisa’s method for making Kombucha:
To make one gallon of tea for brewing, you will need:
- 1 gallon of filtered water (I use water that has been through our Berkey)
- 2 green tea bags (I use WF organic green tea)
- 2 black tea bags (I use WF organic black tea)
- 1/2 c sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
(Note – I usually brew at least 1.5-2 gal of tea at a time and adjust my measurements accordingly.)
In the evening, heat up water. (If you are wondering, I use a enameled cast iron pot.) When it starts to boil, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Once it begins to boil (or almost does…sometimes, I’m impatient), drop your tea bags in, turn the heat off, put a lid on it and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. (Less, if my water is really hot, a bit more if it’s not. I’ve left the tea bags in all night and it was still fine.)
When the timer goes off, or when you remember, take the tea bags out. Put the lid back on and let the tea cool to room temperature. (Note – some recipes have you add a bit of Kombucha tea at this stage. I don’t.)
At this point, I make sure my brewing containers are ready to go.
Once your tea is cool, pour into bottles. I brew two batches, each with their own SCOBY, in a gallon glass jug and in a half gallon wide mouth mason jar. (I started with just the gallon jug, but found that wasn’t enough to get us from batch to batch.) I use a funnel to help direct the flow into the jar.
Cover the mouth of the jar loosely, so air can get to the tea, but not fruit flies or other floating objects. I use a paper towel and a rubber band to cover the mouth of the jar.
Set in a warm spot away from sunlight. Mine lives at the back of the stove on the kitchen counter. For travel days, it rides in the sink.
After about a week (less than that if it is warm, more if it is cool), check that your kombucha is at your desired level of sweetness. (We want most of that sugar gone, but want to leave a bit to handle the secondary fermentation.) Over the course of the week (or so), you should see your SCOBY growing. If you see mold on it, it’s no good…throw it out. When I think it’s ready, I use a plastic straw to siphon off enough for tasting. No, I don’t sip directly from it, I use my finger to create enough suction at the top of the straw to lift some from the jar.
Once it is ready, you can drink this version, or flavor it and have it undergo a secondary fermentation. We almost always do this. (Did I mention that I don’t actually drink tea?)
I use either wide mouth mason jars or glass jugs for this step. I pour the Kombucha tea into the jars, being careful to not let the SCOBY fall out of its container and reserving enough Kombucha tea with it to use as starter tea for my next batch of Kombucha. How much is up to you…the more you have, the faster your batch will brew, but you don’t really need much. Also, if you won’t be brewing again right away, leave a little more in with your SCOBY to keep it happy. (I tend to do this, instead of creating a SCOBY hotel.)
To flavor it, the sky is the limit. We tend to have some weekly standards (blueberry ginger, cherry lime, raspberry) and also try interesting ones (fig??). I add about a cup of fruit juice to every half gallon of Kombucha, cover it with a lid and leave it on the counter for a day or two to complete the secondary fermentation. Then, its off to the fridge, until we use that up. I don’t always use juice to flavor it – for example, for the fig, I chopped frozen figs, or for the raspberry flavor, I use freeze dried raspberries. I crush them before opening the bag, and I use about 1oz of the powder to flavor a half gallon of Kombucha. I found this way gives a stronger taste and color than using frozen or fresh raspberries.
A couple other notes from Marisa…
“On SCOBYS…these are really hardy things. Many people peel their SCOBYs after every use, keeping only the new layer. I tend to use the same SCOBY for a while, only reducing it when it gets too thick. There is a “continuous brew” method of brewing Kombucha, where new tea is added to the top, while drinking from the bottom. My method is a combination of the two, I guess. It works for me. When the SCOBY starts taking up too much room, I peel off a layer and use that to start my next batch. The old one can be thrown out, given away, fed to chickens…whatever you want to do with it.
I make sure my hands are always clean when handling my SCOBY. Because I don’t separate every time, it generally stays in its’ jar, but if I need to remove it from the jar, I will set it either in a glass container or on a paper plate.
That’s about it. If you aren’t brewing already, I hope you are ready to jump in. It’s so easy and good…and good for you. There are a ton of resources on the web to walk you through the process. And, did I mention…it’s easy.
At this point, I’m expanding my range and trying my hand at some light fermenting, as well…green beans, carrots, radishes… So far, so good, but that’s a different tale.”
As you can see, there are some basics to brewing Kombucha…and there is also a lot of variation. No matter how you brew it, flavor it and enjoy it….all of us traveling families have found a way to make it work on the road. Whether you travel with us on the back-roads or on the laptop from your couch, consider if this ancient health tonic is right for your family.
Wondering what exactly the health benefits are? There is a ton of information on the cyber webs. A few Google searches will quickly reveal all of its acclaimed health benefits.
There are a few things that I specifically appreciate and are worth pointing out:
There is very little risk. The cost is low…so if brewing this, turns out to not be your thing, no loss.
It is a healthy beverage for my family. We generally do not drink soda and we try to limit juice. Although I love iced tea, my youthful body is confused by age (can you hear me laughing?) and can not handle the caffeine in tea after eleven in the morning…it will literally keep me up all night, even if I have it at lunch. Strangest thing! So this is a drink that the entire family can have…and they can drink it as fast as we can brew it.
It is easy. My first thought about making Kombucha, led me to memories of making Amish Friendship Bread…where you have to “burp the bag” or knead it…you know, that silly bread that comes with a to-do list that takes two weeks to prepare. Well, this health elixir does not require any of that. You make the tea, add the scoby (think of it as a starter, like you would use for sourdough bread) and then do nothing for nine days. Voila! This is my kind of easy.
It is travel friendly. Not only do we travel with it in the RV…while it brews, we have taken it with us and brewed it when visiting family. I have took the jar of my brew into the hotel with me when we were up in Spokane, heading down to California, as I knew it would get too hot in the car in the midst of summer. I wonder what the cleaning the cleaning crew thought of my mystery jar sitting on the bedroom dresser? When we are transporting our brew, I cover it with Glad Press’n Seal Plastic Wrap and store it in the sink or in a plastic bin when moving around.
It is tasty. Our favorite flavors are, strawberry, cranberry and ginger-peach. I almost always add frozen fruit for flavoring, just before I place it in the fridge.
Make Your Own ‘booch
So, perhaps you are like me…and interested in trying your hand at Kombucha, and wondering where to start?
This is where I suggest you begin:
- Decide which recipe you want to try.
- Make sure you have the necessary items.
- Pot for boiling water
- Large glass jar for brewing the tea. I have tried different jars and I like this one HERE.
- Glass Pitcher(s) for storing Kombucha in the refrigerator such as THIS. We keep two of these in the fridge for drinking, while the larger jug is kept for brewing. This allows us enough glassware to continuously brew.
- Organic Tea
- Organic Sugar
- Fine mesh strainer
- Muslin or light-weight fabric to cover the jar & a rubberband
- Obtain a scoby. You can either get one from another Kombucha brewer, or you can order one online from a source such as THIS or find one on Amazon such as THIS.
- Brew your first batch!
What about you? Who else has tried their hand at brewing Kombucha? Do you like to flavor your brew? If so…please share your favorite flavors and tips!
Special thanks to my fellow traveling brewers who contributed to this post and shared their tips on brewing: Lisa Greene, Heather Ledeboer and Marisa Sifontes.