I took a lot of convincing, but I'm now a true kombucha convert. My first experience was not a good one - a friend of mine let me try some of her homemade batch, but it was unflavored and apparently pretty strong, and I didn't like it at all. I don't like caffeinated tea generally (as opposed to herbal tea, which I love), and I'm sure that contributed to my dislike.
I put off trying it again for a long time (my sister-in-law, Mama Hen, has been trying to get me to give it a second chance for about a year now). My unwillingness was strengthened by the fact that you need to make it with white sugar (apparently natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup won't work). I learned, however, that in the fermenting process the sugar is digested by the Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast (or SCOBY - basically the "starter", which looks kind of like a mushroom or jellyfish floating on the top of your tea. Kinda weird, but kinda cool, too, in a food-nerdy kind of way). So I started to consider trying it again.
But there was still the problem of the taste. Quick to defend her beloved beverage, Mama Hen showed me that kombucha can be easily flavored with whatever you like. While I was staying with her one weekend, I tried some of her ginger flavored kombucha, and I was converted. I liked it, and what's more, the kids liked it! I asked her how hard it was to make, and she immediately said, "It's easy! Let me show you! I'll even give you a SCOBY to take home with you!"
And so it began. When I got home, I found a message from Mama Hen saying she'd just tried making blueberry flavored kombucha, and that her family loved it - so that's the flavor I tried for my first batch (it helped that I had blueberries already on hand). The kids loved it; so much, in fact, that by the time I got out my camera, this was all that was left of the gallon I'd made:
1. Boil 4 cups of uncholrinated water
2. Steep 2 Tablespoons of green or black tea (cannot be a decaffeinated variety! And yes, it must be real tea, not an herbal infusion) for 5-7 minutes
3. Strain out tea into one gallon glass jar
4. Mix in one cup of white sugar
5. Top off jar with cold, unchlorinated water, leaving at least an inch of headspace
6. Make sure that the jar of sugar water isn't too hot, then gently pour in the SCOBY with its incubator liquid
7. Cover with a cloth or coffee filter, secured with a rubber band (especially in the summer - fruit flies LOVE this!) and place your jar in a dark place (like a cupboard) for 7-10 days (longer if your fermenting spot is cool, or if you want a bolder flavor. You can brew it up to 30 days. Check the flavor by inserting a straw under the SCOBY, capping with your finger, pulling out the straw, and then tasting)
8. Remove your SCOBY and 1-2 cups of tea as an incubator for your next batch (or just brew up another batch and put your SCOBY back to work!)
9. Add flavoring to your finished kombucha - my favorite is blueberry; just add 1/4 cup of blueberry juice to your gallon of kombucha. Other flavor ideas: cranberry, ginger, or anything else you think would be good! You can certainly pour your kombucha in to smaller jars and flavor each one differently. Feel free to experiment!
10. (Optional) You can do a second ferment, leaving your flavored jars in a dark place for another two or three days for extra probiotic goodness.