Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Kombucha

Kombucha Update

My kombucha brewing seems to be taking off. My scoby has grown considerably. I think it looks disgusting even if it is super healthy!

Last week, Jennifer helped me brew a double batch. Today, I bottled a total of eight mason jars and brewed another double batch. I hope our family in Indiana appreciates the fact I used two of our Nicks mason jars. My kombucha may not be the best tasting beverage ever served in a Nicks glass, but it’s definitely the healthiest!

I did switch to using fruit juice and it has made a noticeable difference in the taste. This is the first batch I used the mango juice. I’ve used the purple energy root and it was good. I’m hesitant to say delicious just yet!

I will claim a small victory. One morning during Jen’s visit, she actually asked if she could have some! I consider that a significant milestone in flavor improvement!

Thank you for sharing. Ok. Subject change.

I have to share my funny story trying to get to English class today. On Fridays, I catch the 11:55 from Jimmuji Station to Shinzushi Station and then I walk to Zushi Station and catch the 12:12 train to Kamakura Station. From Kamakura Station, it is about an 8-minute leisurely walk to the community center.

I have a few minutes at Zushi station before my train arrives. I use this time to pick out my tea de jour from a vending machine. I bought my tea and turned around expecting a train to be on the track. But, no train. That’s weird. Japanese trains are always on time. I stand on the platform for a few minutes and still no train. At this point, a station master starts using a bull horn to alert everyone. I watch the people lined up with me for the 12:12 train look at him and then walk to the crossover for the other platform. Hmmm. What to do? Well, I follow them, of course, and watch as they all go to the train on track 2. Still confused, I asked another station attendant for help. Actually, I said, “Kamakura?” And pointed at the train. Hai! Then I asked, “at :22?” “Hai, :22.” Oh, boy. My stress level was through the roof. My class starts at 12:30. The 12:22 train would arrive at 12:26. I would have to run like a maniac to arrive to class on time. Back to my rules- wear sensible shoes. Once the train arrived at Kamakura Station, I think I broke every Japanese etiquette rule trying to get to class on time. I went down the up stairway, zigzagged through the crowd and then sprinted down the street and through crosswalks. No doubt I looked hilarious. Tall blondzilla running through the streets of Kamakura! I arrived at the community center at the same time two of my students where arriving. I was out of breath from my 4-minute sprint. I explained my train never came to the station. The best part, they asked me why no train!?! Haha! As if I could begin to have a clue.

Official Kombucha Tasting

I let the jars ferment in phase two for four days. I wanted to achieve maximum fruit flavor and carbonation. I heeded caution and “burped” the jars every 24-hours to prevent them from exploding from the build up of carbonation. Nonetheless, check out the bubbles that formed in the strawberry pulp.

Yet again, I was intimidated by the process and products. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about these bubbles.

I knew I needed to strain the kombucha before it was ready for tasting. As I strained the kombucha, I found the byproduct of the fermented strawberry pulp intimidating. The strawberry pulp formed a gelatinous film.

The gelatinous film was an unnecessary byproduct I sent happily down the garbage disposal. After straining each jar twice, I allowed them to chill in the fridge. This game me time to build courage for my first tasting. I opted for a shot glass taste – which, I sipped.

It wasn’t terrible. But, it wasn’t delicious either. It was tolerable. In a way, it reminded me of a tart strawberry wine I might buy in Tennessee with a slight fizz. I think I need more experimentation with phase two fermentation. I’m definitely not ready for mass production. Honestly, this is barely ready for consumption. I’ll drink this over the next few days and see if I feel an amazing improvement in my intestinal health. Meanwhile, I’ll do some research in hopes of making the next phase two more successful.

PS. Dave did try it as well. His response was “it’s not THAT bad.” Ha!

Kombucha 102

After a week of letting my first batch of Kombucha ferment, it was time to move to phase 2 fermentation. I was a little apprehensive and intimidated by the scoby growing in the jar. I looked up pictures online to verify my scoby was healthy and not moldy. From the imagines I found, I was satisfied my scoby was healthy.

The only thing preventing me from moving on to phase 2 was finding the courage to taste the kombucha. Oh, boy. I was expecting the worst. I summed all my courage and steeled my stomach for a straw size siphon. I was pleasantly surprised. The kombucha actually tasted palatable. It tasted like sweet tea mixed with a little vinegar. The longer the kombucha remains in phase 1 fermentation, the stronger the vinegar taste. I decided to go with a sweeter flavor for my first batch. I prepped my laboratory (kitchen) work space and began the canning process for phase 2 fermentation.

I used frozen strawberries to flavor the kombucha. I mixed the frozen strawberries with a little hot water and then puréed them in the food processor. I added about 2 tablespoons to each mason jar. I saved a mason jar of tea so I could prepare another batch of kombucha phase 1. Meanwhile, I’ll let my four jars of strawberry kombucha set for 2-4 days. After that time, they should be ready to strain, refrigerate, and enjoy.

My fingers are crossed they kombucha is delicious!

Kombucha 101

One thing I’ve learned from my English students about the secret to a long life is to keep learning – it keeps your mind sharp. That’s why at 60+ years old, a couple are in their 80s, they are learning how to improve their English conversion. They were my inspiration to attend a Kombucha 101 brewing class in Tokyo.

Sonia found the course online through Best Living Japan and invited me to go with her. Sure! Why not? And by the way, what’s Kombucha?

Directly translated in Japanese, kombu means seaweed and cha means tea. However, that is definitely not kombucha. Kombucha is a detoxifier and a probiotic.

The drink has become very popular in the U.S. over the past few years. When prepared correctly, kombucha is a healthy and delicious beverage. It is said to improve your energy and intestinal health.

The drink is made using sweetened tea that has been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The SCOBY looks pretty gross. Here our sensei was cutting pieces of SCOBY into each of our starter teas.

I was a bit intimidated as I watched and listened to our sensei walk us through the process of preparing the kombucha.

The first phase requires you to brew the sweetened tea and add the starter tea and SCOBY. They are put together in a large glass container, covered with a cloth, and left to ferment for 7-10 days.

The second phase is when the fruit juice is added to the fermented tea. The fruit adds flavor and carbonation. The tea from phase one is strained, the SCOBY removed, and about two cups of tea are reserved as starter tea for the next batch. For each jar of tea, 10-20% is fruit juice and 80-90% is fermented tea. The jars are sealed and allowed to sit at room temperature for 2-4 days. After that time, the kombucha can be refrigerated and enjoyed within the next 7 days.

As part of the class, each student was given a jar with starter tea and a piece of SCOBY. This would allow us to make our own initial batch.

On the way home from Tokyo, Sonia and I stopped in Yokohama at the Daiso. We needed larger glass containers for the fermenting process and elastic to keep the towel covering the jar in place. I had plenty of sugar and oolong tea to make my sweetened tea.

After brewing my tea, I let it set until it cooled. I didn’t want to scald my SCOBY. Once the tea was cool, I mixed them into my new glass pitcher. I added my cover and will check back in 7-10 days.

I’m genuinely curious as to how this will work out. I think I’m going to make strawberry flavored kombucha for my first batch. The strawberries will add desirable sweetness and adequate carbonation. Perhaps, I will be more bold if the kombucha does indeed taste delicious. The two glasses we tried in class today were very good. She offered us guava and peach. A couple of my friends in America have told me about their brewing successes. If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I’ll keep you updated on my progress as the kombucha brews. Kanpie! Here’s to intestinal health.

PS. The other two things to a long life include taking a walk everyday and eating sushi.

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