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Oolong Lemon Verbena Kombucha by Jolene

As part of our summer-long Iced Tea series, we turned to friends and partners at Jolene for inspiration for this week's recipe. For those who haven't yet visited any of the Jolene sites, or one of their sibling restaurant / bakeries Primeur, Westerns Laundry or Big Jo, that'll soon need to change. The driving force behind each of them is a focus on honest, nourishing and of course delicious food, that is as good for the planet as it is for you. From regeneratively farmed grains to seasonal produce, these guys are passionate about creating a sustainable food system. And it doesn't stop there - it also extends to their drinks menu, with homemade cordials and kombuchas featuring on their daily changing menus at all their sites. 

We were lucky enough to chat to Tereza Pospíšilová, who leads all things fermentation, to ask for her Kombucha brewing tips, and to share her favourite booch recipe (below) for us to make at home.

If you aren't able to make your own, you can also buy retail bottles of Tereza's kombucha at Jolene Well Street, Jolene Redchurch Street, Jolene Colebrooke Row and Big Jo. 

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What is your role at Jolene?

I'm based at Jolene Well Street where I work as a fermenter. I have a fermentation station there and a large kombucha brewing cabinet. I make kombuchas and cordials for our sites, and also sauerkraut, pickles and preserves that people can buy at Jolene Well Street. I also love making koji, so there's more coming soon.

When did you first discover Kombucha?

My grandad used to brew kombucha when I was a kid, so I remember seeing this freaky scoby jar in his kitchen but didn't really know what it was. I think I first properly tried it about ten years ago at my friend's house, loved it and walked home with my first scoby and starter liquid in a jar.

What is it you love about it?

First of all, I love the taste and how fun it is to make! I find it incredible that you feed these bacteria and yeast some sweet tea and then they work together to make a delicious drink for you. I'm now making about 90 litres of kombucha a week for our sites and it's still super  exciting to taste a freshly fermented batch and see how different teas taste when fermented and how temperature and time affect the brewing process.

I also love how versatile kombucha is - you can drink it as it is or try flavouring it with anything you're in the mood for. It's such a great alternative to super sweet sodas or alcoholic drinks.

What are your top tips for brewing a good batch?

I'd say the number one thing is a healthy scoby because that's what makes all the magic happen. All you need is some starter liquid (already fermented tea) from a previous batch, some good quality tea and sugar, a clean glass jar, a muslin cloth and some rubber bands and you're ready to brew!

What is your go-to tea for brewing?

I love brewing with sencha and oolong tea. I've recently also tried Jade Tips and Keemun and they also make a delicious kombucha. I also brew with Yunnan and Assam tea, which make a more full bodied kombucha but it's also super delicious.

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Oolong Lemon Verbena Kombucha Recipe

What You'll Need (makes 1 litre):

  • Clean glass jar
  • Muslin cloth to cover the jar with
  • Rubber band to secure the muslin cloth
  • Tea strainer
  • Pestle and mortar
  • Healthy scoby
  • 100ml starter liquid (already fermented, unflavoured kombucha)
  • 8g Four Seasons oolong tea
  • 80g Organic sugar
  • 2 tbsp of Lemon Verbena leaves
  • 1 tsp Lemon Verbena berries (optional)

Method:

  • Start by dissolving 80g of sugar in 1L of hot water and pour over your oolong tea. While it's brewing, prepare your jar and the rest of your brewing equipment. Once your tea is ready, strain it and let it cool down to about 25°c.
  • Pour your tea into your glass jar and add the starter liquid - this will bring the pH down and create a healthy environment for the yeast and bacteria to work. Now add your scoby. Don't worry if it sinks to the bottom or hangs out somewhere in the middle, it will slowly start forming a thin layer on top of the brew anyway.
  • Cover your jar with a muslin cloth and secure with a rubber band, so that nothing but air can get in. Leave your kombucha to brew at room temperature. Don't disturb the scoby, shake the jar or stir for at least 5 days. On the sixth day, you can start tasting. Once you're happy with the taste of your kombucha, strain it and save 100ml of your freshly fermented kombucha and repeat the whole process again with a new batch of sweet tea.
  • Now it's time to flavour your kombucha. Steep your Lemon Verbena leaves in about 200ml of hot water, then crush 1 teaspoon of lemon verbena berries in the pestle and mortar and add them to the infusion. Wait for it to cool to about 20°c and then strain and add to your kombucha. Taste to see if you're happy with it, then bottle in swing top bottles and leave for about 4 days at room temperature, so it can get some fizz. Open the bottle every day to release any built up C02 and then keep the bottle in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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