Mastering the Art of Home-Brewed Kombucha
According to Tressa Yellig, nothing revives on a hot summer day quite like kombucha. The proprietor of the Southeast Portland shop Salt, Fire & Time [Update: the shop closed last spring] is a true believer in the effervescent fermented tea. “It’s really cleansing,” says Yellig, a graduate of Manhattan’s Natural Gourmet Institute and an expert in macrobiotic and Ayurvedic cooking. “But you can just enjoy it—treat it like a tangy soda with a lot of history.”
At SFT, Yellig teaches classes on everything from making bone broth to fermenting pickles and relishes. But she’s quick to point out that kombucha isn’t complicated—all you need is some tea and one powerful ingredient: a SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. (The powerful fermentation agents are easily found in homebrew supply shops.) Here, Yellig deploys a bushel of local ingredients in a seasonal kombucha. “It’s fresh and bright, with fruity sweetness from the strawberries,” she says. “Perfect for summer.”
Summer Leaves & Flowers & Berries Kombucha*
- ½ gallon water
- 1 tbsp or 3 bags bai mu dan or other white tea
- ½ cup nasturtium blossoms, loosely packed
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon verbena leaves, loosely packed
- ½ cup calendula petals, loosely packed
- 2 tbsp diced orange peel
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 2 tbsp distilled vinegar
- ½-gallon glass jar (avoid metal or plastic)
Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then turn off heat and wait a few minutes. Once water cools to around 180 degrees, add tea, herbs, flowers, and orange peel, and cover. Steep 1 hour. Strain to remove tea bags/leaves and botanicals, allow to cool, and pour into a ½-gallon jar. In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of the infusion with ½ cup sugar and heat gently, stirring, until sugar dissolves.
Add sugar-tea syrup back to the strained tea infusion and gently stir. Once the mixture cools to room temperature, add SCOBY and distilled vinegar to the ½-gallon jar. Cover with cheesecloth, secure the rim with a rubber band, and allow to sit on the counter for at least 7 days. Keep out of direct sunlight, and taste periodically for flavor. Once desired taste has been achieved, remove SCOBY.
Strain remaining liquid into another jar or measuring cup, add strawberries, and allow to rest in the fridge overnight before straining the berries out. Cover remaining kombucha and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
*Find nasturtium blossoms, lemon verbena, and calendula at your local farmers market, or from Vibrant Valley Farm on Sauvie Island—unless you have them in your garden, of course.