'Booch is what I call Kombucha. I love this shit because it's volatile, inconsistent, explosive, and sweet-tart, just like me. Kombucha is a living culture -- specifically, it is a sparkling, fermented tea made possible by a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (henceforth known as a SCOBY).
SCOBYs are an ancient and very weird culture that humans have been consuming for the benefit of their enjoyment and gut flora for centuries. From what I've researched, its origins are in China, however I'm sure many cultures who enjoy caffeinated tea made their own ancestral versions.
Kombucha is made through a fermentation process, which means it takes days, although it is relatively simple. The number of days depends on the season and weather because temperature affects how quickly sugars can be consumed by yeast. This means the 'Booch recipe is another that will require you to invoke your intuition (sorry). Really, though- fermentation, baking, cooking, and tasting is all a process of intuition and sensation. It's a process of learning to trust yourself and feel confident about what you like.
For oversimplified / general steps, just scroll to the bottom of the page.
'booch - the recipe
*you must use real 'sugar' (not stevia) that contains glucose because the SCOBY needs to consume this to survive and make kombucha. Very little residual sugar remains in the finished product.
This depends on how you are starting. If you have received a Scoby and a splash of starter liquid from a friend, that's great. If not, you can make your own with GT's or another Raw Kombucha - just drink half of the container and leave it open on your counter. In about a week it will develop a SCOBY and you'll be able to start making your own.
I use a sterilized (I wash in the dishwasher), large, glass mason jar. You can use any size jar that will suit your needs, just don't use a 'reactive' container made of material that will leach - so no: metal, ceramic, plastic, or any porous material.
Pop your tea bags into your jar. Boil some water and pour over the teabags, filling the mason jar about 3/4 of the way. Allow to steep 10 minutes, remove the tea bags, and pour in 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir, taking care not to whack/crack the glass jar. The residual warmth of the tea will help to dissolve the sugar crystals. Cool to room temperature.
Make sure that your tea is completely cooled and add your Scoby plus a splash of its mother liquid. I have noticed if I add the Scoby too early my kombucha ends up tasting sulphurous, which I find positively revolting.
Cover the jar with a porous material like a cloth and fasten either with a mason jar ring or an elastic. Store in a cool, dark place (like inside a cupboard) and ferment it until you think it tastes good and a fresh layer of Scoby (a baby!) develops. Depending on the temperature this could take 3 to 10 days.
Hint: If you want to speed up the process store your kombucha above the stove or fridge where it's warmer.
When your kombucha tastes good it is ready to drink. However, if you like flavoured or really bubbly 'booch, then I recommend a second fermentation. By bottling kombucha and encouraging it to ferment again with the addition of something sweet, you'll trap gas in the bottle. This gas becomes suspended in the kombucha and creates a carbonated effect.
To do this, pour your finished kombucha from the jar into a bottle with a pop-top (like an old Prosecco bottle). Add a little of something sweet - like a date, piece of fruit (avoid citrus), ginger, or straight-up sweetener. This is also the time to add any spices or flavourings. I love ginger and blueberry, especially if I'm using a green tea. Fasten the lid and allow to ferment at room temperature until desired carbonation is achieved (in my experience it's about 3 days for black tea and a little longer for green).
BURPING IS IMPORTANT! If you are using glass bottles, make sure you 'burp' them every day to release excess gas while your kombucha ferments at room temperature. To do this, you need two hands - one to hold the lid down while another releases the fasten. With the metal fasten undone, use your one hand to slowly allow gas to escape by gently easing pressure on the lid. Keep your other hand prepared to quickly fasten the metal brace if the kombucha threatens to overflow. Remember, these two hands could belong to you or -- one could be yours and the other, a helper's.
If you forget to burp your bottles, the kombucha may end up exploding the glass which is a dangerous situation. To be on the safer side, you can use old plastic pop bottles with screw caps - they could still explode if you don't burp them but they won't lead to broken glass. I just hate plastic so avoid it at all costs. I have never broken a bottle, but I have had sky-high, explosive 'booch as a result of forgetting to burp it, so try not to forget!
Gas can also build up if you have been storing your kombucha in the fridge - this mostly occurs if you've left it a week or more without popping its top. That's why it's good to date your kombucha and remember that anything that has been fastened for a week or longer should be opened slowly, with the burping method.
If you forget about your kombucha, chances are the Scoby will start to form a bigger 'mothership' (a really fat Scoby) and the liquid will become incredibly acidic. I use this liquid as a vinegar in dressings, soups, cocktails, and for cleaning - it is naturally sour and can actually work to biochemically fight bad bacteria. I've heard of some people using it in their 'fire cider' to kill illnesses and to clean their hair instead of Apple Cider Vinegar, too, but I have never done that myself. In any case, kombucha vinegar is tasty, homemade, and an alternative to buying citrus from faraway lands.
OTHER FERMENTED SODAS
Yes, just like kombucha, you can make fermented sodas from other sources. This can be done with things like the natural yeast occurring on fruit plus sugar; with water kefir; coconut water; milk kefir -- even something as simple as dates suspended in water in a bottle will make a soda. The thing to remember is that any fermentation process with sugar and yeast will yield alcohol, so many of these sodas will be slightly alcoholic (like 1%).
basic 'booch steps
1) make a caffeinated tea, add sugar, cool
2) add a scoby
3) ferment at room temp until tastes good (3-10 days)
4) to make bubbles put in a pop-top bottle and add something containing sugar
5) ferment on the counter, burp the bottle daily (3ish days)
6) refrigerate when its good and bubbly
TEA is an amazing way to experience the aromas and memories of the beautiful things we find in the natural world. The powerful stuff of herbs released by way of heat and water is called a 'decoction' in herbal medicine, and is most commonly enjoyed by way of a light, short infusion in what we call teas.
I have a beautiful hutch filled with many potions, infusions, tinctures and dried wild and cultivated herbs I sowed and/or harvested myself. Knowing a plant from seed, seedling, flower, then seed again - and interacting with it by encouraging its growth, plucking it from the soil, consuming, processing and drying it... This is a sensual and intimate process of life and death, growth and decay! If I think about all the lessons I can take from plants I often find myself in fractals of worlds and feelings and pleasure. It's potent shit.
Outside of my existential rumination, drying teas is a tangible process to capture the aroma, nutrition, and beauty of plants and fungi. Here I'll share my tips and tricks to harvesting and drying teas.
DRY your ingredients using any of the following methods:
This tea blend is tangy, nutritious, and a lovely kick for a cold. All the ingredients I hand-harvested save for the citrus which I sliced and dried myself.
As always, tea blending is such a personal experience - I encourage you to add or substitute ingredients for other vitamin C-rich things that you can harvest from wilds or edges like wild cherry, mullein, and willow bark.
Vitamin C Boost Tea
1 tbsp sumac flowers (I used a mixture of smooth and stag horn varieties)
3 wheels of dried citrus
1 tbsp dried fir tips
1 tbsp dried wild ginger leaves (Asarum Species)
I used a mortar and pestle to crumble the ingredients together and release their aromas. Oh man, it smelled so good. Steep 1 tea ball's worth in a cup of hot water for 3 minutes. I like to leave the tea in the water while I drink so it continues to extract nutrition and flavour. Sweeten with honey if desired.
This is a tea which reflects terroir: time, place, season, emotion, experience.... everything. It is so because every single ingredient I harvest with my own hands either from the garden, the edges, or the wild. It is blended to suit what I'm feeling when I crave it, and gives me the nutrition and medicine I need for whatever ails me.
So, my 'Wild Woman Tea' changes. I'll list the ingredients I put in the cup pictured above and why I chose them, but remember that every cup is different and if you want to make your own, according to your tastes, desires, and needs, know that you absolutely should.
Wild Woman Tea
- 1 tbsp dried labrador tea (cramps)
- 1 tbsp dried blackberry leaf (cramps, flavour)
- 2 tbsp dried mugwort (cramps)
- 1 tsp dried sumac (vitamin C)
- 1 tsp dried chamomile flowers (relaxation)
- 1 tsp dried pineapple weed (relaxation)
- 1 tsp devil's club (mood enhancement)
I harvested each of these ingredients fresh then dried them either in the sun or my dehydrator. I keep them in jars in my witch's cabinet and blend/crush teas immediately before steeping for optimum taste and health benefit.
Steep 3 minutes in very hot water and drink immediately or leave it to cool and steep overnight for extra sweetness from the blackberry leaves (thanks Lori Snyder for this trick).