Kombucha Brooklyn

  • Has my SCOBY gone bad? Correct Kombucha Brewing Temperatures and more

     

    For many first time brewers, receiving a warm SCOBY culture in the mail on a hot summers day can be disconcerting. “Shouldn’t live kombucha cultures be kept cold? How long has this been in the mail for? Is this SCOBY safe to brew with?”

     

    Propagating Kombucha Cultures KBBK's tried and true propagation system. No mold, no flies; no fuss, no muss!

    These understandable concerns can cause undue worry and frustration. You’ve patiently waited for your package to arrive, and are eager to start brewing – or you just got back from vacation to find out your kit has been sitting on the porch for days! What a shame it would be if your baby SCOBY had frittered away in your absence.

     

    Except in rare case of extreme weather conditions, SCOBYs will be totally OK to brew with if they have been out for a bit.

    The combination of the acidic nature of the nutritional liquid the SCOBY sits in and the bag’s airtight seal keeps mold and other ‘buch invaders at bay. The bigger issue at hand, as foreshadowed above, is extremely high or low temperatures that will either cook the culture (85º through 90ºF) or start to destroy its complex cell structure if it starts to freeze.

    SCOBY TEMPURA! Although Extremely hot temperatures are detrimental to your culture's health, they are also really tasty. Above is our SCOBY TEMPURA!!

     

    Remember! This is a living culture, and is not unlike humans in this way. Too hot and we sizzle up, too cold and the damage can be irreversible.

    KBBK propagation tent. KBBK's Propagation tent - kept warm with a mini-heater, and clear of dust or flies with a carbon air filter.

    Mid-70º’s to 80º's though, is the ticket. Give us a warm day and a nice breeze (SCOBYs love breezes, it keeps the flies away) and next thing you know we are all getting stuff done during the day and staying up all night. Just like the SCOBY.

     

    BETTER WARMER THAN COOLER:

    Kombucha is a stable beverage due to it's acidic nature, and its acidity is dependent on the plethora of pro-biotic bacteria having a warm environment to create acids like Glucaric and Gluconic acid, Acetic acid, Caprylic and Butyric acid.

    If your brew is below 70ºF, you run the risk of not maintaining a stable pH environment and expose your brew to mold!

     

    What the fridge is great for:

    Keeping your culture cold (~40ºF) when you are taking a brewers break.

    • Simply set your culture in a cup (depending on how big it is, you may want to add more or trim your SCOBY) of kombucha in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover it, and set it to the back of your fridge.
    • There it will hibernate, as its metabolic rate slows into a state of low activity.
    • You can keep it there for a couple months at a time, but it's best to give it a quick refresher every couple of weeks with a little jolt of fresh tea and sugar.

    Bottle Conditioning!

    You can also vintage your kombucha in the fridge for great lengths of time - the flavor can be as complex and delicious as great wine. Just remember:

    •  Use a bottle / cap with a good seal
    •  Label what your brew is, and what ingredients you used
    • Date it
    • Resist temptation! if you open it early on, you will loose some excellent fizz. Save it until you are ready to drink most of it.
    • Enjoy!

     

  • How to Brew Kombucha : A day by day Analysis

    Day 1:How to Brew Kombucha

    To the right is my fresh brew! The tea and sugar has steeped and dissolved, and we have added the culture (floating in the background). We will be following it over the next couple days to see how a typical kombucha brew progresses.

     

    As your brew ferments, you will notice changes in the nute (nutritional starter). Most notably will be the formation of the new "baby SCOBY on the surface. This process begins in most brews between twenty-four and seventy-two hours.

     

    Small white patches will begin to form on the surface of the liquid, independent of the SCOBY you put in there. The first few days are an uneasy time for new brewers, and the new growth of SCOBY is often misconstrued as mold. For more info about mold, check here at our Brew FAQ.

     

    Day 2:

    We are still at the dawn of our ferment and must be patient. My starter SCOBY has floated back up which is totally OK ( so is a sunken SCOBY). It is very important during these early stages not to disturb or otherwise agitate the kombucha; one small wave can sink new formations, which slows the primary acidification process and increases the risk of mold.

     

    At this point you may have some questions or just want to know more on how to brew kombucha. What better way to learn-and-brew than dive into a good read? See our selection of brewing books here.

     

    I highly suggest for beginners our company's co-founder written book Kombucha! It's where a good chunk of this blog's body comes from. And for people who would like to expand their know-how on all other things fermented, I suggest The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz; a Michael Pollan / Harold McGee scientific break-down on all that bubbles. True Brews by Emma Christensen, on the other hand, is a beautifully laid out guide on how to make and tastily enhance all that bubbles: cider, soda pop, beer, wine, sake, soda, mead, kefir, kombucha, and fruit wines.

     

     

    Days 3-4:

    SCOBY formation: As the culture matures, these spots of new growth will become thicker and wider, eventually joining together and becoming one whole party. Wheee! SCOBY Party! Give your brew a sniff - it is important to know the smells as well as the sights of your brew as it transforms.

     

     

    Day 5:

    Kombucha yeast Only Yeast! Nothing to worry about.

    See KBBK SCOBY-power in action! that's a lot of growth in just five days. Your brew may not be here just yet, so you may need to give it an extra day or two. So, it has formed it's signature celluloid patty, the SCOBY. If you do not see anything resembling the SCOBY in these pictures, you may be in trouble - ambient temperature could be too low and is slowing the culture's metabolism, or other brewing issues may have arisen. If you see dark patches or strange tentacle looking formations such as in the inset picture above, no need for alarm. This is just spent yeast, a natural bi-product of the fermentation process.  See our Brew FAQ for more info. Again, keep your brew covered! From the pictures it may seem that this is an open-air ferment, but it is just for visual reference.

     

     

     

    Day 6:

    Taste your Brew: When the new baby SCOBY has spread across the entire surface of your brew and started to thicken, you should give your 'buch a taste. This will usually be in the three- to six-day range but can take longer depending on the strength of your culture, how long you have been brewing in that location, the type of tea and sugar used, and the temperature. Lots of changes have already occurred in your brew at this point and the flavor will give you an idea of how much longer you will want to brew your ferment. Just make sure that if you dip something into your 'buch, it is clean.

    As long as your brew is healthy and progressing normally, it's always safe to drink from the nute stage all the way through to vinegar.

    Some ideas on how to get a sip:

    • Stick a straw under the surface of the SCOBY
    • Use a clean shot glass to gently push the SCOBY down and scoop a little from the surface
    • Use a Thief! These are the professional brewers sampler. (Available here)

    A pH indicator measures the activity of hydrogen ions in a solution. The more free-floating hydrogen ions there are, the lower pH will be, indicating a higher acid profile. For the kombrewer with pH indicator strips, your buch will be ready on the sweet side at a pH of 3.1 and on the sour side at a pH of 2.7.

     

     

    Days 7-9:

    Behold, the magic of fermentation! You have just learned how to make kombucha. Millions of microorganisms in the SCOBY are happily feeding off of sugars and tea nutrients, breaking down alcohols, and multiplying. This pro-biotic adventure has come full circle.

    Unfortunately due to an accident, the jar broke before I could take a side shot. The second photo above is from a different brew, but is a similar and healthy SCOBY.

    When to bottle: Your brew, although young, is complete. Most one-gallon brews kept around 78ºF will have a nice balance of sweet and sour flavors at nine days. I like to bottle at about seven days in my kitchen when there is a little more sweetness than I would want to drink. This ensures that there will be enough sugar to produce effervescence in secondary fermentation after bottling. If you haven't yet picked up bottling equipment, I highly suggest our Pro-Bottler Package, it's six 32oz Amber Growlers, a brewers must-have Auto-siphon, and a mixed flavor pack with enough goodies to flavor all six of those Growlers.

    DSC_5824

    Whether you bottle your 'buch for some extra bubble or just pour out a cup straight-up, it's time to enjoy the pro-biotic and fizzy goodness that is home-brew kombucha. Feel it's not complete without a snazzy Kombucha Brooklyn Highball glass? Go ahead and deck out your glassware collection.

    Happy Brewing!

    Will

  • Take a Moment to Meet Kombucha Brooklyn's New Kid.

     

    Time flies! I'm a new employee, but not really "new." I can say that I'm the newest employee here at Kombucha Brooklyn, and have happily been drinking kombucha daily, cranking away in the production and shipping world that is our Home Brew department for 6 months.

     

    In addition to working in the production team, I've taken over the Kombucha Brooklyn Instagram account, so I also get to apply my love of documenting and taking photos. I'm a novice "photographer" and have been documenting life around me since the very beginnings of my other passion, traveling. Having the 2nd lens to capture my surroundings while traveling has been immensely rewarding, and has allowed me to hold on to what now seem like dream-like adventures. Photography has also helped me in staying in the present. Along with other DIY and hands-on activities that include yoga, brewing, and painting, photography (especially street photography) requires you to be present, focused, and open.

     

    Coming back to the present -- writing this post and allowing my initial shock of being at Kombucha Brooklyn for 6 months sink in -- I'd like to take this moment to stop and appreciate the beauty in small things, such as this:

     

    An anteater stops by for a drink of kombucha An anteater stops by for a drink of kombucha

    ...and a short video of a dance: Green Tea

     

    As I pack up for the weekend, I'm looking forward to the chance to pair photography and brewing, in hopes of staying in the weekend just that much longer. I hope you've enjoyed this first little post -- I've certainly enjoyed taking *this very moment* to introduce myself.

  • Why it's time to get crafty; DIY Inspiration for your Spring projects

     

    Starting your Project

    Garlic Scape Gnudi and Steak with chef Will Myself just before an evening dinner for 15 people, proud of a week's worth of planning and 3 days prep cooking.

    Springtime is upon us, friends. The air lightens with warmth, scented with sweet dry smells; the wee beginnings of tree buds push out from their branches soon to unfurl. Today must be a great day for creativity, for DIY.

    People have the innate ability to create and cultivate, but most, including myself, have difficulty envisioning what they can do as it can take a great deal of energy to properly focus. So if you are stuck in the mud and uninspired, start your creative juices with anything that will help you let go of what is in your mind now, in order to fill it with other thoughts. That’s right- yoga, stretching, yodeling, a cold shower, a run around the block at top speed. Forget everything! Let the world be fresh to your senses once again as it unfurls its springtime blossoms, and go create something great. Go do it yourself, or with a friend.

     

    Here is some inspiration from my recent findings and doings, which I am happy to share with you in hopes of motivating you! When I think of DIY, I associate the phrase with being  unfamiliar or novice at whatever I am about to begin. Never be daunted to try something new, or ashamed to fail at something old. These are very normal occurrences and to expect any different is unreal. In failing you have the opportunity to hone and improve your skills.

     

    As you may know, I love to cook! Here are some photos of my DIY cooking adventures.

    While this all looks great, the Gnudi needed some more time in the fridge to form their proper dumpling skin, the banana bread took way longer than expected because I did not check my oven temperature, and the rhubarb tart, as pretty as it was, became a bit difficult to separate from the pie tin as it was so delicate. All things I'm learning, and hope to remember to check next time. Thank god food is forgiving, and things are still delicious if you don't mess them up too much. As for other projects, the give can be much less.

     

    KBBK's DIY 'Buch Bar and Brew Shop Sign

    Another of my recent projects was to create a sign for KBBK's office Kombucha Bar. Sanded, stained, painted and hung all in 12 hours. Pfewf! Letters came out OK, but not as great as I was hoping. It's been a while since I've done something like this and I definitely learned a bit about brushstrokes, and painting under a time crunch.

     

    DIY Craft Beer, KBBK takes the day to brew Saison

     

    Last month team KBBK visited our brew-buddies John and Doug who run Bitter and Esters, a store for all your beer brewing ingredients and equipment, a DIY brew on premise space for public use, and generally a must-visit for any beer brewing enthusiast. Really, go. We spent a day brewing and eating Thai food, later an afternoon bottling our crisp, stone-fruit-like, smokey, and wonderfully full-bodied Saison called Tis the Saison.

    My god was it good. This DIY was 100% Successful! We now have 2 kegs and 2 cases of bottles of our Saison - enough to quench our fine beer thirst through summer 2014.

     

     

    DIY Blueberry Mead, KBBK Head Brewer Chris Strait

    Chris is a man of his projects and experiments. He is not phased by botched batches, but studies their nature to learn better ways to brew. Here is his Blueberry Mead, a house brew made with Trembley Apiary Honey and our freeze-dried Blueberries. Lip-smackingly good.

    Blueberry Mead Chris Strait's Blueberry Mead

     DIY Keg Branding, Billy Stewart, Jon Lane and Will Donnelly

    Before winter had moved on (not that it has yet really) we had to brand our kegs as we are joining a big NYC keg distributor. Stencils were a real knuckle-buster, but I'm real excited as to how they came out. Check our On Tap Map for more info on where to see these fly kegs.

    DIY Strawberry Mead soon to come, Will Donnelly

     

    Last but not least, whats next! I've got some work to do, but recently picked up this beautiful 14.5 Gallon, green hand-blown carboy, which I'll be 2nd Fermenting some Strawberry Mead in:

    e83c6f90c4f911e3b7d90002c9db1072_8 Antique Carboy, I cannot wait to brew!

    So that's it for now, got to get back to emails, phones, and the rest of my day-to-day job. But seriously, get crafty! If you are already brewing kombucha and are looking for the next step, I know we mentioned it in our last newsletter, but seriously jun kombucha is a great DIY project. It brews quicker and is extremely tasty - our Jun Kits will produce 5 gallons of gunpowder green tea, New York State wildflower honey kombucha. A DIY project that is hands down delicious.  There is so much fun stuff to be a part of, or at least try. Send us a photo, we love to see people getting into what they like!

  • Get Your Tap On

     

    DSC_5692 Our keg program has always been a favorite of mine.  The idea of a refillable, reusable option in a world so dominated by single use is good. Yin and Yang. Balance.  Its what makes the world an ok place to live.

     

    Kombucha on tap is no longer a specialty thing.  In New York City it is becoming a more normal option and 9 times out of 10 it is KBBK on the lines. Starting the year our tap list had 29 accounts, and in February we joined forces with Phoenix/Beehive.  They are one of the nations largest beer distributors and the exclusive right holders to brands like Guinness, Heineken and Brooklyn beer – to add Kombucha Brooklyn to that list was an honor.  It’s also been a pacesetter.  New accounts are opening weekly.  Most recently we went on tap at Google offices in downtown Manhattan.  Our single line of ‘buch is feeding the 3000 hard working Googlers while they create the next Gmail.  Cool right? New accounts you will have access to so far are Rosamunde, Dassara, and The Sampler Bushwick.

     

    Where next? Well, you tell us.  We are trying to open new accounts in our most kombucha krazed areas like Williamsburg and Greenpoint. We are also trying to open new accounts in more ‘buch nubey territory like Manhattan,  Queens, and Upstate New York.  If you have a place you think perfect, send us a line.  If we actually get that line, we will hook you up with a custom growler that you can use to refill over and over again.  Even more cool right?!

     

    DSC_5667

     

    Be on the lookout for these badass new tap pulls.  They were handmade right here in Brooklyn.  The wood was 200 year old wood from a Tribeca loft that was spun in to unique shapes by local artist Guy Nelson.  The leather KBBK diamonds were hand cut and painted by local leather smith Freddie Matara.  Combined these beauties will be paving the way for the best kombucha we have to offer.  If you see one, shout it out on Twitter or Facebook. We would be happy to thank you with a free pint at one of our markets or at our Lab.

     

    Cheers to kombucha on tap!

  • On Buchina: KBBK's 4,000 lbs of Good Karma

    Written by Jon Lane, Demogod

     

    So, amidst all the talk about the finer points of home brewing, and minuscule details of fine tea that I can’t even fully wrap my brain or my palate around, I’m gonna break from the course, a bit. Now seems like an ideal time to introduce you to present-day KBBK’s most unsung hero, and probable loudest brand ambassador:

    Buchina Meet Kombucha Brooklyn's mythical delivery van, Buchina

     

    Meet the Buchmobile.Well… actually, that’s her occupation.  Those of us who know her best know her as Buchina (or, Boo-CHEE-na, if you’re into the whole phonetic thing).

    I first came to Kombucha Brooklyn as a part-time delivery driver,so my days were almost entirely spent piloting the Buchmobile around the city (we weren’t on a first name basis, yet), slinging kegs and bottles to all our direct accounts…  and learning very quickly that driving a fluorescent beacon of Brooklyn ‘buch was a slightly different experience than I’d expected.

     

    While it was immediately apparent to me that there could be no possible better vessel for a company called "Kombucha Brooklyn" than a van that looks like the offspring of Brooklyn graffiti culture and the Scooby-Gang's Mystery Machine, It takes a little time to get used to being stared at constantly….  I’m a fairly laid back guy, almost to a fault, but found myself having to stifle the “what the hell are you looking at?” reflex more than a few times…   for about three seconds, before I’d realize (with a reasonable helping of sheepish embarrassment) that they were quite obviously eyeballing the van, rather than the driver….    I’ve undoubtedly had my picture taken over a hundred times, at the wheel, in the last year and a half, and have had 5-10 folks come up and pantomime ‘tagging’ the hood, at a stoplight -- starting with one in my first hour of driving her, on my first day.  He scored extra points for using his ‘breath freshener’ spray, for added authenticity.  Chuckle….

    Jon.Lane.Profile

    But I’m at risk of straying from the point here.  In the last few years, since having been rescued from the inhumane drudgery of life as a white cargo van, this little thing has schlepped an almost unfathomable amount of Kombucha, and hauled a pretty ridiculous list of other random cargo…  all of which I’ll spare you.

     

    She’s got all the little ticks and idiosyncrasies you’d expect from a 25 year-old Chevy Astro.  I’ll spare you most of them too.  For a brief example, throughout the entirety of my employment here, the place where her radio should be has been occupied only by a little stuffed Pound Puppy in a Santa hat.  I’ve never asked why.  Sometimes you just roll with these things.  She’s got a pretty mean overbite, as the result of being sandwiched between a poorly-driven minivan and a predictably unappreciative NYPD van.  One door doesn’t open from the inside, one doesn’t unlock from the outside…  you get the idea.   And sometimes things go rather dramatically awry...

     

    KBBK's Delivery van, Buchina

     

    But, semi-miraculous as it is that she keeps on charging forward, with scant complaints, the awesome thing about this little van is the reactions it gets from people, every day, everywhere.  Whether I’m in a sketchy Brooklyn neighborhood, or in the prime-rent section of the upper west side, people of every hue, every crowd, every age and every income level break out into smiles, grab cameras, walk up to the window and start conversations, or just throw a thumbs up, or shout approval from across an intersection.

     

    Hell, I met the Buchmobile’s first dedicated driver, AJ, in the middle of Times Square, after he spotted the van and skated up to the window to introduce himself (he kept pace with me for a few blocks, then went back to being noticeably faster than the traffic).  He incidentally now drives a fluorescent green delivery machine around town, for our friends at Runa.  Coincidence? ;)

     

    At least one person has given us an artistic rendering of the van…  somewhere we’ve got a picture of a freshly married couple posing together, standing on her back bumper.  I've even snuck her into a rock video.  The only real downside is having to constantly explain to people that I have less artistic ability than the average tree squirrel, and am not personally responsible for the paint job (they always ask).  But it’s worth it.

    KBBK's Delivery van, Buchina It's particularly worth it, in that it changes the way *I* act, when I drive.  You can’t stare at smiling faces and jubilantly bewildered kids, all day, and not have it improve your outlook on life.  Sure, it’s lovely when people spot the KBBK logo on the hood, and throw up their fists and cheer (yeah.  that happens too), as you trundle towards them, but it’s a lot more fulfilling when you find yourself smiling and waving back, rather than being annoyed by traffic, honking horns, deadlines, tickets, and all the other things that weigh on you, when you do this for a living.  You find yourself waving pedestrians and other cars ahead, rather than racing them through an intersection, or bullying your way through a crosswalk (you also find that it usually works out better that way, anyway).  And nine times out of ten they’re visibly appreciative.  Then they look at the van, and smile even more brightly.  It’s like driving 4,000 lbs of weaponized good karma around the city.

     

    It’s maybe the only sad aspect of the fact that KBBK has very definitely begun to outgrow the Buchmobile, in its past/present role.  We’ve handed the reins of our keg delivery program to our new friends at Phoenix / Bee Hive, which is a really exciting move for the company, and our customers…  and possibly my back.  So Buchina is down to one weekly patrol of the city, to make sure our bottle program is running smoothly, and the occasional trip to set up a new account, or do whatever else is necessary to bring a smile to the face of someone who probably has no idea what kombucha even is.  I’d expect she’s looking forward to Spring Smorgasburg as much as a van can possibly look forward to a thing.

     

     

    So there you have it.  If you see her on the street, give her a pat on the hood, or a low-five on the gas cap lid (yes.  it’s always open), or just throw the thumbs up…  or better yet, just smile.  It’s kinda what she does to people.  ;)

    Her name’s Buchina.  Every Chevy Astro may have been made in Baltimore, but she was very definitely Born in Brooklyn.

     

    -3

     

    Brooklyn rock band and avid KBBK drinkers The End Men called in Buchina (and, more dubiously, her driver) for a cameo in the video for "Work," their ode to the struggle of surviving in the city.  She was more than happy to oblige.

  • Re-Thinking Kombucha Flavoring, pt. 2: Pu-erh, Caviar of Teas

     

    In Part 1, I discussed the use of teas alone as a basic and powerful method of kombucha flavoring. Now, I'd like to take a look at one variety of tea that often gets overlooked in the West...

     

    Among the most alluring aspects of tea is its ability to elicit the sensation of feeling like you are somewhere else, in time or space. It can, beyond words, call forth a sort of sensory tableau, akin to déjà vu.

     

    The sensory details of each day's occurrences are connected by our experience, and accrue as a sort of personal encyclopedia. These details inform and even alter the manner with which we perceive our world and recall our personal history. And in the same way our minds build perceptions and experiences into memory, so can our minds retrieve memory (or illusion) from similar sensations and events. These can include cues such as sights, smells, sounds, feelings etc.

     

    Chinese pu-erh - kombucha flavoring Chinese pu-erh

    Not only is the flavor, body and aroma of a tea an immediate sensory experience, but it also can call forth recollection and imagination. Consider this as I talk about one of the most alluring, evocative and enigmatic of them all - pu-erh.

     

    Pu-Erh, Caviar of Teas

     

    When you drink a pu-erh, a (dry) fermented, aged, tea, a whole host of impressions can be stimulated in striking fashion. You might re-experience acute sensations you’ve had in the forest -  the smell of sweet notes of earth, tree bark and mushrooms - along with a little stimulation, possibly from the surprise nature of revelatory sensation, like a rush of adrenaline. These flavors sound strange to find in a tea - but pu-erhs are as complex and nuanced as a fine scotch whiskey - as a memory itself. And like caviar, pu-erhs are highly revered - but can also be polarizing.

     

    What’s this have to do with kombucha?

     

    In fermenting a fine tea, you’re supercharging its nutritive potential, contributing to its flavor, and of course making it additionally refreshing (with refrigeration and carbonation from a nice bottle conditioning). Pu-erhs are considered highly medicinal - supposedly helpful in weight loss, cholesterol reduction and cleansing the blood. At KBBK, we love to drink pu-erh kombucha to give us a great boost of energy, detoxify our bodies, and provide a very unique and conversational experience.

     

     Types of Pu-erh

     

    Imperial Pu-erh Imperial Pu-erh

    Pu-Er was the name of a Chinese town of antiquity which was known for being a center of commerce from which this type of tea was regularly exported. Of pu-erhs there are two distinct categories - the one photographed above is a "shu," or ripe pu-erh. Specially conditioned to recreate long-aged teas, it is "cooked" - tea handlers essentially compost the leaves in a very controlled environment. Tea producers began to utilize this process to attempt to satisfy the high demand for aged pu-erhs - the original, singular style of pu-erh - until the "cooking" process was developed in the late 20th century. While in cooking the result isn't exactly the same as you would achieve through aging, it creates, no less, a very distinct and unique product that isn't really so far off from "sheng" pu-erhs.

     

    Sheng pu-erh from 1992, kombucha flavoring Sheng pu-erh from 1992

    Sheng pu-erhs are considered raw - the tea is not composted or fermented quickly, but over time and through closely-guarded methods. This is a style of the old days, long pre-dating the Mongol invasion of China, and it is still considered an integral part of the culture. It is well known among enthusiasts that the best pu-erhs are consumed after decades of aging. The one pictured above has seen nearly a quarter of a century pass.

     

    In our experience, longer-aged sheng pu-erhs are much mellower and less astringent than are younger examples of the style (though still remaining enigmatic, startling, and delicious).

     

    Bamboo-aged pu-erh, pu-erh knife, and a pu-erh cake Bamboo-aged pu-erh, pu-erh knife, and a pu-erh cake

     

    Pu-erh Kombucha

     

    However, when we are brewing our pu-erh teas into kombucha, we need not worry about bitterness. This is due to the unique ability of the culture to eliminate the tannic bitterness you might notice in a tea before fermentation. So, out of a pu-erh kombucha you are left with a complex, highly medicinal and refreshing beverage, a giant and healthy SCOBY; not to mention a chance to step into a distant memory or illusion elicited by the tea's terroir, processing, and especially in the case of pu-erhs, age.

     

    Silver Bud Pu-Erh Silver Bud White Pu-Erh

    If this sounds enticing, you simply must taste for yourself. A great place to start exploring pu-erh kombucha is with our office favorite, the sheng Silver Bud White Pu-erh. While usually made from older leaves, this unique variety has been made with the buds of the tea tree. And while only aged for 11 years, you'll notice a distinct fruitiness in this tea that is strongly reminiscent of sweet prunes, tobacco and honeydew. For a convincing pu-erh brew, look no further, and remember - this is kombucha flavoring at its simplest and most effective. So, brew up some pu-erh kombucha, sip with your eyes closed, and see where the tea and your imagination can take you!

  • Premium Brewing Tea with David Lee Hoffman

    Eric and David Eric and David in Lagunitas, CA

    For many years I overlooked the importance and exciting possibilities to be garnered from sweet unfermented tea, the beginning of any kombucha brew.  The "Nute" (nutrient solution of tea and sugar) holds the nutrients the SCOBY will consume during fermentation and determines the final flavor profile of your finished product. In fact, you can create such an expansive flavor profile with your Nute that many people think you’ve added juice. When I realized what I could do, I set out on a journey to discover everything I could about the ingredients that make up nute. My first stop, and my longest, was with tea.

     

    Good tea comes from good sources, but like all food, the best sources are not easy to find. There are many outlets to purchase tea through; online retailers and large wholesalers give us many different options. My experience with various suppliers yielded delicious and healthy kombucha, but nothing compares to the quality we have experienced brewing with the tea leaves from our most recent partnership.

     

    David finding a tea David finding a tea

    If there was a Kombuchman in the tea world, it would be David Lee Hoffman. Teaman! His love for tea has led him on a 40-year journey that yielded the largest loose leaf and Pu-Erh collection in the United States. A true pioneer in the art of tea, David is the first American to import premium whole leaf tea to the U.S. David has built relationships with farmers, tea factories and ancient tea shops giving him access to one of the most diverse and quality tea collections available in the world. Along with tea he has dedicated his life to organic farming and buys tea that comes from farms using only those growing techniques. Hearing him talk about tea is both educating and intoxicating.  Drinking the tea he has procured over the years takes you directly to the hills he procured them on and opens up a gateway into a world most will never see. We are now blessed to be one of his customers.

     

    Tasting a selection of Pu-Erh's Tasting a selection of Pu-Erh's

    Last month I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with David. My five-hour layover in San Francisco was just enough time to meet with David for lunch at a spectacular dim sum restaurant and tour his magical compound. Although it was a short visit, we were able to taste six teas as well as tour his massive collection of loose leaf and Pu-Erh tea, all surrounded by structures hand-built by him on his beautiful land over the past 40 years. As soon as I entered his Lagunitas compound, I felt like I was transported to the Chinese country side. It was truly remarkable and an unforgettable experience.

     

     

     

    One of the many structures on the compound One of the many structures on the compound

    I’ve been buying David’s tea for about a year now, but only for our personal collection. Most of them were for drinking straight - we are serious tea drinkers here at KBBK - but they were also used to ferment delicious batches of kombucha, some of the nicest I’ve ever had.  On our ride back to the airport David offered me a coveted wholesale account. I’m thrilled to pass that privilege on to you at the KBBK Brew Shop.

     

    The new premium brewing tea line-up represents a diverse line up of Chinese tea. There are high-end pricier options as well as budget-friendly introductions to premium tea.

     

    KBBK House teas are three selections I feel represent all the characteristics of the three most popular styles, green, black, and white. Wonderful together as a blend, individually these teas will make the perfect base for straight-up and flavored ‘buch or even as a blender to another tea style. This is an incredible value for such fine whole leaf tea.

     

    Silver Bud Pu-Erh Silver Bud Pu-Erh

    Our first Pu-Erh offerings will show you what delightful brews come from this, my favorite style of tea, that is aged like a wine or cheese to improve its flavor. The two main styles, likely the oldest and most popular tea in China, are represented in our collection as Shang (raw) and Shu (cooked). Both styles yield complex full-bodied kombucha that have an extra kick of caffeine. Another Pu-Erh we are offering is Silver Bud. This white tea that is mostly bud has been aged in David’s cave since 2003 and gives off dried fruit flavors like prune and apricot. Not only is this a crowd pleaser, it's one of my top 3 teas to use in kombucha brewing.

     

    Along with these Pu-Erhs we have chosen a strong showing of black, green and oolong teas to offer from our store.

     

    As we sell through this first round of teas, we will rotate our offering. If there is a specific tea you fall in love with, let us know and we can get you hooked up with a larger supply. One thing is certain; if you explore these delightful teas you will expand your kombucha pallet. Dive in to the wonderful world of Premium Brewing Tea and be spoiled by the quality we now offer, from the pluck to the cup. You will never go back.

     

    For more on David Hoffmann and his journey with tea check out his documentary film “All in this Tea” available at our brew shop.

     

    Also, support David in saving his structures from being demolished by the state.  See more about the Last Resort here.

  • Pomegranate-Kombucha Apple Sauce

    Afternoon y'alls! It's been blowing a two-foot-deep tundra sideways here, and it's time to offset this bone biting chill with some GOOD FOOD! So lets get started on some mind blowing Pomegranate-Kombucha Apple Sauce, perfect with cracked oatmeal and homemade yogurt.

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    Time required: 3-4 Hours (pot watching mostly)

    Other requirements: Pomegranate-Kombucha (see below)

    Difficulty: Easy / Medium

     

    Note- you can start your apple sauce with the pomegranate kombucha first, and then add the caramel later when you've finished it. This may shorten the time required.

    Ingredients:

    • 12-15 Apples, preferably Honey Crisps
    • 2 Cups of Pomegranate-Kombucha (optional until you try it with. :)
    • 1 Cup White Sugar
    • 3 Cups Water
    • 1 tsp (teaspoon) Salt
    • 1 tbsp Cinnamon
    • 1 tbsp Ground ginger
    • 1 tbsp Allspice
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    •  1/2 tsp clove
    • love

    Instructions:

     

    Pomegranate-Kombucha: Makes  2 Quarts +

    Follow our instructions here for 1/2 Gallon our Basic, Straight-Up Kombucha.

    Depending on your judgement on their flavor, and final amount of juice, add either 1.6 fluid ounces of Pomegranate Concentrate (found at health food stores, organic is best) OR  juice from a freshly squeezed pomegranate, to your now finished kombucha. Reserve 2 cups of Pom-'Buch for this recipe.

     

    Caramel Syrup: Read through before starting

    DSC_5358DSC_5361DSC_5362DSC_5365

    • Please: take any and all necessary precaution with any syrup production, as this stuff gets really hot.
    • Add 1 cup of sugar to a (very important) SQUEAKY CLEAN and DRY sauce pot.
    • Boil 2 Cups water in a kettle or separate pot while you ...
    • Turn heat to Med-High, and let your sugar start to melt.
    • Once your sugar melts, with a metal whisk (or spoon as I forgot mine), whisk any left over sugar clumps to make a uniform syrup.
    • You will now cook the syrup until it goes a medium orange / brown, and then turn off the heat so that after cooling, your syrup will be a lovely and deep caramel color.
    • As its still bubbling and cooling off, add your 2 Cups of boiling water all at once and WHISK! Beware: this is hot enough to scald you so be careful! Do not add the water too slowly because the sugar will vaporize a small amount of water and splatter it on you, where as if it all goes in at once, it will cool down the sugar much quicker and make this a safer operation.
    • Did you do it? Well Done! Pat yourself on the back. Now onto..

    The Apple Sauce

    • Quickly rinse and peel any stickers off your Apples, then pat dry with a cloth.
    • Cut the Apples in half vertically, then vertically half again.
    • with a small pairing knife, core out the quarter slices.DSC_5366
    • Small dice your apples.
    • Place your Apple dice into a pot with at least 2-3 inches space at the top.
    • Add all your spices and salt, Caramel Syrup, and 2 Cups of Pomegranate Kombucha to the pot and give a good stir.
    • Cook on Medium Heat until soft, then low for as long as it takes to cook the residual liquid off.

     

    You've finished your Pomegranate-Kombucha Apple Sauce! Well done. I love it on its own, or as pictured above on top of cracked oatmeal porridge with a dollop of yogurt and sliced apple.

    -Will Donnelly

     

  • An Introduction to Cooking with Kombucha

     

    As this is the first of many posts I will write about food, cooking and kombucha, I thought it may be enriching for the reader to understand more about what food is and has made us, where what we know has come from, and why we eat what we eat now.

     

    Food, in its simplicity is what nourishes our biological needs, stoking the fire so that we may be so lucky as to spend our time pursuing dreams and attending other needs. What we now enjoy as food comes a long way from its wild, dangerous and unmapped origins. A Chicken-Parm Hero really is haute cuisine when you think about it, but times have changed and along with it our palates, our expectations.

     

    When cooking, one manipulates food so we can either enjoy it or digest it better. It quickly becomes apparent that knowledge of chemistry, biology and technique is going to help you greatly in this vast world of crafting a meal. Attempting to put out an oil fire with water, eating the wrong mushroom, rubbing an eye after cutting peppers are mistakes not soon made again. And although edible, over seasoning, under cooking and burning your food are all roads best not taken. So, we have to understand our food; a process that has happened at times only long after we have made it. Ceviche, dried meats, curing onions or smoked salmon are all things that worked, and only later when we had the time after a lush meal to think why, did we figure it out.

     

    Over hundreds of thousands of years our bodies have adapted to cooked food. It has been evolutionarily advantageous not to spend your energy chewing and digesting, but changing what you eat so that it may better feed you. When you marinate a steak, acids help break down the fats and proteins. As you place it on a seasoned grill, the intense heat denatures the protein further. It also helps make the food safer, killing off surface bacteria.  This allows us to get the most out of our food as we absorb nutrition from broken down proteins or fibers much, much better. It is why we cook, and why we have to cook.

     

    Kombucha, among many things, is an acid.

                                                              Cook your Kombucha!

     

    Generally it is a tart and slightly fizzy, not much unlike a cider or champagne. Fermenting different teas, for different periods of time, and finishing the process with fruits or other flavorings all alter the unique flavor. The range of terroirs, ambient temperatures, water composition, and handling techniques of Chinese and Japanese tea gives kombucha a large palette to paint with. If you can take all that into consideration, the kombucha you can brew is vast. What you can do with that brew is even more varied – why not marinate your favorite grilled goods with a rich and tangy black tea kombucha vinegar reduction? Or let a mango slaw sit in a peachy white tea kombucha overnight? This light ferment will alter the flavors just a bit, and may impart just the right fragrance. Yum!

     

    I've cooked for many years, and with most things, it is easiest to start simple. Don't worry about the above mentioned terroirs or water composition of where your tea comes from. Most palates don't ever even taste the difference, and if you are cooking it later, that nuance may not even be apparent. Instead, start with kombucha vinegar! Most of us end up making it because we forget to tend to our brew - so instead of throwing it away, substitute your apple cider or white vinegars with your new tea vinegar. Again, kombucha can be a great component for a marinade, or even a ceviçhe. Once you feel comfortable with that, why not reduce it, touch it up with sugar and drizzle it over green tea ice cream? There are many, many possibilities for an adventurous cook when it comes to cooking with kombucha. And we haven't even begun to talk about working with the culture itself!

     

    For some recipes to get you started, take a look here - http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/cooking-with-komb