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Kombucha Homebrewing Kick Off

I was at a Holistic  Moms Network (HMN) when I first drank kombucha. I had no idea what kombucha was, but the bottle said it was ginger and lemon flavored, so I gave it a try. Surprising! Zingy! Yum! It had some effervescence to it and a light sweetness but also a slight vinegar taste (a good thing in my book).  Then I found out what kombucha is: fermented tea.
On the one hand, that freaked me out. It makes it sound like I am going to get food poisoning. On the other hand, fermented foods (e.g. kimchi) and drinks (e.g. wine) have long been a healthy part of many traditional diets. I actually had been looking to add fermented foods to my diet to help with acid reflux and it seemed that kombucha could fit the bill in a delicious way.
I bought a couple of bottles at the store but at nearly $4 a pop, that could only be a special treat. Inspired by some fellow HMN members, I decide to try brewing my own. I got a one-gallon glass pickle jar off Freecycle to be my brewing vessel. A new friend from the group gave me a SCOBY (the living part of the kombucha) along with a crash course. 
SCOBY is short for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY digests the sugar from the sweetened starter tea and turns it into the fermented kombucha. The SCOBY looks really slimy, flimsy and disgusting in pictures. I find it less gross in person. It looks wet, but is fairly dry to the touch and it sturdier than I expected it to be.

 Armed with tea, SCOBY, bottles, and some courage—I gave it a go and am now on my fourth batch. I am shocked at how easy brewing it is. I spend just 20 minutes per week of active time with the brewing, flavoring, and bottling. That said, I just ended up with my first truly yummy bottle today. Needless to say, I need to work out some more of my kinks before I do a full tutorial.
 In the meanwhile you can learn from some of my early mistakes...
·       Starting off with a good non-herbal tea really is key. Believe the internet on this: herbal tea can lead to funky kombucha. Getting so excited about brewing kombucha that you grab the remainders of a box of a coconut chai, red tea/herbal tea blend and just go for it gives instant satisfaction. But you pay for it when the kombucha is ready 10 days later and tastes utterly vile. In this case, water your compost pile with it or offer it to a non-discerning two-year-old who will (shockingly) ask for more.

·       In the case of bad starter tea, do not retain 1/3 gallon of the vile kombucha to help ferment the next batch with a superior tea, as it will make the next batch taste gross, too.

·       Do not freak and think your SCOBY has gone moldy when really all you are seeing is the new baby SCOBY growing on top.
Healthy Baby SCOBY

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