A few years ago, Eric Childs’ boss gave him a bottle of fermented Kombucha tea when he complained of feeling sick, and soon, he got “really into it.”
After talking to 23-year-old Childs about Kombucha for a few minutes, I felt myself getting really into it, too. Childs says that drinking the nutrient-rich tea has given him more energy, boosted his metabolism, cleared up his skin and cured the terrible heartburn he used to take medication for.
“My personal philosophy about Kombucha is that it works with the drinker to aid in what their body needs,” says Childs, who calls himself the “Kombuchman” and went through “a personal health revolution” after he started drinking the tea. “And what I’m most blown away by is that I haven’t had a cold for three years. My immune system is off the charts, and this I attribute to the ‘Buch and the lifestyle that has come with it.’”
Kombucha converts such as Childs don’t seem to mind that the drink tastes nothing like tea, but more like palatable vinegar with strange strands of live culture floating in the effervescent fizz. Childs says he generally opens up a bottle of ‘Buch in the morning and drinks 4-ounce portions throughout the day. For a novice Kombucha drinker, he recommends starting with 8 ounces a day.
The beverage has begun to show up at delis and bodegas in the city, but because store-bought Kombucha retails for around $5 dollars a bottle, Childs started to experiment with the scientific brewing process at home once he got hooked on his expensive tea habit. After tweaking his recipe and methods, he was giving away his brew to friends and family. By January of this year, he was bottling 12 cases every two weeks.
Childs is currently in the process of setting up a proper brewery and launching a Brooklyn-based Kombucha company by the summer. He plans on selling 16-ounce bottles of Kombucha Brooklyn for $3, less than the average price of what’s on the market. “I’ve always wanted to start a business that I could reach people with,” Childs explains. “And I found this beverage that I’m not only extremely passionate about—it does wonderful things for you.”
“As soon as you drink it, you can immediately feel it in you,” Childs says, doing what he loves: preaching about the ‘Buch. “What I say is, ‘Drink the revolution!’”
So you want to try brewing up some Kombucha at home? To get more intimate with the process and learn some of his trade secrets, sign up for a brewing class with Childs at the Brooklyn Kitchen or contact him directly through his website, www.binbkombucha.com.
Here are some tips from Eric Childs:
• First, find a glass jar with a wide opening.
• Brew a very strong batch of black tea (Kombucha does best with black tea, Childs explains) and let it steep about 20 minutes. In a one-gallon jar, use eight tea bags and fill the jar halfway.
• Once you have a really strong tea, remove the bags and add a cup and a half of sugar.
• After the tea has cooled, acidify the tea by adding apple cider vinegar or already brewed Kombucha to protect the culture and prevent bacteria growth.
• Drop in your “SCOBY” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). SCOBYs are readily available on websites like Kombucha Exchange.
• Now you’ve begun the fermentation process. Cover your jar with a cloth that allows the Kombucha to breathe but doesn’t allow anything in.
• Let the Kombucha rest undisturbed for six to 12 days at a temperature between 74 and 84 degrees. “Temperature will play the biggest role,” Childs says. “If you can keep a consistent temperature, you’re going to have a great Kombucha. The culture is a living thing and consistency is very important.”
• Over the course of eight days, the mother culture you dropped in is converting sugars in the teas and converting new culture on the top of the jar.You will see a thin, gelatinous layer growing on top. How do you know it’s ready? “Once you have Kombucha that has a nice tart zing, but a little sweetness— you can still taste the tea but a sour apple taste begins to show,” explains Childs. “You draw both the cultures, and you have bottle-ready-buch.”