[Koror, Palau, Marshall Islands; 07°20.4' N / 134°27.2'E]
Irina & Keven Shanley sail Miss Behave, a magnificent Beneteau that hails from Hong Kong. We met these lovely people in Palau during the summer of 2014. Irina had a kombucha culture aboard, which is a stable consortium of bacteria and yeast that flourishes in sweet tea. Thus, kombucha the drink is fermented tea. It is a refreshing, slightly tart, slightly alcoholic and thoroughly enjoyable drink.
We were thrilled to get the culture and Irina's support and advice and quickly began experimenting. This is our favorite recipe so far adapted from Irina's that she obtained from Chef Priscilla Soligo.
NOTE: The kombucha culture is always kept in a little of its fermented tea. This keeps the pH low and prevents contamination of the culture by other microbes.
Kombucha SCOBY (a.k.a. mushroom)* in 1/2 cup previously fermented kombucha
Wide Mouth Quart Size Jar
Water, fresh, 4 cups
1/4 cup brown sugar
Red Rose or Lipton Tea**, two bags
Ginger, fresh, a thumb-knuckle sized piece, peeled and crudely chopped
Fruit juice - e.g. "Four Seasons", ca. 1/2 cup
First stage fermentation
Boil the water, add teabags, chopped fresh ginger and sugar and steep until cooled to room temperature. Decant tea, taking care to remove tea bags and ginger, into a wide mouthed container containing the culture. Cover with a towel and secure the towel with an elastic band. This allows the culture to breath but prevents flies or other such creatures from contaminating the brew.
Ferment until bubble formation subsides, the time for which will vary by the temperature in your galley, the size of your SCOBY and the amount of residual fermented tea was in with your culture. For us, at 80-90 F, with a SCOBY that stretched across the entire mouth of the jar, and 50% residual kombucha, we only need about 24-48 hours. Most recipes call for a week long fermentation.
The longer you leave it the more acidic it becomes, which tastes sour or tangy. The best way to tell if the fermentation meets your taste expectations is to try a small sample with a clean spoon.
Second Stage Fermentation
Once fermentation slows (as determined by the bubbles present), add fruit juice to a clean bottle up to about 1/8 the total volume. Add kombucha to fill the bottle and close tightly. (Irina's recipe calls for 3 parts kombucha to 1 part fruit juice.)
This secondary fermentation is for carbonization (or the generation of bubbles of carbon dioxide) and should take place in the absence of oxygen. Leave at room temperature no longer than overnight to generate bubbles, then chill in the freezer and consume with your lunch.
Caution: The "Four Seasons" fruit juice seems to generate a lot of carbonization. We left a clear plastic bottle to carbonate for 24 hours at room temperature and it was frighteningly distended and nearly exploded. We also tried Rose's Lime Juice for the carbonization phase and this did not generate nearly as many bubbles (or as much pressure) - or as nice a flavor.
After fermentation, separate the "baby" on top from the "mother" SCOBY. You can also cut away a portion of the SCOBY and give it to a friend. Store the SCOBY with kombucha to cover it in the refrigerator.
Do not use reactive metal anywhere near (acidic) kombucha. Best to use glass or plastic.
* SCOBY = stable culture of bacteria and yeast. Available for sale on the internet
** whatever tea you choose it should be "caffeinated"