Homebrewing Kombucha – Tea fermentation in the Jing

Beijing, 09th of September 2018 (Today is also my third anniversary on WordPress)

I recently discovered tea fermentation and became fascinated with the idea of brewing Kombucha at home. Since we moved to Beijing almost three years ago, the fast pace of the big city life and the constant exposure to the noise, grime, and the general sensorial overload of this megacity had me craving a more balanced life style. Apart from physical exercise and mental fitness I wanted to also improve our diet. From a health perspective there are a variety of reasons why drinking fermented tea is good for you, especially to improve your digestive systems due to its naturally high concentration in enzymes and probiotics. It has cleansing and detoxifying properties that improve immunity and boost energy, since it is made with either black or green tea and contains beneficial amounts of caffeine. Kombucha is also a great source of natural antioxidants and contains medicinal amounts of alcohol occurring during the fermentation process. Besides, what intrigued me is the myth that the process of tea fermentation actually originated in China and dates back thousands of years. Some say a man called Kombu discovered how to make “cha”, which is the Chinese word for tea, into this health elixir, hence the name Kombucha. But no matter where it came from or who discovered it, today its widely accepted if not scientifically proven that fermented tea is good for you.

So when a local start up recently offered a kombucha workshop at the Tech Temple fleamarket and advertised that each participant would get to take their scoby home I was in. The scoby is what makes sweetened tea into fermented tea, translating into “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”. It looks like a sort of sponge, is firm to the touch, and smells somewhat like vinegar. The cultures feed on the substantial amounts of sugar that need to be stirred into the black or green tea and provide the energy necessary for the scoby to ferment the tea. This natural process produces small amounts of alcohol and carbonizes the drink, giving it a nice fizz, making it the perfect drink to substitute for fruit juices or sugary sodas. Any kind of sparkling beverages are a rarity in China, due to the fact that Chinese people are not particularly fond of drinking liquids with bubbles. Sparkling mineral water for example is quite expensive, and if you don’t fancy drinking coca cola every day you have a hard time finding a naturally sparkling drink. This made the prospect of brewing Kombucha at home even more alluring, since the second fermentation in the bottle like in the picture above infuses the ferment with quite a lot of fizz. I open the bottles daily to let out some of the pressure and to prevent the burst of the glass. Unfortunately, even that does not always guarantee the stability of the bottle, and last week I had my very first bottle of second fermentation Kombucha explode while I was at work. It was a nasty surprise coming home after a day in the office and finding the kitchen submerged in over a liter of sugary tea.

Lesson learned, I went online and purchased round bottles instead of squares one in the hope that this would give the glass a higher degree of stability to withstand the carbonation pressure. I also scaled up my fermentation vessel, going from two liters to four liters, and added a scoby hotel to store excess scobys in the future.

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Currently our third batch of Kombucha is brewing in the dark cupboard under our oven and this morning we have opened all three second fermentation bottles to release the pressure. As seen in the top picture we added three different kinds of flavours, one with blueberry puree, one with mashed kaki, and a third one featuring sliced ginger. I expected the one with the ginger pieces to ferment slowest, but opening the bottles this morning we discovered that this one had already build up an astonishing amount of bubbles. During breakfast, we tasted the ginger version and were again surprised that although the kombucha  sparkled a lot in the bottle, most of this fizz was lost when poured into glasses. We will let the remaining two bottles sit at room temperature for at least another day, opening them daily to prevent them from bursting, and will see soon enough if longer fermentation will increase the stability of the bubbles.

To good health – Cheers!

Summer Staples – Fresh Watermelon Juice with Mint

During the summer month, most local fruit markets all over the city offer watermelons either by the slice or as a whole. A 5 kg melon cost around 3 € and can be “squeezed” into three litres of juice. Chilled down with ice cubes and touched up with a few mint leaves its the perfect drink for your sunday breakfast.

Food Frenzy at Tairyo Tepanyaki

An afterwork friday night food frenzy at a tepanyaki restaurant in Sanlitun by definition makes you wish you had more than one stomach to fill – it’s just so good. Obviously, an All You Can Eat & Drink deal doesn’t help in preventing an overkill of fresh prawns, scallops, sashimi, lamb chops, steak, and all the other good stuff that is showcooked right in front of our taste buds. The saddest moment comes when the waitress announces the last round before closing time and you find yourself leaving the restaurant together with the staff.

Mighty Mo’s Mussel & Beer Bar – The Hatchery

Mighty Mo’s History

“The saltiest of seadogs who travelled the South Pacific in search of the world’s finest seafood. Over his years of buccaneering, he found the New Zealand green-lipped mussel to be supreme and spent his remaining years in the Antipodes dodging pirates and perfecting the mussel pot. In his quest he found crafty beers to be the heartiest accompaniment and we are proud to bring the spoils of his years of toil and seafaring to the bows of Tuanjiehu, Beijing.”

Farm2Neighbors Market Beijing

Every weekend, the ground floor of The Grand Summit turns into a local produce and artisan market. Here are some impressions of today’s vendors.

Burgers @kAtchup’s & Cocktails @MaoMaoChong’s

We try to try something new every week, and yesterday we sampled Katchup’s Burgers and MMC’s cocktails.

We each had a massive ‘Manhattan Monster’ (7oz of fresh ground beef, fried egg, chili beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, and a handfull of fried onion rings) in a menu with a spinach salad w/ tofu feta, baby artichokes & olives and a side of four gigantic fries. For 88 RMB, including a soft drink. It was delicious! The onion rings were crispy and abundant, the meat grilled on point. The chili sauce added a nice fruity touch to the whole affair and the fries reminded me a little of the Belgium once we have at home. The dressing of the spinach salad lacked a little imagination, although it came with a generous portion of olives and artichokes.

Address: 东城区交道口南大街53-1号 [Jiaodaokou Nandajie 53-1]

Not too far away from kAtchup, there is an award-winning cocktail bar called Mao Mao Chong [毛毛虫].


Here is what we ordered:

Mao Mao Chong_2016-02-17

Bangkok Hilton [Thai tea-infused scotch, pandan rum, crème de cassis and bitter].


Shit Hot Whiskey Sour [Bourbon, lemon juice, brown sugar, and grape bitters]. And no, I didn’t invent the name.

Both cocktails were very good, expertly made, but too strong for my taste. We will definitly go there again, but I think I will go for something different next time.

Address: 东城区交道口南大街板厂胡同12号 [12 Banchang Hutong].

Donghuamen Night Market

Delicacies @ Donghuamen Night Market. Initially we went to buy a cell phone card at China Unicom, then walked right into the apm shopping Mall, before discovering fancy foods at the night market.

Delikatessen auf dem Donghuamen Nachtmarkt. Zunächst wollten wir nur eine Telefonkarte bei China Unicom kaufen, doch dann fanden wir uns unerwarteterweise im apm Einkaufszentrum wieder, bevor wir zu guter letzt den Nachtmarkt entdeckten.