by Martin van den Borre
Sugar is getting bad press. Since its discovery 3 millennia ago, and its commercialization in the 18th century, sugar has been added to almost all our food. In fact, today, more than 75% of processed foods* contain sugar in some form. It should be said that the sugar industry has done everything to hide the harmful effects on health from its overconsumption. This, for the benefit of the manufacturers who liberally put it in our food to make it appealing, and sometimes simply to generate dependency to it.
Yet sugar is essential to life. It is useful for our health in addition to making our lives sweeter. Everything, of course, should be in moderation. Our brain runs on sugar and our body also depends on it for energy production. Sugar is also very useful for preserving our food; in fact, our grandmothers’ delicious jams are a good example.
For some years, the Camino team has noticed an increasing interest for all sorts of fermented products such as kombucha, kefir, and other lacto-fermented products of all sorts. These products are all jostling for position on public market and store shelves. These products, which are supposed to be good for our bodies, all have one thing in common: they need sugar for the fermentation process to occur. This interest, and our overflowing email inboxes filled with questions on the use of sugar in the fermentation of food, has inspired us to write an article on the subject!
It’s been several years now since our friends at Crudessence (www.crudessence.com) and Rise (www.risekombucha.com) introduced us to the use of sugar as the main ingredient for one of today’s most popular fermentation process: the kombucha. In fact, Rise has been using our Camino sugar for years to feed the kombucha Mother! So, thanks to Rise, we have learned that among our most faithful consumers, there are also unicellular organisms who work in communities and use sugar to do good around them! Symbiotic communities of yeasts and bacteria who, when feeding on this organic and fair trade sugar make this (low alcohol) fermentation possible and produce one of the most delicious nectars that exists!
If you would like to learn more about the origins of our golden sugar cane, we invite you to read the following article: Visit to Cooperativa Manduvirá, Paraguay
Last April, while our golden sugar cane producers at Manduvirá in Paraguay were preparing for their harvest, Renato Sobrino, our Quality Manager and Martin Van Den Borre, our Purchasing and Production Director, participated in a training provided by Ann Lévesque, Agri-ecologist and Fermentation Specialist. During this hands-on workshop, which was organized at the Alliance alimentaire Papineau group (http://www.alliancealimentairepapineau.com), Ann led our group of 15 participants in making three fermented drinks: kefir water, non-alcoholic ginger beer and kombucha.
For starters, we must confess that this is both a simple and complicated process. Everyone has what it takes at home to prepare kombucha except maybe the kombucha Mother, but we will come back to that later! However, just like for alcoholic fermentation it requires fairly regular monitoring and some time… making it at home is like making your own beer… it’s fine if you don’t have a need to drink it right away! There’s always Rise if you don’t want to wait!
During this workshop, we learned that kombucha has been around for more than 2,000 years, and probably originated in Manchuria. This tonic was once considered to be an elixir of life by warriors who used it to get back into shape! We also learned more about the kombucha Mother. “She” looks a bit like a gelatinous pancake much like the Mother found in vinegar. ‘She’ is the living home of bacteria and yeasts that feed on sugar to symbiotically trigger fermentation, thus turning the ingredients in the bubbly drink filled with microscopic life.
- 1.75 liters of water
- 2-4 tea bags (6-12 grams) of black organic and fair trade, green or white tea,
- 1/4-1/2 cup of organic and fair-trade golden or white sugar cane
- 1 kombucha culture (available at most natural food stores)
- 125 ml of kombucha (as a starter)
- Aromatics to taste: herbs, spices or flowers infusions, hydrosols.
- First, infuse the tea, filter and let it cool.
- Then, add sugar along with the kombucha Mother.
- Then, leave the mix to ferment in a glass jar at room temperature in a dark place for 9 to 13 days, covered with a cheese-cloth or a tissue (to keep the dust out but allow air flow).
- Starting on the 8th day, taste it every 2 days until the preparation is to your liking.
- Once the preparation is ready, filter and bottle. The kombucha Mother must be removed from the preparation and put aside in 500 ml of kombucha. It keeps up to 6 months.
Note: once prepared, the kombucha must be refrigerated to stop the fermentation. It is also best to use good sturdy glasses (the type microbreweries use) to avoid explosions.
There you go, your very first batch of homemade kombucha. Enjoy!
Our message to you is to consume in moderation and enjoy life! Just like for chocolate, sugar must be consumed in moderation for a balanced and diverse diet that will help us take advantage of all its benefits!